The increasing role of social media on the lives of college students


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Photo by: Adam Glasser Location: Driscoll Bridge Date: Jan 18, 2016 A students laptop on the Driscoll Bridge overlooking the library, and Evans ave.

In an increasingly technology focused world the internet is playing a larger role in the lives of college students across the country, and the ways in which we use the internet are shifting as well.

One of the tools that helped launch the internet, E-mail, is being used by college students for only six minutes a day, on average, according to Purdue professor Reynol Junco. He found that his students would often come to class surprised that the readings had changed because they didn’t check their email frequently enough, so he turned to social media to connect with students.

To see how much time exactly students were spending on social media he decided to run a study recording students computer usage, and online habits. Dr. Junco’s study found that students “spent an average of 123 minutes a day on a computer, by far the biggest portion of it, 31 minutes, on social networking”. 

Social media can be used effectively by universities to reach students, and it can have an impact not just on students engagement in their education but on where they go to school.

Johns Hopkins student Lucie Fink said that the student run university social media page “Hopkins Interactive” had a large impact on her decision to go to school at the university. “There were all these kids that were so passionate about sharing their experience,” Fink said. “It was then that going off to Hopkins became a no-brainer, because I had already fallen in love with the school.”

A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that 100% of Universities surveyed used social media to communicate with students, both before they were accepted and afterwards, to inform them of events in their community and more generally  to create a more inclusive and modern campus environment.

University of Denver junior Becca Blaustein said that “Social media presence didn’t really have an impact on where I went to school, I was more interested in stuff like class size and campus environment” She went on to say that she wished “DU had a stronger social media presence so that I could find out about campus events like the hump day camels which I missed last year”.



Photo by: Adam Glasser Location: Driscoll Bridge Date: Jan 18, 2016 The campus Apple store blend in seamlessly

Technology and social media have the ability to be both tools for academic progress and social development, as well as distractions from work that can negatively impact ones psyche and desire for attention.

Take for instance the story of Duke University student Sydney, who during her freshman year turned to social media to escape the pressures of the real world and her slipping grades.

“Sydney turned to her phone for an alternate reality. In the current college culture, Sydney explained, the perfect girl on Instagram looks like she’s having so much fun, has more followers than she is following, and collects “likes” in nanoseconds.”

Syndney began to feel a disconnect between her real life and online persona, and as a result of being glued to social media throughout the year she found herself being more critical of her reality as she struggled to live the experiences she was seeing on social media platforms. She began to feel as though her life was not as exciting as the lives of others.

University of Denver professor Rachael Liberman feels that “Social media has become such a seamless part of our lives, whether its Facebook for fun, twitter for disseminating information, and there’s a question around social media of what is it doing?… and I think that at the individual level in terms of your psyche I think that what I’ve seen, and what I’ve read is that people are finding connections electronically, they’re more asynchronous, and you have to be deliberate about what you post”.

18 year old Lily Osman, a student at Franklin and Marshall college feels that “”Social media is a really easy way to feel excluded. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat make me hyper-aware of the activities I wasn’t invited to partake in, and less involved in the activities that are actually in front of me”.

Amelia Strickland agrees with this conclusion, writing in her masters thesis for the University of Central Florida that “This fear of missing out impacts young adults by changing how they view their social relationships. First, this fear exacerbates constant connectivity and makes it difficult for young adults to step away from compulsively checking their devices. They are afraid of what they might miss if they disconnect.”

Jessica Sedhom, a junior at DU feels differently “I don’t really pay that much attention to social media, I feel like it can be a useful tool but at the same time if you’re not aware of how much you consume I think it can have adverse affects”.

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