A recent series of studies show that for some, Facebook may not always be detrimental to student academic performance.
The research suggests that the level of an individuals cognitive absorption in the realm of social media determines its impact on students with GPA being the measuring stick.
Moez Limayem, dean of the College of Business who conducted the study with other researchers from the U.S. and Sweden, said the purpose for his studies were to look at the impact of social media on children growing up in the digital age, an area that has been little researched.
Experts agree that students spend several hours, even up to eight hours a day, on Facebook and (other) social media. Then the logical question becomes, How is this really affecting students and their academic achievement? Limayem said.
One of the studies, A Study on the Impact of Facebook Usage on Students Social Capital and Academic Performance, which was published in the Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology in 2011, found that individuals who allow themselves to be cognitively absorbed in Facebook tend to have more social capital, or a larger circle of friends, but lowered academic performance.
Individuals who exercise lean use tend to have a slightly smaller group of friends, but a higher academic performance.
But Limayem said the research shows the use of social media by students may not be entirely bad, as previously believed.
That link (between social media use and student performance) is moderated by the extent to which you can multitask, he said. So you can use three hours of Facebook, and I can use three hours of Facebook and it will affect me less because human beings have different capacities for what we call multitasking.
A similar study Limayem co-authored, which has not been published yet, concluded that Facebook encourages impetuous behavior as people become oblivious to the impact of their activity or who they are posting to.
A tangent study conducted by the same researchers aimed to look at the roles of trust and self-restraint on a students likelihood for heavy Facebook use, and found that while an individuals willingness to trust has no effect on his or her presence on Facebook, self-regulation has a significant impact on a students level of cognitive absorption in Facebook.
When taken as a whole, these studies debunk the popular belief that the use of social media when it comes to productivity is all negative.
The results were something that shocked even me, Limayem said. I had always thought that social media was all bad, but that is not what we found.
However, Limayem said, these studies are simply building blocks for more research and study into the topic, and have practical use as well.
If I can know that my sons level of use is at an at-risk level, then I know that I need to limit (his) use of social media, he said. We could also use this information to build in applications directly in the social media sites to help limit the impact on students.
Limayem and his fellow researchers are in the process of conducting similar studies about social medias impact on students from different cultures.