Aug. 21, 2007, 6:01PM
Facebook can’t beat face time for new college roommates



Newhouse News Service


PALMYRA, PA. — Matt Gardner, a recent high school graduate, has discovered that his soon-to-be roommate at Millersville University built his own kayak.


It’s one of the tidbits Gardner read on his roommate’s Facebook profile, along with his taste in music and movies. What he learned has made Gardner more comfortable entering college, he said.


“Before Facebook, it was probably a little more nerve-wracking,” he said.


Some college freshmen said they feel they’ll arrive on campus with ready-made groups of friends, thanks to Facebook, MySpace and other online social networking sites.


But there’s another side to it. College housing directors said they get calls from students or their parents asking for a change of roommates based on what they see online.


Tom Richardson, housing director at Millersville University, said parents are usually vague about their reasons for requesting changes. They tell him, “I don’t think it will work out” or there is “a different value structure,” he said.


“Some say their son or daughter doesn’t drink but it looks like their roommate does,” Richardson said.


The college does not allow roommate changes until a couple of weeks after classes start because officials are not sure how many students will be coming to campus.


Besides, living with someone different “could be an opportunity for growth,” Richardson said.


Robert Mikus, director of residence life at Elizabethtown College, warned that students often embellish their Facebook profiles, so parents shouldn’t read too much into what they see there.


“Students or parents may have read something or seen a picture that gives them pause,” he said. “Our job is to teach how to deal with conflict. We try to hold firm, true to our calling as educators.


“You’d be amazed at how resilient your sons and daughters are.”


Diane Paul discovered an embellishment when her daughter, Jillian, checked out a Web page of her roommate at Liberty University. Up popped a photo of a glamour queen, but they found out later that it wasn’t the roommate’s real photo.


Paul met the roommate when she took Jillian to campus and said she was a “lovely, lovely girl,” if a little shy.


“I had no major angst,” Paul said. “I think this is not atypical.”


Paul said she thinks students should not post anything online that they would not want someone’s parent or future boss to see.

“What seems benign at 17 might be embarrassing later in life,” the new college student’s mom said.


Gardner, a graduate of Cedar Crest High School, said he understands parents’ concerns and thinks students “should be smarter than putting that stuff on their profile.”


Lindsay Carroll, a high school graduate from Red Lion heading to the University of Pittsburgh, said she would be irritated if her father checked up on her roommates online.


“My dad is not the type to do that,” she said. “I know parents who have Facebook (accounts), I assume to keep tabs on their kids.

“My dad laughs about helicopter parents. Some people are so controlling, and the reality is that people do drink and party at college.”

Carroll said she prefers to make judgments about people in person. She has contacted her future roommates and feels comfortable with them, but “I don’t feel I know them any better” because of Facebook, she said.


Michael Abendroth, a Hershey High School graduate who will be attending Dartmouth College, said most parents don’t have Facebook accounts, and students can choose what to show to their parents. He has been keeping up with students he met at orientation through Facebook and looked up his roommate’s profile.


He said he was able to get a sense of his roommate’s personality. “He seems like a pretty down-to-earth guy,” he said. “A little geeky but fun.”