Eating (alone) with Facebook: Digital natives' transition to college
This study explores how communication patterns in social settings are related to one’s transition to a new environment, and what and how contextual variables are associated with these patterns. An exploratory, qualitative phase included interviews, focus groups, and anonymous confession posts on Facebook, followed by three quantitative online surveys using college freshman students during their initial semester. Dormitory dining halls were among primary social settings on campus; yet, freshman students did not want to eat dinner alone there. Dinner location was not correlated with sense of belonging; however, underrepresented minority (URM) who had dinner in dormitory dining halls reported lower sense of belonging. URM solo-diners more likely used screens. Solitary URM diners who used a screen in the dining hall reported lower sense of belonging early in the initial semester. Text messaging in the dining halls was associated with greater sense of belonging. Furthermore, greater sense of belonging was related to better mental health. URMs’ greater sense of belonging in the initial semester could predict greater academic achievement over the next few semesters.