Examining Social Media Use in Higher Education

Have you ever forgot your phone at home and realized that you were lost without all your social apps? You’re not alone. A lot of college students like you suffer from the addiction for connectivity for all time, and since social media has been believed to be playing an increasingly important role in higher education, we need to recognize the issues and utilize these platforms wisely.

While social media has been lauded for its ability to connect people from all over the world, it has also been blamed for social problems it created. Some of this blame, according to one of my previous posts, may have been placed unfairly, but that doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t pose some real problems for its users.

As it turns out, being so connected all the time comes with serious drawbacks. It can shorten attention spans, become addictive, lead to less diverse social groups, and even, among some student users, cause a marked drop in academic performance. If you use social media in class or take online courses that require social media interaction, these potential effects can be a bit scary and may cause you to wonder what role social media should play in higher education.

Your Brain on Social Media

With an estimated 800 million people worldwide using Facebook and countless others connecting through other sites, the effects of these types of media could be quite significant, especially among groups who are heavy users like you. However, it turns out that the daily activity of checking your phone may prevent you from achieving academic success.

A study by researchers at the University of Winchester found that when heavy social media users were asked to stop using the services for a month, some (though not all) experienced negative feelings related to the ban, including feeling cut off from the world and social isolation. The result from a study at the Miriam Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Preventative Medicine turns out to be more specific about the dangerous outcome of the addiction. The study found that student engagement with digital media of any kind, whether it be posting to Facebook or sending a text to a friend, could have a big impact on grades, lowering GPAs and negatively impacting other areas of academic performance. Because these students spend so much time engaging with media, they spend less time doing homework, attending class, and even taking care of themselves by getting enough sleep.

The Pros and Cons of Social Media in Education

While it’s true that social media can have a negative impact on your brain, it’s not the tool itself that’s the problem but how it’s used. In fact, social media plays a productive and incredibly useful role in the classroom at colleges all over the country, and many feel it has a strong role to play in enriching the educational experience for students for years to come.

A closer examination below of the pros and cons of social media reveal that it’s probably not as dangerous as some have made it out to be, while some drawbacks are also significant if you did not utilize social media properly:

The Good

  • It makes it easy to collaborate. 
  • It offers a chance to learn essential technological skills. 
  • Students can get instant feedback. 
  • It fosters creativity. 
  • It gets some students more engaged. 

The Bad

  • There is potential for distraction. 
  • It may reduce more personal forms of communication.
  • Some believe it encourages poor writing. 
    •  In fact, research does suggest that those who use incorrect forms of grammar and spelling on social media are more likely to do so in other venues, too.
  • It may compromise privacy.

With so much to gain and so many potential pitfalls, it can be confusing to you whether to embrace social media or not. The reality is that it isn’t going away anytime soon, so the best move is to learn how to make social media a valuable tool for learning, not just a way to procrastinate and kill time. I will discuss more on how to use social media efficiently as college students, so stay tuned!


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