Professors may have to stop blaming Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for their students’ unfinished papers and poor grades, according to a study from the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business and Economics.
Contrary to popular myth, there is no correlation between student grades and heavy usage of online social media, the study found.
The university published a study Dec. 23 on the connection between the grades of college students and online social media use. Surveys were distributed to students in each of UNH’s school, comprising a total of 1,127 undergraduate and graduate students.
The study found similar grade patterns at all of the colleges. A majority of students received marks in the A and B range, with more students using Facebook and Youtube than other social media networks. Facebook proved to be the most popular platform among collegians; 96 percent of all of the students surveyed admitted to accessing the site on a daily basis.
Users of social media were divided into two categories: “light” users were identified as those who spent less than 31 minutes on a social media Web site per day, whereas “heavy” users were considered to be online for more than an hour each day. There were no disparities between the grades of light and heavy users of social media. Sixty-three percent of “heavy” users received high grades like A’s and B’s, as did 65 percent of “light” users.
Nevertheless, social media are often viewed as a distraction and means of procrastination, both inside and outside the classroom.
Students who use laptops in class to take notes can often be spotted updating their Facebook status, tweeting or quietly chuckling at the latest video gone viral on Youtube, said Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs.
Once in his class he “threatened to eat the next computer in class that was spotted online instead of being used appropriately.”
“Social media can be tremendously useful, but they can also be distracting, meaningless time-killers. They can connect but they can also breed a superficial, super-short, tinyurl mentality where ideas and answers are reduced to a few characters. Complexity is the casualty,” he added, referring to the popular Web address shortening service used in conjunction with Twitter.
But Facebook Communications representative Elizabeth Linder agreed with the University of New Hampshire’s findings, saying Facebook is not to blame for students procrastinating.
“Using Facebook as a student or indeed as a working professional is no different than any other question of effective time management. Just as students meet their friends for coffee as a study break and then need to buckle down and get started on an essay, so they also log on to Facebook to connect with their friends or read an interesting article in their news feed, and then need to crack open ‘Daniel Deronda’ and simply focus on George Eliot’s prose,” she said.
With a 43-percent increase in social media usage in the past year, according to UNH, it is easy to say that visiting social media Web sites has become part of daily routines.
Freshman Samuel James said he is hesitant to believe the results of the study.
“Like other distractions, sites like Facebook and YouTube pose some interference; however, it’s up to the student to decide if they want to minimize the interference, or keep up with the world,” James said.
Sesno passed on a bit of wisdom for those who are still skeptical of the relationship, or lack of a relationship, between grades and online social media: “For me, the bottom line on using social media is this: use common sense,” he said. “Seek moderation. And stay focused.”