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COLUMN: Facebook is my classroom

Researchers at the other CMU, Carnegie Mellon University, found that within the brain’s neocortex is a network of active neurons that behave similarly to users of Facebook.

Like Facebook, there is a small population of active neurons that give and receive more than others. Sound familiar to those happy few who flood your homepage with scads of updates and links?

I find this research fascinating and it got me to thinking about my own incessant use of social networking and why I value it so much.

In the typical classroom, aside from the professor, there isn’t much of a range of ages and life experiences. On Facebook, however, I am in touch with people I’ve met over the years from ages 17 to 70, allowing for far fewer barriers that otherwise stand between people with age differences greater than a couple of years.

It seems like we all know that “age is just a number,” however, it would still be somewhat of a social taboo if I hung around with, say, my comedian friend in his forties with a wife and kids.

“No, he’s not my uncle,” I’d have to say, or worse, “No, we are not having an affair.” But with Facebook, those boundaries don’t exist. We can freely comment on one another’s posts, and have even joked about our statuses as the “over-active neurons” of our networks.

The biggest difference between a typical classroom and a social networking site would probably be the short attention span of social networking. My 500-plus “friends” are all competing for attention through various posts, ranging from hard-hitting breaking news articles to Funny or Die’s latest.

I can’t help but think I learn about a variety of things much better through a social networking site than I may during a long lecture. It simply caters to the way my brain works.

The popularity of social networking sites has make me question the future of education, and how long the system in place will continue to be suitable for such a different world.

As a student who roams in the realm of study loosely defined as “liberal arts,” I sometimes see my time spent engaged in social networking as another class, where I am constantly learning things I would have otherwise not known about if someone didn’t click that “share” button.

If anything, social networking has deepened my thirst for knowledge. And that is pretty cool.

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