Social media in higher ed: Friend or foe?


Reynol Junco, a social media researcher and an associate professor at Lock Haven University, said in a May 3 blog post that the inforgraphic’s addiction portion misleadingly assumes that Facebook addiction “is equivalent” to other addictions.

“That being said, I do believe that people engage in problematic internet behaviors and that higher education professionals must intervene to help students exhibiting these behaviors before they suffer negative academic and psychosocial consequences,” said Junco, who is also a psychologist.

Junco took issue with many parts of the OnlineEducation.net infographic.

The infographic charges that heavy Facebook users are narcissistic. The infographic, Junco said, only cites one research paper that examines social media’s impact on self esteem.

Junco said other research paints a more nuanced picture of how Facebook, for instance, changes the way students see themselves.

“While it would be really provocative to say that Facebook users are more narcissistic or that Facebook makes people narcissistic, there isn’t enough data to make either claim,” he said.

Alarming claims included in the OnlineEducation.net infographic should be balanced against other worthwhile research that examines the myriad ways Facebook and Twitter have changed higher education, Junco said.

“We must be careful to ensure we’ve analyzed all of the available data before making sweeping generalizations, especially in the field of social media research,” he said. “To do otherwise does a disservice to the scientific process, to our students, and to the public at large.”

The Twitter study referenced in the infographic that claims tweeting students saw significant jumps in grade point average was first published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Living last fall.

Students who used Twitter also scored higher on a student engagement exam administered at a midsized U.S. college, which was unnamed in the article.

The group of tweeting students became more active on the social media site as the semester progressed.

The group’s number of tweets remained steady—with minor increases during some weeks—until the twelfth week of the semester, when the group pumped out 612 140-character messages to each other and their instructors.

Junco said Twitter could remain the preferred social media outlet in higher education partly because “a student doesn’t have to worry about a professor seeing a picture of them at last weekend’s party on Twitter like they might on Facebook.”