Education 2.0: The Best Social Networks for Students

Back when your parents were in school, they actually had to initiate in-person conversations if they wanted a social life. Of course, that was when they weren't walking two miles to school, in the snow, uphill -- both ways.

You pesky kids have it so easy these days with your darn social networks!

Online social networks have certainly made it easier to make -- and stay in touch with -- school friends. Whether you're trying to get back in touch with an old school posse, or looking for a new one, the process is less risky and can often be more fruitful when it happens online. And it can help you find the right group, too. Why be alone this fall when you could be getting together with fellow members of the "Emo Is The New Rad" group on Bebo?

But no matter how big of a slacker you are, you surely won't have time for all the social networks out there. No worries. There is no need to pledge allegiance to just one. At last year's Web 2.0 Summit, Marc Canter, chief executive officer for Broadband Mechanics, estimated that the average user is an active member of five social networks.

So if you're going to choose five, you might as well be judicious in your selection. Here are Wired News' top picks.

MySpace

Despite a reputation for being trashy, ugly and over-hyped, MySpace is still the largest social network out there. In June, the site claimed 70 million active users, with one in four Americans having logged in at some point. Teenage members dominate the site, which is why MySpace has the unfortunate reputation of being a breeding ground for pedophiles. Forrester Research reports that 80 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds use MySpace weekly.

WIRED This year MySpace added a page for the 2008 presidential candidates, as well as a MySpace News page, which could be helpful for your history courses.

TIRED It's doubtful that its users will ever take MySpace that seriously. A quick browse through the site will leave you with more hoochie mamas than you'll ever have time for.

Facebook

Even though Facebook started out for students only, more than half of the site's users are out of college, meaning your membership should still be useful after graduation. Currently, the site has 47,000 regional, collegiate and high school groups populated by 31 million active users. In preparation for the inevitable roommate clash, don't forget to join CouchSwap, a new travel application made specifically for Facebook. It lets you offer, find and rate couches to crash on. Perfect for the urban nomads of the world!

WIRED Within university groups, there are subgroups organized by dorms, colleges, hobbies, food affiliations, political opinion, you name it. If you can't find friends within your groups of interest, your keyboard may not be plugged in.

TIRED As Facebook grows, so does the number of random groups that seem to have no application for your real social life. Unless you really do want to meet other Rubik's cube enthusiasts.

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