WEB UPDATE: Don’t I know you from somewhere? Facebook creates before-school rendezvous

Posted Friday, July 8, 7:00 p.m. Click on “2009” in the advanced search field on thefacebook.com and what do you get? More than 1,000 matches of girls decked out in prom dresses and shirtless guys with aviator sunglasses, all of them incoming freshmen.

Despite the fact that these students have yet to come to GW, many of this year’s freshmen are already establishing themselves as members of GW’s Facebook community.

For some, this means linking up with other students online by using the Web site’s “friend” feature. Some incoming students have already racked up more than 100 Facebook friends before their first day of classes.

“There are a lot of people on it,” said freshman Derek King, who has 123 friends on Facebook. “It’s an opportunity to be part of groups and meet people.”

King estimated that about one-fourth of his high school class is already on Facebook.

Freshman Andrew Waldholtz, who has 149 friends on the Web site, said he feels that joining Facebook is an essential part of creating a college social life.

He said, “I joined because all my friends going to other schools have it. It makes it so you can meet people ahead of time. Basically, everyone has it.”

Another freshman, Andi Cross, said that while she decided on her future roommate, whom she has not even met yet, on the social networking site, she recently decided not to use it as much.

“Everyone started Facebooking everyone. It got kind of weird, so I stopped,” she said. “There was a wave of excitement there, but not as much now. It’s kind of cool, and I still check it, but not as hard core.”

Cross said she still plans on staying friends with some of her Facebook friends once she gets to school, especially her women’s crew teammates she met through the site. She will not seek out people she has not talked to.

Some freshmen, such as Cross, have been members of Facebook since early February, the earliest time during which a future student can create his or her e-mail address.

“Once a student is accepted and sends their deposit, then they can create a GW e-mail (address),” said Alexa Kim, director of technology communications for Student and Academic Support Services.

While Kim said most students do not need an e-mail address until school begins, some freshmen have found a use for their accounts long before classes begin.

But some of these newcomers have attracted the attention of students who have a year of Facebook use under their belt, attention that is sometimes negative.

A Facebook online group entitled “09 Are You Joking?” already exists, with its group description stating, “Wow so the class of ’09 is already swarming GW and the Facebook. All we can say is, you still live at home.” Another group is called “If You Are Still In High School You Should Not Be On Facebook!”

Junior Laurent Piereth said he was surprised at the number of freshmen who already have profiles and the amount of friends they have gathered.

“I don’t even have that many (friends on Facebook),” he said.

Piereth added that he will not link up with another person on the Web site unless he has met them in person and added that most of his online friends are people he keeps regular contact.

“I think this (freshman Facebook usage) shows that Facebook is a competition, basically a race to see who has more friends,” he said. “One of my friends calls (people like that) a ‘friend whore.'”

Despite a bit of upperclassman criticism, some freshmen said they are looking forward to a positive GW experience thanks to the online social network.

“It’s cool to see people in your class before you go (to CI),” said freshman Mariel Gold, who has 152 friends on Facebook. “It’s a chance to see the types of people going and if you have any interests in common with them.”

“Almost all my friends from home have it,” Gold added. “Everyone that has a school e-mail that went to their orientation has an account. The ones that haven’t all say, ‘I want to be on Facebook.'”

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