Beacon Features: Facebook affects students’ GPA

By Christopher Hernandez
Contributing Writer

More than six billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day worldwide, more than 40 million status updates are posted each day and more than 65 million active users are currently subscribed to Facebook on their cellular phones, according to www.facebook.com. These statistics show Facebook is a global phenomenon. With so much time spent on Facebook, when is there time for work?

“It’s a time sponge,” Dr. Stephanie Bennett, associate professor of communication and media studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, said in regards to social media. “It sucks time away from us, and before we know it, we are spending more hours in front of the screen than we are in our books or in our primary relationships.”

For the past seven years, Bennett has been conducting a study with students in her Interpersonal Communication class involving a 24-hour fast from all forms of electronic and digital media.

When Bennett first began her study, the “new media” craze consisted mostly of excessive cell phone use and texting. Now, she receives more responses that pertain to Facebook including students who can’t believe how addicted they are, checking their Facebook pages ten to 20 times a day.

“They increase their awareness through this fast, and that’s my primary reason for continuing to conduct this experiment,” Bennett said. “When we are living and functioning in a society, in a world in which technology is deeply embedded, it becomes invisible. It becomes habit, part of our daily M.O., modus operandi, that is our way of being in the world.”

On campus there are differences of opinion regarding Facebook.

“I really only go on for a few minutes at a time, usually every day though,” senior Samantha Torres said. “I check my notifications and usually only check my cousins’ and family’s pages because it’s the easiest way to keep up with each other. I will go on if I need to let one of my friends know something or if I am thinking of them and I’m already online.”

Senior Cheyanne Lent confirmed she mainly goes on Facebook to network and communicate with friends.

“I also love updating my status with fun and interesting quotes or pop culture I find out,” she added.

With Facebook and other social networking platforms out of the picture, Bennett’s students find themselves with more time to finish assignments, clean their rooms, work out and start work on future assignments all before three in the afternoon. They were shocked at the amount of time they were spending online.

A recent study conducted by Ohio State University showed that the social networking site might be the cause of lower grade point averages (GPA).

The study, which used a sample of 219 students, showed that students who use Facebook have GPAs ranging from 3 to 3.5 and spend up to five hours studying. People who don’t use Facebook, however, have GPA’s ranging from 3.5 to 4. In contrast, these students spend 11 hours studying.

Aryn Karpinski, a doctoral student at Ohio State University and co-author of the research study, said in an article posted on researchnews.osu.edu that she does not believe that Facebook is the sole culprit in lowering students’ GPA, but she believes it does play a part. Out of the 219 students surveyed, 117 were graduate students.

From this 117, 52 percent had Facebook accounts. The fact that the average 3.5 GPA of graduates who use Facebook was declining is significant in Karpinski’s findings.

Bennett is not surprised by the results of the study.

“We are not just using our media; we are not just consuming media; we are not just viewing media; we are living in an environment of media,” Bennett said.

Senior Kimberly Covert, who works for the Office of Admissions at PBA, sees Facebook as a portal to reach a lot of people at one time.

“I use it to send mass e-mails to keep in contact with prospective students,” Covert said. “Now I spend two hours a day on Facebook. I used to use it way more but I realized it was eating up my time.”

Facebook does not only occupy our free time. A lot of students use it in class while pretending to be taking notes with their laptops. This has become a serious issue that has made some professors take action to keep students from Facebook or other Web sites that distract them in class.

Dr. Alex Wainer, associate professor of communication and media studies, is known for not letting students bring laptops to class.

“I understand they have good intentions, but it’s like I am competing with a screen,” Wainer said. “If I played a movie on the big screen, they would stare at that more than listen to me.”

“We can’t separate our lives into cisterns, one for the work life, one for the school life, and one for the online life because the online life, the social networking seeps into everything and so certainly it would seep into the grades and the study habits,” Bennett said.

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