The power of the social network

By Samuel Brinton


When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2004, it can be assumed that he did not imagine himself becoming Time’s 2010 Person of Year;  he simply wanted to make friends. As a member of the generation that has fully embraced the use of Facebook, I can proclaim that social networking has become a strong part of how I develop my connections with those I meet, both inside and outside the nuclear industry. That Facebook exists only so that teenagers can post whatever floats into their heads—as some Facebook detractors believe—is a huge misconception. On the contrary, I hope that this post helps to explain why we must use social networking sites such as Facebook to our advantage in the new era of nuclear power and technology.

As a college student with 2340 friends on Facebook, I have worked to create a social network where I can both inform my friends and learn from them simultaneously. With each new post on my profile, literally thousands of people have a glimpse into my world—and then the comments start flooding in. Whether I am posting about where to eat Italian food in New York City or how the new START Treaty will reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the United States, I am always sure to get quite a few comments with questions or arguments to my statement. Regarding the comments that I post on nuclear issues, my readers are learning about the technology without my having to make a case for it. It is simply part of my daily life, and they know about my schooling in nuclear engineering, and they accept that my comments are based on a solid foundation.

Most important Facebook message of my life

I have had employers both block Facebook and encourage Facebook. I understand both decisions. Social networking can be addictive, and with more than 2300 Facebook friends, I am being bombarded with messages and posts every minute of every day.

I can, however, count one Facebook message to be the most important one I ever received: I was offered my senior-year internship through Facebook!

I had been connected with my contact at Argonne National Laboratory for a few years, and one day as I was checking my messages he asked me what I was doing for the summer. After a short electronic conversation, I was jumping up and down with excitement knowing that I was going to be working at a preeminent research facility, partly due to the contacts I had strengthened through Facebook.

I don’t expect Facebook to become the job offer Web site for the nuclear industry, but I want to reinforce the idea that as my generation begins to enter the workforce, we will bring with us the new tools of social networking. Perhaps a Web site used today for finding friends will be used one day for solving challenges that may emerge for the nuclear industry.


Samuel Brinton is a student at Kansas State University studying mechanical and nuclear engineering and vocal music performance, with a minor in Chinese language. He is in his senior year and will be going to graduate school in nuclear engineering with a concentration in technology and policy. He wants to study the international nuclear fuel cycle as a system and its political and economic factors.

He is the president of his student chapter of ANS and serves on the Public Information Committee and Student Sections Committee.

4 responses to “The power of the social network

  1. Sam,
    The predictons are that there is a tremendous need for young nuclear engineers so good luck! You might think about the IAEA when you graduate if international policy is your interest. My wife loves Facebook and I ignore it so your article may have an impact!

  2. Samuel,
    Great post! I agree that Facebook is much more than a social network, it is also an important method for building professional relationships and promoting educational outreach. The pro-nuclear community is dispersed all over the country, so monthly pot-lucks are pretty much out of the question for many of us. However, we can and do connect everyday using social media. Living in a largely anti-nuclear city, I have really come to value the members of my virtual support system on both a personal and professional level.

    Keep up the great networking, and congrats on your upcoming graduation!


  3. Great post Sam!

    I think you did a great job, and importantly addressed the concerns of those NOT yet sold on the platform. I also think that social media is important to have tied to our professional lives, and looking out a few years I think it’s easy to see all of this can come together, and entire industries may sink or swim depending on how well they’re able to connect with people. I think the point is kind of that this isn’t your grandfather’s Facebook. Social Media tools are growing and relevant, and nothing could have made that point better than what your post here did.

  4. As a business student, we discussed using the new world of social networking for advertising and such without turning these sites into just marketing schemes. This article is an example of one student making connections with people all over the country and using networking to enter his career. Not only that, but Sam demonstrates his use of Facebook to help the world understand more about the nuclear world. This article is very interesting in the way it shows just how effective social networking sites can be. Congratulations on an insightful and well developed article Sam!

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