The side effects of social media

By Alisha Kirkley

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Illustration by Rick Nease/MCT

In today's hi-tech society, everyone seems to be ‘tweeting' or ‘facebooking' everything they do throughout the day, while college students are spending more time than ever online. At times, this preoccupation with their digital life is distracting them from schoolwork and other important tasks. It can also affect students' lives outside of school, taking away from their responsibilities and making them mentally absent at social events. Social media has even become an addiction for some students who cannot manage their real lives around their cyber ones.

These days, most people have smart phones or other mobile devices, and these devices most likely are running the apps of their favorite social media sites. Many people, not just students, tend to pull out their smart phones at all times of the day. Whenever they find themselves bored, they can open up Facebook, Twitter, or other sites. This can cause them to seem mentally absent in social events. It is not uncommon to see people on their smart phones while at a restaurant waiting to be seated or for their food. Instead of engaging in conversation with one another, they are engaged with their phone, iPod, or other device.

Ashli Keane, 19, and Alison Whalen, 18, both spend a significant amount of time on social media sites.

"I check my Facebook every day, several times, and occasionally during classes," Keane said. Whalen checks her Facebook a couple of times a day, with an intermittent tweet. She also checks her social media sites during class on occasion.

Nolan Brown, 21, just has Facebook, and says, "I probably check it a couple times a day, but I don't bother with it during my classes."

Angela Headley, 19, is one of the few students that does not spend time on social media sites, and does not get online during class. "I spend a lot of time on YouTube though," Headley admitted. She also enjoys visits to game review websites more than anything else.

Social media has had an effect on Americans of all ages. Many high school and college students find themselves putting off school work or other tasks, such as cleaning, to 'stalk' their friends on Facebook or to play games online. Mobile devices today make it even easier for those addicted to social media networks to access them anywhere. This includes the classroom.

Many teachers, professors, and instructors at Parkland have a very strict mobile phone policy. Students are generally instructed to silence their electronic devices and put them away. This is to gain students' full attention and to ensure they are not texting or using social media sites instead of paying attention.

Likewise, many lab classes enforce a strict 'no social media' rule. Even so, many students attempt to break these rules, while some do not even realize they may be addicted. This addiction doesn't end with social media, but applies to many types of technology.

In an experiment called "24 hours: Unplugged," at the University of Maryland, college students were asked to give up all forms of media including mobile phones, television and mp3 players for twenty four hours, then blog about their successes and failures afterward. Many students found realized that they were sickeningly addicted to their technology and social media. Many said that they felt disconnected from friends and family without Facebook.

Another college, The Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire, conducted a study to determine if the amount of time students spend on social media networks affects their grades. The study showed that there was no correlation between college students' grades and the amount of time spent on social media networks. Many people argue with these results, saying that excessive online usage does affect studying, which in turn affects student grades.

While excessive use of social media sites may have negative impact on students, some college professors encourage their use. One such use of social media is blogging websites, which have become especially popular in Parkland courses.

Paul Young, a graphic design instructor, uses these sites in his course. He has students create blogs and use them to share examples of certain pieces of design for inspiration with fellow classmates.

"Before blogs existed, I gave the same research assignment but it was titled 'source files,'" Young said. "Graphic designers used to collect printed samples for inspiration and file them in file folders inside file cabinets. When a designer needed inspiration, he or she went digging into their source files to look for ideas."

Before blogs, Young took time out of class once a week to do a 'source file' critique, in which the students would look at all the research the class had collected and talk about it.

"This took a lot of time, and many students are shy and won't contribute much to the discussion," Young explained. "To my surprise, the same quiet students would write quite lucidly about their find if I asked them to post a blog entry instead."

Young found using blogs solved two issues. The first was that valuable class time could be used more effectively, and the second was that student participation increased dramatically.

This shows that instructors can use this addiction to social media to their benefit. It allows students who hold back from class discussions to participate and share their thoughts and feelings about a matter.

Positive aspects aside, there have been studies that have shown that extensive time spent on social media networks may have negative impacts on student's school, home or social life. Take a moment to think, could you possibly be one of the millions who have this addiction, and not even realize it?


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