It was 11 p.m. in Austria. Ferdinand Sarnitz, 21, was sitting in his room with three friends. But 23 other people were chatting with them from other countries around the world.
That day Sarnitz had hit 4,000 fans on his Facebook music page. He was celebrating by hosting a video chat using his webcam, and to his surprise, 23 people were sitting at home watching them.
Students on the campus of SUNY New Paltz are using social networking Web sites like Facebook to their full potential by making connections and self-promoting.
“I have projects I work on and I have friends who are working towards a professional background and most of them use these sites to their advantage,” said Ian Michna, a psychology major. “The social part is secondary.”
Ferdinand Sarnitz, a high school friend of Michna from Austria known as the recording artist “Left Boy,” gained over 4,000 fans and followers on his Facebook fan page in just three weeks by promoting on Facebook. He now maintains a level of communication with his followers that only the social networking site could provide.
Sharks Roar, a rock band from New Paltz led by singer/songwriter Adir Cohen and SUNY New Paltz alumnus Ian Elkind, has also used Facebook to book shows down the East Coast as well as their first summer tour.
“We’ve stayed in contact with bands we played with over the summer as well as so many of the fans we met while on tour,” Cohen said. “They’re now our friends, as well as contacts we can use for more gigs and for promotion.”
Another example of success through the Internet is “Crown & Anchor Society,” a DJ group started by two SUNY New Paltz students. They use Facebook, MySpace and blogs to publicize their events and new music as well as keep in touch with peer and veteran DJs. The group was also able to promote an event series in New Paltz, which has grown to attract the attention of DJs, producers and sponsorship from Red Bull, Navitas Naturals, Mishka NYC as well as other companies on a local and international level.
“All those Web sites have been a huge part of our success,” said Daniel Pomarico-Maxson, an alumnus of New Paltz and founding member. “The event continues to grow with every party. People see pictures and videos that their friends post on Facebook from our events and every event we get a bigger turnout.”
Ivy Haber, a recent graduate from SUNY New Paltz and founder of Ivey Mae Jewelry, also owes her success to Facebook. She started the handmade jewelry company while still living on campus. Since then it has become a full business.
“From my Facebook fan page I’ve sold to people as far as Texas, London, Australia, Florida and California,” she said. “Without Facebook and MySpace, I’d never have reached out to those people.”
She feels that these networks allow fans to feel connected to her work.
“I can even upload pictures of my fans wearing the jewelry they bought on the site they bought it from, which feels special to them,” she said.
Even without a band or jewelry business, Facebook can be beneficial for students who are away from home for long periods of time. Facebook enables students to see their family and friends’ status updates, photos and any other information they want to share.
“What’s so appealing, as creepy as it sounds, is finding out about what’s going on in other peoples’ lives,” said Erin Healy, a photography major. “When you talk to them, you won’t be so far behind.”
These applications can be convenient especially when students miss out on family events.
“All of my family members have Facebook accounts,” Meghan Marone said. “That is why I can see pictures of all my cousin’s kids constantly even if they live very far away.”
Some students use Facebook socially to meet new people. If they don’t have the nerve to ask someone for their telephone number in person, they can find them on Facebook and add them as a friend.
“There’s this girl I just met,” said Youssouf Kouyo, a biology major. “I had seen her in Hasbrouck. I found her on Facebook, we started to chat, and we connected.”
The convenience of the Web site is addictive and undeniable. Everything from talking to friends, to finding out about social events, to promoting a band or business is taken care of by Facebook. If face-to-face interaction, or even using the phone, were a metal park bench, Facebook would be the squishy leather recliner with a built-in coffee maker.