Are Facebook News Feeds Getting You Your A's? The Effects of Online Social Networking
 
Student researchers:

Adrienne Legath, Jackie Burtnett, Anne Sellner (Undergraduate Students)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

Introduction

The researchers wanted to study how Facebook affects a student's performance in school. The main part of our study included testing whether Facebook usage had a direct affect on cumulative grade point average. The researchers other main goal was to measure Facebook's distractibility and to see how that played into a student's performance.

research question

RQ1:   For college students, controlling for purpose of use, other online media use, time spent in offline social networks and amount of school work, what is the relationship between number of hours spent on Facebook and cumulative grade point average?

RQ2: Controlling for gender, is there a relationship between the amount of time spent on Facebook and cumulative grade point average?

RQ3: Controlling for dependency, is there a relationship between amount of time spent on Facebook and cumulative grade point average?

RQ4: Controlling for frustration, is there a relationship between amount of time spent on Facebook and cumulative grade point average?

RQ5: Is there a relationship between cumulative grade point average and the level that Facebook distracts a person from school work?

RQ6: Is there a relationship between amount of time spent on Facebook and the level that Facebook distracts a person from school work?

RQ7: Is there a relationship between cumulative grade point average and being logged onto Facebook simultaneously while doing work?

Method

The study was conducted at Penn State University. A group of students from two undergraduate courses (American Studies 100: Introduction to American Studies and Communications Arts and Sciences 202: Communication Theory) were asked to participate in an online survey. The group was chosen out of other potential sample groups because of their wide diversity in age, major, gender and year in school. The survey was sent out by email through the Penn State Course Management System, ANGEL. The survey took between 10-15 minutes to complete and no incentive was provided for participating.

Results

RQ1: For college students, controlling for purpose of use, other online media use, time spent in offline social networks and school work, what is the relationship between number of hours spent on Facebook and cumulative grade point average?

After running a regression test, we found that there is no significant relationship between the number of hours spent on Facebook and the participants' reported cumulative grade point average when controlling for purpose of use, other online media use, time spent in other online social networks and school work. For ß=-0.0007 for amount of time on Facebook and ß =-0.007 for purpose total and p>.05.

RQ2: Controlling for gender, is there a relationship between the amount of time spent on Facebook and cumulative GPA?

After running a regression test, when controlling for gender, there was a significant relationship between the amount of time spent on Facebook and cumulative grade point average. For ? = -.0008 for amount of time on Facebook, and .08 for gender, p < .05.

Conclusions

Our findings could be due to a number of different reasons. The issue of priming may be responsible for several of the findings regarding amount of time spent on Facebook and cumulative grade point average. Priming states that a certain stimulus (the Internet) may "prime" the user to think of an additional semantically related concept (Facebook). After repeated exposure, this association becomes stronger. Therefore, when a participant sits down at his computer to start homework and/or check his e-mail, the usage of the Internet may prime him to immediately log into Facebook. However, this habitual routine may have no effect on his cumulative grade point average because he is merely primed to log in to Facebook when using the Internet, but does not necessarily defer his entire attention from his schoolwork.

Further, Facebook is such a part of most college students lives that they may be unaffected by the act of being logged into Facebook. Question 15 asked participants if they found themselves doing homework while being logged into Facebook simultaneously. Of the 150 respondents, 66.7% reported that they do indeed do homework while being logged into Facebook simultaneously. However, being logged into Facebook does not mean that the participant is actively involving himself in the site. Facebook could simply be on the screen for quick access to other students who may be taking the same courses as him.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University