Finding a Way to Create More Positive Affects of Social Media
As I was trying to start this midterm research, I caught myself on Facebook. I was looking through pictures, commenting on statuses, not even remotely engaged in finding research. This is when I decided to change my original line of inquiry and focus on how the social media affects academia and education. I am confident each student, at one time or another, has sat in class and has been checking Instagram or twitter, or even texting and looking at Facebook simultaneously in the library when they are supposed to be studying. It happens to the best of us, especially in this modern day and age. Facebook had over 500 million users documented in 2011, meaning 1 in 13 people use the social media of Facebook (“Facebook Statistics, Stats & Facts For 2011”). The vast amount of Facebook and other social media users are increasing, partly as a direct result of our tech-savvy generation and the advances and accessibility to all technology. College students are challenged by the temptations of twitter and Facebook since they are available immediately, any time and day. Research indicates that social media impacts education positively and negatively but what does this mean for our culture and educational system today?
A negative effect of the large social media on education and learning is that students are tempted to multi-task; they will be checking social media sites while claiming to study and while attending classes. This reduces academic performance because it is almost impossible to be actually doing two things at once (Dunn). This is a huge distraction to the learning intake of students. A study completed by University of Massachusetts released their findings that reported about 48% of students claim to check their Facebook and other social networking sites consistently and another 19.47% said they checked theirs one to two times a day. Also linked in this survey was how often they worked out and the majority of students (25.58%) said never. This contributes to evidence that the sites are creating distractions and less activity to get the brain and blood flowing in the body.
The social media has also brought upon a whole new approach to language that affects the English language, written and spoken. Much of the writing done on in social media is abbreviated or is incorrect grammar or spelling. A lot of students today rely too much on a computer’s spell check such that a student’s ability to write and spell things correctly has plummeted. Although media helps relay information quickly, often immediately, it impedes a student’s ability to gain the skills of writing, spelling and grammar. What is expected in an English course and what is expected to be your next Facebook status is extremely different in word choice, structure and often, spelling. Because of the large amount of time students spend on the social media, it is affecting the way they write academically and professionally. Some students don’t even have the skills to write professionally and this creates downfalls in education and the work field.
Another example is when I, or another students or individual, texts or emails someone for questions, concerns, change of plans, or criticism. I know when I am texting someone, I am much more bold and brave and tend to say things that I wouldn’t normally say if I were in person. I am sure everyone can relate to a time when you wanted to cancel plans to attend a party or a trip to the store but didn’t want to actually call the person because it is easier to hide behind the words of a text message because you fear how they will react. Social media has created this fear of contact and constant worry of how people will view you or react to you.
This contributes to the lowered levels of face-to-face communication. Students are spending more time on social media sites instead of socializing in person and this has caused students to be less effective when communicating in person (Dunn). For example, social sites for online dating have caused older people to depend on the Internet and website profiles in determining if they want to date a person or not. This takes away from the face-to-face meeting and romantic attraction towards one another. Psychology Today refers to it as “artificial contact” (Sun). Many of the problems faced on online dating sites are that people have different motives and attitudes on these sites and it is a challenge to find someone looking for the same things as you. Some may purely want a hook up friend while others may be looking for life-long partners. It is difficult to conclude what someone may want out of this through text on a screen. In addition, the majority of people only emphasize the good qualities and attractive photos of themselves that don’t reflect the genuine interpersonal behaviors of this person. Therefore, it is hard to predict the effectiveness or success of any relationship on these sites because your whole and authentic self is not portrayed, only those things you want to emphasize.
Instead of using the black board with chalk we have technology advances such as the website Prezi to efficiently relay information to students in the classroom. More and more lectures are posted online along with videos and podcasts on YouTube to help demonstrate a skill. YouTube is used regularly in academic settings, 40% of educators report having an account and 9% use it to communicate with other educators while 21% of them use it to even communicate with students (Nielson). A lot of students find this helpful because some teachers will provide them with the lectures beforehand, others may find this way of teaching challenging due to the lack of concrete material in front of them, depending on how your learning style works.
The social media has increased collaboration among students. This has also increased productivity (Dunn). Specifically, last semester we had a semester long business project with a random group of students. Facebook allowed us to make a group where we communicated, shared ideas and set meeting times. It was really beneficial for sharing websites and files with the group. The connections built in social media sites allow people to learn skills in creating and maintaining cyber connections. In addition, the amount of time spent on cellular devices and on the social media and Internet familiarizes people with the newest technology. Since technology is so prominent in businesses and education it is very important and helpful (Dunn).
In this Writing the Mind course, our writing is done online in a blog. This is using social media in an educational setting. This allows our teacher and other students of the class to see our writing and give comments and critiques on how to improve it. This helps create an audience for the students and teaches them how to write and adapt to different audiences.
What Does This Mean?
How do we address the problem? Social media may be a smaller issue for the social aspect of human relationships, and it can be defined as an issue in relationship to education and communication. In an interview with a Chapman professor, she states that social media makes us “more connected globally, yet more isolated personally” (Shukla). We are disconnecting ourselves from face-to-face interactions but connecting with those peers and people through a website or cell phone. This doesn’t make sense. Social media has created this overlaying pressure for everyone to know what’s going on at all times. In the girl’s world, if you don’t know what is happening with the Kardashians, you obviously didn’t check your Twitter lately and you missed the whole scandal and gossip. There is this constant fear of being left out due to social media that it forces students to be checking their phone in class, while studying or even while talking to another person. This is a big distraction to our studies and skills, to our interpersonal relationships and in our society and generation such that we are so familiar with this that people don’t see it as an issue.
In regards to education, the fast-pace and immediate relay of information through social media sites and the Internet have made students expect to learn or get information immediately, instead of taking the time to learn or read to actually research and find information. We expect things to just be so readily available that our culture doesn’t have the desire to work for things. This also leads to the “lazy” reputation Americans have.
The social media has also created an easy access to bullying, discrimination and feelings of hatred that feeds into schools and universities. So why are we letting it dictate so much of our lives? For example, Chapman University had a Facebook page called “Chapman Compliments” and someone thought it would be a hit to create a “Chapman Insults”. Shortly after it’s creation, particular students and staff saw this as harmful and offensive and it was directly linked to this university.
The amount of time spent on these social media sites and the amount of power of these media sites is the issue. Social media may be an effective way of communicating in some cases and it will be the new trend for our education systems and business world. However, if social media were used in moderation, if scientists and spectators didn’t see social media as a possible form of addiction, if we didn’t spend the vast amount of time scrolling through, then it wouldn’t be of such great concern. Students, including me, are “obsessed” and use these sites to portray an image of themselves. It also limits their activities and interactions with people. Social media would bring more positives than negatives if it were used in restraint. Our social world wouldn’t need to put so much emphasis on it and it could actually enrich connections. “For social media to be a truly effective communication vehicle, all parties bear a responsibility to be genuine, accurate, and not allow it to replace human contact altogether.” (Tardanico) Social media has potential. However, people are using these sites to replace effective face-to-face communication and intimacy and this is where the problem arises.
If schools or the media put some restrictions or less importance on these sites than we could address the problem for future generations. It would make social media less of a commitment and more of a leisure activity. While students are obsessing our elders are asking why? I know for me, my grandfather is always yelling at us to put our phones away and contribute to conversation because that is so normal for his era that he can’t seem to comprehend the need to be on it all the time. The next step to try and fix this issue it to find a way to reduce the amount of time spent on these social media sites. This would ensure that online sites do not replace offline communication and it would create a healthy compromise for our future students and generations.