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The Role of Social Media on College Students

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Samantha Mellinger

Mass Comm 101

Research Paper


The Role of Social Media on College Students


Over the past decade, the way we communicate and perceive the world has changed drastically. Social media is an influential aspect in many people’s lives, especially teenagers and young adults. It has changed traditional forms of communication and allows us to discuss our different opinions, ideas, and information almost instantly. Since it is still a relatively new phenomenon, it is very interesting to see the results of how it impacts everyday life. For students, it seems to play a very controversial role. While social media increases exposure to drugs/alcohol and can lead to procrastination/distractions, it also lets student’s work on their online communication skills and become active citizens.

A survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse states that teens who use social networking sites are more likely to use drugs and drink alcohol. The study suggests that young adults are more likely to engage in these negative behaviors because social media exposes them to illegal activities. Schill (2011) says by having accounts on these websites they are likely to have seen images of other teenagers under the influence, drunk, passed out etc. Visual representation is a strong influence and also tends to justify wrong actions. When teenagers see another peer participating in any activity, they begin to visualize themselves doing the same, possibly leading to partake in alcohol or substance abuse. Social media usage is also very addicting, and often distracts from school work easily. Procrastination often occurs because students prioritize social networking highly (Shaulis).

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This image shows the importance level of social networking sites for college students in comparison to other common activities. They would rather give up checking/sending emails, which can are significant in reference to academic success, than gave up social media usage. This demonstrates the high priority level that social networking takes in young adult’s lives.

On the other hand, online access can be a great resource for any student. From a financial perspective it is a very beneficial tool. As long as students have an internet connection, they have a world of information at their fingertips. It is convenient, and convenience is an incentive that highly encourages students (Neilson). Social media also helps students stayed informed in terms of current events and politics. “62% of online teens get news about current events and politics online” (Lenhart), teens aren’t likely to seek news from an actual paper or watch television. Retrieving news online also gives them an opportunity to participate in it. Facebook, Tumblr, and especially Twitter are an outlet where students have a voice that is actually heard. Popular posts go viral quickly, reaching and affecting thousands of people directly and cheaply.  It’s an outlet for those too shy to speak up in person, through an online presence they can express their thoughts more confidently. While social networking sites may be a platform for young adults to be exposed to negative behavior, it is also a platform to be immersed in culture and current events.



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