Social networking has become an inevitable part in the life of contemporary society. Surely, social networking has both pros and cons as every social aspect or occurrence. Proponents of social networks claim that they stimulate interaction between people helping to renew lost and long-distance connections, enhance openness and tolerance, and accelerate information spread. Opponents state that communication through social networks overweight live face-to-face communication, substitutes numerous activities by its highly time-consuming routine of updating statuses and reading others’ updates, and facilitates spread of false information. However, the main focus of this essay is directly connected with students and studying. This paper aims to describe and analyze the negative effect of social networking on academic progress as obsessive social networking leads to lower students’ grades by various means.
A study, conducted by Aryn C. Karpinski of Ohio State University and Paul A. Kirschnera, a psychologist of the Open University of the Netherlands, came to a surprising and unpleasant conclusion while researching the correlation between social networks (Facebook in this particular case) usage and grades. The results clearly indicated that users of Facebook showed an average GPA of 3.06 compared to a non-users’ GPA of 3.82. The authors of the study claimed that the primary aim of their research was not to prove networking sites are bad, but to show that a wide-spread opinion about students’ ability to successfully perform multi-tasking (combining studying with texting, listening to various kinds of music, etc.) is much amplified. The main reason for lower grades was seen in continuous return to social networks while fulfilling any other tasks which serves as a major distraction and does not let concentrate thoroughly on one subject. In his interview to Daily Mail, Kirschnera stated, "We should resist the fashionable views of educational gurus that children can multi-task, and that we should adapt our education systems accordingly to keep up with the times". Another issue is that Facebook and other social network users also tend to spend significantly less time to study at home which also leads to worse quality of preparation. Students are getting used to tenuous knowledge and studying.
Another study conducted by the leading school trips provider JCA in 2010 confirmed that children and students who spend much of their time online were in their majority showing a significant decline in their grades. Five hundred teachers that participated in the study clearly stated that social network users frequently failed to complete their homework in time or to a certain level of quality. The study also proved that the lowest grades were received by the heaviest social media users as they tended to demonstrate lack of concentration during the class.
Rapidly developing world of high technologies is contributing to this sad situation as smartphones and iPads are an easy and constant temptation to check notifications and updates on the sites of social networking. Moreover, these devices allow doing it anywhere anytime being it during the class or while studying at home. Matt Richtel (2012) from the New York Times described two surveys that investigated teachers’ opinion on social networking and students’ grades in 2012. It was not surprising that the overwhelming majority of more than ninety per cent of the participating teachers claimed proofs of direct dependence between modern technology opportunities and academic progress. The interviews of teachers give much food for thought as many of them stated shortening attention spans as the main result of heavy social networking. At the same time, teachers faced a real challenge as they were forced to invent more creative and entertaining approaches to teaching students who now frequently believe that reality is boring in comparison to what they experience in social networks.
However, the New York Times decided to investigate the issue from both sides and conducted an online student survey asking whether they were distracted by technology. There are 193 replies at the moment. Prevailing answer is “yes” with alterations in details on how many hours students spend online or how many times they check their updates on social networking sites. It might be an encouraging fact that students themselves realize the problem with obsessive social networking which might result into conscious decrease of the time spent online.
It is clear that progress cannot be turned back and the humanity will not probably refuse its ‘gifts’ soon, so people shall not hope to free from their virtual reality. However, society should make slightly more effort to be armed with the knowledge of potential consequences of their behavior and habits. Social networking may be a useful source of quick information on events in one’s social surrounding; however, the time spent on checking updates should not dominate over all other activities. At the same time, the main reason of social networking should remain with the emphasis on ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ way to communicate with people when it is not possible or convenient to talk face-to-face. It means that social networks may be helpful for long-distance or urgent more or less silent communication when it is the only way to spread or receive information among a certain group of people. Therefore, when a person spends all his free time online and even distracts from other activities checking updates, communicates and meets new people only in the virtual reality, there is a problem of substituting real life with the virtual one. This is when help is needed to return a person to the joy of live communication and teach him to concentrate on one task without intrusive desire to check what other people are doing instead of studying. As any other social event, social networking should be approached consciously and thoughtfully. Then, all students will learn to manage their online and offline activities without their interference successfully completing tasks at an appropriate level of quality.