Facebook could be a distraction that drags down grade point averages, or a popular online hangout spot that has no impact on college students’ academics — depending on which university study you read.
Students in a University of New Hampshire marketing research course surveyed more than 1,100 fellow students about their use of popular social media web sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and they found “no correlation between the amount of time students spend using social media and their grades.”
The student researchers classified light users of social media as respondents who spent less than 31 minutes every day on social networking sites. Heavy users, according to the study, spent more than an hour daily on social media sites.
Sixty-three percent of heavy users earned high grades—A’s and B’s—while 65 percent of light users received high marks.
“The study indicates that social media is being integrated with, rather than interfering with, students’ academic lives,” said Chuck Martin, a university adjunct professor whose marketing class conducted the study, released last month. “College students have grown up with social networks, and the study shows they are now simply part of how students interact with each other, with no apparent impact on grades.”
Martin, author of Smarts: Are We Hardwired For Success?, said people spent hours at a time using Facebook and similar sites when social media were introduced in the early and mid-2000s. But Facebook members – including college students – have learned to use the site intermittently, Martin said, while staying in touch with friends, family, and co-workers.
“It has evolved so that people dip in and dip out,” he said. “They use it in short spurts. … They may be using social media 30 seconds at a time, rather than 30 minutes at a time… It’s not that they’ve left life and gone online; it’s just become part of their lives, as opposed to living in a virtual world.”
The University of New Hampshire findings contrasted with Ohio State University research from last year that suggested Facebook had a significant impact on student performance.
Students who reported checking status updates, joining fan groups, and chatting with friends and relatives on Facebook several times a day had a GPA as much as a letter grade lower than their counterparts, according to the Ohio State study, which included 219 college students and was released in April.
Sixty-five percent of Facebook members checked their accounts at least once a day, according to the Ohio State research. Seventy-nine percent of students said Facebook did not have any effect on their academic performance, a finding that seemingly was contradicted by the data.
The University of New Hampshire student research matched findings from a recent Northwestern University study that surveyed 1,000 undergraduates from the University of Illinois, Chicago campus. The research didn’t show a “robust negative relationship between grade point averages and use of Facebook.”