Facebook-free on campus

“I couldn’t imagine how the campus would function without Facebook, just because it uses so much of it,” said senior Nushkia Chamba. This statement ...

“I couldn’t imagine how the campus would function without Facebook, just because it uses so much of it,” said senior Nushkia Chamba.
This statement comes from a person who deactivated her Facebook account nearly two years ago and has made it through student life without a profile ever since.
The sentiment stands out because of the big role that Facebook plays in the NYU Abu Dhabi community in countless ways. There is the legendary Room of Requirement, NYUAD Confessions, Student Interest Groups and Arts Center events, to name just a few NYUAD-specific Facebook pages.
Facebook’s omnipresence at NYUAD manifests itself everywhere, from event updates to Facebook fights, all teetering somewhere between the university’s current affairs and the private lives of its students. Obviously, this is all a part of the worldwide spread of social media phenomena, but is it also an inherent aspect of the NYUAD microcosm?
While most students would probably say yes, there are students who, like Chamba, experience a more Facebook-free university experience, at least on an individual level. Although Chamba froze her account for personal reasons, she saw her university experience transform as a result.
“I miss out on a lot of things, but at the same time it’s really rewarding … You really know who wants to be your friend,” said Chamba.
Yet she admitted that, during her freshman and sophomore years, Facebook played an important role in finding out more about students, organizing SIG events and staying in touch with her upperclassmen friends who left for study abroad.
“It was useful to build the foundations in the school,” Chamba concluded, adding that she now prefers to be more focused on people important to her and her work.
Senior Veronica Houk is another student who deleted her Facebook account during her sophomore year.
“I did not think my life was more convenient or happier because I had an account,” Houk wrote. “My inbox was constantly flooded with random requests … I felt like I constantly had to attend to my account to keep up with all of the communications. I prefer email.”
When asked about experiencing NYUAD with and without Facebook, she mentioned online fights as something she enjoyed the least. One of the hottest issues this year has been centered around vegetarianism and Veggie Might, the vegetarianism advocacy SIG that Houk is leading.
“It was a bizarre emotion to feel like people had chosen the most public but least direct way to critique the SIG's approach. For a while after that Facebook fight this year, I had a hard time, because I wasn't exactly sure what was said or meant in those fights,” wrote Houk.
While it looks like some NYUAD students who distanced themselves from Facebook remain affected by it in one way or another, others find it difficult to say whether the platform has any influence on their university experience at all.
Senior Anishka Arseculeratne has never had a Facebook account and to her, this is just the natural state of affairs and not worth any scrutiny.
Sophomore Tasmin al-Gergawi has never had an account on Facebook either and, although she has yet to meet an NYUAD student without one, is happy continuing on this way.
“I do somewhat feel that my experience would be different if I had Facebook,” said al-Gergawi. “For instance, I’m on the basketball team and a lot of our schedules and practice times are posted on the Facebook page. Most times, I’m last to know if there is a change in a game day or practice timings.”
She said that her main sources of information are emails, the NYUAD Student Portal and word of mouth. Chamba added that posters hanging around campus inform her about the events taking place.
It looks like it is not impossible for a student not to be on Facebook. Every once in a while there is an account frozen during finals, capstone or just for the sake of a Facebook detox, in addition to the several accounts that have been permanently deactivated. But this is all about individual students, the big question then is about the university as whole.
“Could the campus function without Facebook?” asked Chamba. “Think about the counter: how would we get the word across? It would be email, posters … and I think without Facebook, people are forced to talk to each other."
"Otherwise, I can get to know everything going on campus from my room, not interacting with anybody. That’s how much information you can get from the social media," she added.
Karolina Wilczynska is deputy features editor. Email her at 
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