It’s Week 1 of Fall Quarter, and amidst the aesthetic fliers, catchy rush slogans, and smiling faces on Library Walk, four words repeatedly slice through the air: “Follow us on Facebook.” After a while, the message is clear: many clubs at UC San Diego rely heavily on Facebook to distribute information. Thus students without a Facebook are out of luck in the long term; that rush flier only gives the necessary information for a week out. To these clubs, Facebook seems to efficiently relay information to prospective and current members. However, Facebook has many serious flaws. To provide a more inclusive club, increased opportunity for prospective and present club members to thrive mentally and emotionally, and better organization, all campus organizations should add or shift to disseminating information through alternative channels that function without the drawbacks of Facebook.
For starters, clubs should recognize and care about the valid reasons of personal well-being that keep some students from having or wanting a Facebook account. These reasons should supersede the efficiency clubs feel they gain from their heavy reliance on Facebook to communicate information. Currently, there is growing evidence, including a study from the Royal Society for Public Health, that increased Facebook use correlates with an increased deterioration of one’s well-being; one’s mental health, physical health, and more suffer as a result. If that was not enough, a separate study reaffirmed these results. These studies found that the effect could not be attributed to already having bad feelings or decreased mental and physical health which motivated the Facebook use. Rather, it was Facebook itself directly causing the harm. With these studies in mind, it makes sense that a person may want to forgo Facebook altogether while still receiving information about what’s going on within an organization.
Students may also seek to avoid Facebook because of its hazardous effects on users’ efficiency and physical safety. Facebook was literally “built to keep people engaged and distracted” with psychology-backed algorithms. For students who create a Facebook purely at the behest of the organization they’re a part of, this means it’s extremely difficult to use the account without getting drawn deeper into the site. Coupled with the above information, the drawbacks of Facebook’s damage to one’s mental and academic state is increasingly relevant, and should matter to any club that boasts about caring for its members. Equally salient to members’ well-being, some students evade Facebook to protect themselves from being found by past abusers. These students should not be forced to reveal past or ongoing trauma in order to achieve easily added accommodations. Overall, by offering a steady alternative form of information and communication, clubs can empower individuals to get involved without making them sacrifice their productivity or physical and mental well-being.
With these concerns in mind, all organizations should have other well-utilized forms of communication for current and future members aside from Facebook. Yet, many campus clubs do not. Some clubs argue that a separate informational outlet would “burden their org with little reward.” Simply put, the extra effort involved is not worth accommodating the few people who are unwilling to create a Facebook or strictly seeking to limit their use of it. However, this attitude fails to recognize that this portion of people is not as small as one may assume — 19 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 don’t use Facebook. Hence, these organizations may be missing out on more people than they may assume. Additionally, most clubs feel strongly that they create a family atmosphere within their club; opening this opportunity would only increase that sentiment by including everyone, not just the majority, in important discourse and events. Additionally, giving more people the ability to access the necessary information to partake in a club may have an unforeseen positive impact on a club’s creative potential, diversity, relationships, officer board, and more.
Another reason having an alternative to Facebook should not be seen as a charge to clubs is that it directly benefits members by providing a new position and skill-set opportunity to the club. While opponents of the idea claim that having to put the same information in multiple places unnecessarily strains the club, there’s no reason this should have to be an extra burden on an existing club officer. Clubs, which often boast of offering leadership opportunities to help members boost their resumes and further their involvement, can simply offer a new position within their club to take care of this “burden.” It’s hard to see how providing a new role to enhance members’ professional experience harms the organization.
By now you’ve hopefully realized that forcing your members to use Facebook lacks merit. But, if you needed another reason, consider how impractical and difficult it is to keep track of information on Facebook groups, i.e., just a super long thread. With efficiency in mind, putting important information in a long thread, intermixed with chatter, makes it more difficult for members to remember important dates, opportunities, deadlines, and requirements. This is especially true for members who only check Facebook sparingly to keep up with the club. As an alternative, I suggest returning to a traditional emailed newsletter. Unlike Facebook, newsletters can contain all relevant information in one easy-to-read document. This makes it less likely that information will be misplaced or lost. Additionally, everyone has an email address, which is free of the negatives of social media. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Facebook zealots who prefer getting their information from Facebook can just unsubscribe. As an added bonus, clubs that want to be even more inclusive can consider using a different app such as WhatsApp to replace the informal social information that a club’s Facebook group often provides.
Organizations of UCSD, the choice is obviously yours. While it may seem inefficient, old-fashioned, or just plain weird, Facebook does not and should not be the only, or even primary, option for any club’s current and prospective members to receive valuable and timely information about what’s going on in the organization. By taking steps away from Facebook, clubs have a unique opportunity to create a more inclusive, healthy, and organized environment for their members.