Social media has already revolutionized the college campus. Social media is far more than a slick website, to aid students in finding an online school, it includes all of the various forms of connection made possible by the internet, often with a heavy dose of user created material. Today, social media has grown so important, one can earn a masters in the subject.
At least 96% of students are believed to use Facebook, creating a valuable data mine for organizations looking to study the digital society. As more research pours in, the results show a mix of both curses and blessings caused by the acceptance of higher education social media. Used correctly, it can be a powerful educational tool. However, social media comes with a price, and for some students that price can be too high.
Angst in the Digital Era
For most students, the question is simple: Is my social media use going to get me better grades? The answer is both yes and no. According to a study by Online Education, if the class uses Twitter to help students work together and remind the class of assignments or quizzes, then grades tend to go up at least half a grade point, a very nice bonus.
On the other hand, if students try to combine studying with frequent use of Facebook, their grades tend to drop around 20% compared to those who just studied. Essentially, if social media use is connected with classroom material it improves grades, but if it is just social media for the sake of it, grades drop sharply.
Falling grades, however, are only part of the problem that social media can cause. There are also a number of psychological effects that tracking friends online can lead to. The same study showed that nearly half of Facebook students found themselves sadder than their friends. Cyberbullying and limited face-to-face time are frequent problems as well. “Facebook addiction” is now a widely accepted term, and in addition to falling grades, spending too much time checking status updates leads to a loss of revenue through fewer hours worked. The schools themselves also go through a little angst as they struggle to make proper use of a constantly changing technology which opens up organizations to a myriad of confusing options.
Not all news is bad news on the education front. In fact, many negative aspects of social media use in schools are offset by surprising positive results. Social media users feel, on average, 20% more connected to their institutions (those status updates do have benefits) and are twice as likely to feel popular (although apparently they are also sadder). Social media sites also make it much easier for students to keep up to date on local and global news or communicate with advisor and study mates they might not otherwise be able to see. Updating Facebook profiles can give a quick, easy boost of self-esteem, too.
However, only about a third of students use social media for educational purposes, a number that education organizations need to raise if they want to see real impact in their schools. The key is effective implementation, and knowledge of how social media can affect students both emotionally and mentally. Professors may want to start advising a moratorium on Facebooking when Finals week arrives. Students who follow such advice are sure to be grateful later.