The World According to Tufts: Facebook Arrives On Campus

By Sally Meyer

Located in the hallway leading to the Tower Café is a new exhibit related to this spring’s class reunions. The Class of 1966 is celebrating 50 years, the Class of 1991 celebrates 25 years, and the Class of 2006 celebrates ten years since graduation. Identifying events and objects related to the Class of 2006 to accurately portray their story was a formidable task. Most interestingly because I remember vividly the 2004 election, Hurricane Katrina, and other historic moments that affected the lives of the Class of 2006 in their four years of college. We decided to use and analyze these events to express what elements of student life have changed and those that are still familiar.

The exhibit is titled “The World According to Tufts,” which highlights how global events shaped Tufts students, and how Jumbos in turn participated in wider global movements. Events and movements like anti-war protests, divestment from South Africa, the AIDS crisis, and the feminist movement are paired alongside more subtle changes – notably, the arrival of to campus in 2004.

An article written in the Tufts Daily on April 27, 2004 reads “On top of TV, Playstation, AIM, e-mail, and Friendster, there is now a new online source of distraction available to Tufts students…”[1] Facebook was devised and developed by students at Harvard University, a few short miles from Tufts. Originally, users were required to have an email in order to participate. As Facebook expanded to other universities, it grew exponentially in popularity as a source of entertainment and personal connection.

Many were skeptical of Facebook, finding it “creepy” or “awkward” to connect with fellow students through the internet.[2] But only four years later the Tufts Daily published an article asking “Life without Facebook: Is it possible?”[3] Despite questions of privacy and the growing number of alternative social media platforms, Facebook has held on as an important part of college social life. Every club and campus organization has at least one, often multiple, Facebook groups or Twitter accounts. Developing and curating online profiles is second nature to today’s Jumbos.

Facebook has definitely developed in the twelve years since it came to Tufts and has changed student life and involvement, but many still view it in similar ways. Students in 2004 worried that it was a distraction and that many were too obsessed with their online profile. In 2006, student athletes at universities were asked to sign agreements to monitor their own online behavior, and some were instructed to delete their profiles all together.  Students still understand the importance of editing their words and actions on such a permanent platform and many block the site during finals to avoid procrastination.

Facebook and social media have also become an essential element to civic engagement, protest, and global involvement. Jumbos have been passionately involved in world events since the college was founded, and the development of social media platforms put information and events at students’ fingertips. Creating an “event” on Facebook is the first step in marketing protests, community meetings, and demonstrations. Students also use Facebook to question the administration and express their grievances. Just this past year, Tufts expanded its options for gender identity on a survey as a result of a student’s post.[4] Clearly, Facebook continues to encourage involvement in campus issues.

The Class of 2006 experienced monumental changes in their time at Tufts. Elections came and went, global conflict sparked and resolved, and a website grew into a worldwide phenomenon. Throughout the parts of Facebook that have and haven’t changed, the question still remains, is life without Facebook possible? Tufts survived for 152 years before it, so we can only assume that the student body will continue on after it’s gone. As the saying goes, “nothing lasts forever,” unless of course, you post it online.

[1] Alex Dretler. “As if You Needed Another Way to Procrastinate,” in the Tufts Daily, April 27, 2004.

[2]  Tufts Daily Staff. “I’m Not On Facebook, Thank You!,” in the Tufts Daily, April 22, 2005.

[3] Saumya Vaishampayan. “Life without Facebook: Is it possible?” in the Tufts Daily, December 3, 2008.

[4] Liam Knox. “Tufts to expand options for gender identity on Common App supplement,” in the Tufts Daily, March 17, 2006.

Sally Meyer is a second year Master of Arts Candidate in History and Museum Studies at Tufts University. She received her Bachelor's Degree in History and Art History from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA in May, 2015.