Social media has become an essential part of students’ daily lives. Search engines and websites have changed the way they research, YouTube changes the way they learn, sites like Facebook change the way they talk to each other.
Around campus, students, faculty, and professors are using social networks more than ever. From Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn, social networking has made it easier to communicate with people throughout the world. It is easier to keep in touch with friends from the past and with family who lives across the country.
“As long as college students are networking, that is the main point,” says Pi Beta Phi member Haleigh Turner ’12, a Career Assistant for the Monmouth College Office of Career Development. “If more students feel comfortable using sites like Facebook that’s fine, but I am partial to face to face networking.”
However, there are some downsides associated with the extremely accessible social networking sites, says Dr. Rey Junco a professor at Lock Haven University and a social media researcher. He discusses how using social media as a tool in the classroom will help students become more engaged in face to face learning in his blog, Social Media in Higher Education.
“Students who reported multitasking by doing another activity on the computer or another activity not on the computer, were more likely to report academic impairment,” says Junco in his blog. He suggests social networking websites and instant messaging are distracting to students who should be focusing on school work.
“Facebook is not only a distraction to my homework, but to anything I have to do,” says Erin Murphy ’12. “I am never very productive when I am on it.”
Loosing access to these technologically-enabled networks can be a distraction, too. When the computer network fails at Monmouth College, a student’s main concern might be about reconnecting to the social network instead of how the disruption will affect the completion of coursework.
Students suffering from “Facebook Fever” (the need to check Facebook every time one is on the computer) find that working on homework is extremely difficult. According to a research study from The Ohio State University, “Facebook users in the study had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, while non-users had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0.”
Beyond personal discipline when using social networking sites, there are also certain threats created by malicious users of social networking sites. Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity headquarters recently issued warnings about online scams targeted toward women in sororities using social networking sites. These scams have included people posing as alumnae of the organization and asking for extremely personal information. Such information could be used to steal the woman’s identity, damage her financial stability, and harm her reputation.
“Social networking sites can be really useful when people use them properly,” says Sam Jagust, member of Alpha Xi Delta. “People don’t really use it properly; it’s pretty much a creeper site right now.”
Social Networking sites can be both useful and hurtful to students in portraying a professional image. Future employees can turn to sites such as Facebook to investigate potential employees.
Employers are “becoming increasingly savvy about using social networking sites in their hiring due diligence,” says Wei Du in an article on MSNBC.com. Students’ comments and pictures posted to social networking sites can be easily discovered.
In this same article, Du reports that Van Allen, who runs a company recruiting potential employees and clinics, denied a woman a job because she had posted explicit pictures on Facebook. Employers are searching social media websites such as Facebook as part of their responsibility to find out information on a potential employee.
However, used well, websites such as LinkedIn can be extremely useful in employment searches. They can act as an online resume as well as enhance networks and establish connections within one’s field.
“You ought to be getting a LinkedIn profile if you don’t have one,” says Dr. Lee McGaan, Chair of the Monmouth College Department of Communication Studies. “It is the kind of profile you want to show up when your name is googled. You can get easy and convenient recommendations from professors and other people you have shared work experience with.”
While social media and networking make communication very easy, privacy is still a major concern. When using sites like Facebook or MySpace, users may use the built-in privacy settings to control—to some extent—who can view personal information posted on the sites. Helpful guides to privacy settings can be found on Mint.com and 7 Tips to Protect Your Social Media Privacy.
“If you decide to use Facebook for professional networking, take a close look at your profile and decide what you want business contacts or prospective employers to see—and what you don’t,” says Alison Doyle, a job search expert and author, in her article “Facebook and Professional Networking.” It is recommended that users also monitor comments and photos that are posted on personal pages by their friends.
“Professional sites are good,” says McGaan adds. “Take the time to Google yourself and see what is there. It is getting easier and cheaper for potential employers, banks, insurance companies, and even marketers to access information about you. Be careful what you are posting because there is potential for leakage, even with privacy settings.” μ
Michelle Bruce ‘12
Also of interest
- Comment on this story on Facebook
- Dr. Rey Juno’s Blog: Social Media in Higher Education
- Ohio State University Study
- Job candidates getting tripped up by Facebook
- HOWTO: Protect Your Privacy on Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn
- 7 Tips to Protect Your Social Media Privacy
- “Facebook and Professional Networking”