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Article by Lauren Sutton

I am going to open with a quote by Mr. Matt Broussard, as it will effectively set the grounds for the rest of this article and what I am hoping to address:

Before I joined Google+ a little over a month ago, I spent the majority of my online time on Facebook and Twitter, like everyone else. I utilized these social networks for a few purposes: 1) to be able to quickly and efficiently get up with friends and family, 2) to stay on top of events and happenings on my campus, and, for the most part, 3) as a means of entertainment and relaxation to give my brain a rest.

I can say today with 100% confidence that I get more out of my online experience through Google+ than I do any other social networking site. I can also say that I see why it will not be for everyone, at least for college-aged users. I know that we are not exactly a Facebook loving crowd here on Google+, so bear with me as I play devil’s advocate throughout the course of this post.

I want you to think about how you would answer this question while you are reading this: How do you define success? What is the lifestyle that you dream about at night and crave when you wake up? How do your passions play into that? And how does it affect how you spend your leisure time, including that which is spent online?

Success is Variable for Everyone

Let me give some background on my personal experiences: I am a pre-med student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the thick of completing my core biology and chemistry courses for my major. These classes require an astounding amount of dedication, work, effort, and time. There are few nights that I am not awake until 2 in the morning doing assignments and even fewer afternoons that aren’t packed with study sessions, volunteer shifts and philanthropy work.

I have also been in love with reading and writing for as long as I can remember. I have always expressed myself better in words than anything else and a good piece of literature has never failed to be my favorite method of relieving stress and sparking new ideas.

I said from an early age that I was going to be a successful author. I knew that I was going to write books that would capture the hearts of readers and leave that lingering, melancholy feeling that I like so much in their stomachs after they finished it. I also see myself entering healthcare and succeeding at being an empathetic and talented doctor. Both of these dreams are so immense that I’m scared to reach my fingers out towards them – but I do, and that keeps me going from day to day.

But enough about me. Let’s discuss some of my peers, as they’re the ones that I interact with the most. I am friends with many pre-med students like myself. They endure the same workload, exhaustion, and frustrations that I do. We cry together, vent to each other, and ultimately encourage each other on to the finish line.

We have the same glittering dream on the horizon – to become the next generation of scientists and health care providers. We define success as getting into medical school, surviving it, and emerging into the world to do our best work.

Obviously, other people have different definitions of success than we do. So how does this apply to the ways in which we experience social networking?

What You Call “Success” Will Determine What You Want Out Of Social Media

Every day I spend on Google+ challenges me. I am constantly learning new things, such as how to write skillfully and attract an audience. I regularly meet new people that offer different perspectives on subjects that I wouldn’t have previously recognized. I am involved in a community that sets a previously lukewarm passion for reading and writing completely aflame. This is something that I put on the backburner for the first two years of college, simply because I didn’t feel as if I had the time to devote to it.

Jesse Wojdylo has expressed his confusion to me about why Google+ is not more popular with college students before. His source of disbelief is always along these lines: How are we content with spending our time online in a way that isn’t productive? Why are the majority of our online efforts geared towards gaining popularity rather than bettering ourselves? He once told me that he wanted me to explore why college students would rather be “cool” than successful.

Here is where that definition of success becomes relevant. Here is where our passions come into play.

The majority of my time spent on Google+ is used to craft myself into the best writer that I can be. I devour advice articles about blogging, learn from other, more popular online authors, and attempt to learn from each experience. Yes, I still long to obtain that Ph.D. and be able to don a white coat and stethoscope one day. But writing and literature was my first love, and if I can improve myself in those areas, I will consider that a success.

Here’s the thing – there are many, many college students who do not share the same opinions that I do. It is important to keep in mind that we have gone to college for the sole purpose of bettering ourselves and becoming successful. We are also being intellectually stimulated every second of the day. Therefore, it’s understandable that in the small amount of free time that we are given, some students will not be racing to their laptops to sign online and continue challenging their brain.

I enjoy Google+ as it helps me to learn how to write better content. For those students whose skills lie entirely in the sciences, this won’t be a concern. They are focused on gaining as much hands-on experience as possible and learning how to apply that in real life. This is why they use Facebook – it provides a momentary relief where they are simply able to interact with other students without requiring an extensive thought process.

Disclaimer: My Experiences Vary From Others

Again, I know the objections that are forming in your heads. I want to address a few things.

I know that there is a lot more that Google+ has to offer.

I do not mean to say that if you aren’t looking to become a successful author, you will not get anything out of Google+. That is extremely far from the truth. There is a wide variety of people on the plus, and they all have different dreams, passions, and lifestyles. However, I believe that all G+ users have one thing in common – we use this social network to better ourselves. We log on each day with the expectation of getting a richer intellectual experience than Facebook and Twitter can offer. This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t also areas of G+ that aren’t so cerebral, but as an overview, most users (at least the ones that are likely to read this article) expect to experience some form of personal growth.

I know that pre-med students are not the only people that this applies to.

Ask any student at the University of North Carolina if they are challenged from day to day, and they will all answer with a resounding yes. Even beyond the realm of college students, many people face intellectual stimulation regularly in their daily routine. I have used this sub-group of students as they are the ones that I interact with the most – not to mention that I am one.

I have been taught to write what I know, and I know that at this stage in our lives, every college student will define success as surviving a difficult four years and emerging with an education and a degree that can help us reach our dreams. Each class, paper, and homework assignment is used to better ourselves. Therefore, when online, Facebook and Twitter are very attractive options to many students. They are honestly some of the only time-consumers that aren’t serving a direct purpose.

So here’s the take home message: How you define the word ‘success’ will determine your online social network. Google+ serves many purposes – it is great for businesses, writers, and all those who continually long to stretch their brains and learn more. If your definition of success can be attained through those purposes, then Google+ is likely the site for you. If you would prefer to utilize your time online for a shallower, more entertainment based experience, then you will not find it as enjoyable.

And there it is. That one shining truth may seem obvious, but it holds the key to social networking. If you do not gear your time spent online towards your idea of success, then it will never have the potential to do anything more than entertain.

How does your definition of success affect how you spend your time online?

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