Sunday, 6 December 2015

Social Media: A Self-Inflicted Kiss of Death?

Social media is making a significant impact in both the personal and educational lives of young adults. Approximately 2.3 billion people are registered to at least one of the most popular social media websites (i.e. Facebook or YouTube). As many of us are aware, social media is linked to negative effects on our confidence and self-esteem, but understanding how it is related to both our education and well-being is not as widely understood.

With the emergence of social media, the lines of our personal and educational lives are beginning to blur. For example, it’s a Wednesday, your friends are all getting ready for a night out on the town while you have to sit through the most boring lecture known to man. All of a sudden you get a Facebook message from your friend asking what you’re going to wear. How many can honestly admit they are not tempted to reply? I mean think about it, do you really want to be that person who shows up in jeans while all your friends are dressed to the nines?! A recent survey from 2014 found that on average 59% of students are accessing social media during class time - that’s a whopping 6 out of 10 students on their Facebook or Instagram rather than listening to a lecture they paid thousands of dollars in tuition to hear. You may be thinking “whatever, it’s only a couple of seconds” and you may not be too concerned; however, when considering the effects these distractions have, you may change your mind. For example, heavy Facebook use within a university classroom has been associated with a lower grade point average (GPA). Although this is not a causal factor, it should raise concern, at least for those who hope to do well in university. 

The 21st century has seen a rapid increase in the use of social media, some positive outcomes have resulted; however, several negative outcomes have also been noticed. One negative outcome has been termed “technostress” which can be defined as the negative impact that technology has on attitudes, thoughts, and/or behaviours. For example, while spending quality time with your family you may fear that unless you are constantly engaged in social media, you may become disconnected to the outside world. 

In addition, consider the association between social media and grades. Grades in university are an arms race - we all want that 4.0 GPA. It’s not that we’re selfish, it’s just the way universities have conditioned us to define success. With that in mind, many of us strategize on how to get that extra step ahead of the competition. A recent study by Stoney Brooks may shed light on one way we can achieve this edge. His research focuses on how social media is related to personal and educational areas of life by looking at its effects on happiness, technostress (described previously), and performance on tasks. 

To begin with, the results of the study showed that despite many of us thinking we have superpowers and can multitask like a pro, we may be overestimating our abilities. No matter how adept we perceive ourselves to be, engaging in social media while trying to focus on a more important task (i.e. listening in lecture) might be linked to a negative impact on how we are able to perform that specific task. Therefore, although answering that Facebook message during a lecture may seem harmless, the time it takes to answer the message and then refocus on what the professor is saying could be the difference between getting a 9/10 on the next quiz rather than getting a 10/10. Additionally, social media was found to be associated with experiencing more technostress. As we know, experiencing stress of any kind is tied to our mood and our ability to focus on crucial tasks. 

If both of those reasons weren’t enough to convince you to turn that social media off, this next finding might. The results of Brooks’ study also indicated that social media correlates with a decrease in happiness. Although this may seem unrealistic, if you think of the increase in stress and decrease in academic success associated to social media, it’s not hard to see that being connected as frequently as many of us are may be doing more harm than good to our overall well-being.

Being happy, successful and stress-free are some of the most important goals in life. Why mess with the potential to be all of these by answering that text or posting that Instagram - both of which could probably wait until after the lecture? Take the time you would spend doing any of these things to write that extra lecture point - for all you know, it may be a question on the final exam. 

Brooks, S. (2015). Does personal social media usage affect efficiency and well-being? Computers in Human Behavior, 46, 26-37. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.053

Marissa Hall

No comments:

Post a Comment