There was a time, a long time ago, when social media was a vision that we were yet to realise. Then came Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and so many more social media platforms. Some were able to withstand the tide of time, and others are now a fading memory.
In the past decade or so, several studies have been conducted on the impact of social media. Its use is felt in almost every aspect of human life and the education sector, notwithstanding. We will focus on how the adoption and increased use of social media by students, affect them, from the good, the bad, to the evil.
It encourages collaboration
For a student, social makes collaboration on an assignment or project, easier, as students don't necessarily have to meet in person, but can communicate online.
You may well want to meet to discuss new ideas, but once you've decided on what the plan is, social media such as WhatsApp can give you the accountability you need to get your head down and the work done.
It enhances learning
Social networking sites encourage the sharing of content. And that can be a good thing.
Think of all the information you can obtain nowadays, especially through following people, companies and institutes you are interested in. Whether there's a lecturer at a university whose experiments and thought pieces you find inspirational or a company you really want to get your foot in the door to, social media is the place to find out more.
And what's more, this information is not available through the traditional routes, through lectures, labs or libraries.
This new exposure has a significant impact on the out-of-the-box thinking of students.
It increases familiarity and desire to venture into technology
We cannot ignore the rate at which technology is causing a significant paradigm shift in our daily and working lives, especially post-COVID.
Job roles will continue to evolve and become more technical, and the more that we understand about technology, the better place we'll be to move forward in our careers.
Using social media, and being well-versed in other technology, will allow us to be less scared when the time comes to learn a new system or programme, and get ahead of the competition.
It facilitates online learning
This past year, lectures have moved online and communication with other students has been primarily through social media, especially for those stuck at home with their parents, rather than their friends in halls.
Although online learning hasn't replaced the lecture theatre fully, and many students are dying to go back to university full-time, social media has allowed us to get on with our lives in ways we never thought previously possible.
It can be distracting
The average person checks their phone 96 times a day! That's once every 10 minutes!
And I'm sure you're one of them.
Phone can be a distraction when you see a new alert popping up, or even when you're bored and you want to get away from the task at hand.
The problem of watching Youtube video after video and not being able to stop is real.
It could be blamed for poor writing among students
Writing posts on social media is not the same as writing essays, and while poor spelling and grammar alongside emojis and abbreviations is one thing in social media, it's quite another in essays.
While many of you know the difference between the two, the heavy use of social media is slowly blurring the lines.
It promotes overreliance on the internet
Having the internet to hand is a great source of information, but in university, students have to back up what they've learnt with evidence.
The internet can also be damaging when learning about the foundation of a subject - let's say, for example, Henry VIII. If you can always look up information about Henry VIII you'll never get to grips with who he really is, what he did and really remember off hand. It's only when this is the case that you can start to read around the subject, make your own conclusions, or move the story of his reformation to a new level.
It gives room to cyberbullying
In today’s world, bullying isn’t limited to physical or verbal attacks. Social media platforms have opened another avenue for bullies to operate - in cyberspace.
The modern abundance of devices with internet access makes it easier for cyberbullies to remain anonymous and create multiple accounts with different identities, giving them the freedom to attack multiple social media users simultaneously, often without obstruction.
It can corrupt morals
Unfortunately, social media algorithms are designed to give you more of what you like. And once you've watched something that's pretty harmless from the outset - perhaps you chanced upon it on a friend's feed - you'll get similar content over and over again.
But that leads you down a rabbit hole of only seeing one avenue in the world, which can become dangerous in the multi-cultural, multi-racial, global society we live in nowadays.
The effect of social media on education is not all black and white.
It can be a distraction when you are trying to use your time more wisely, or it can be a blessing in disguise when COVID hit and you needed to continue communicating with your friends without physically seeing them.
It's here to stay, and there's no denying the benefits, but perhaps take everything you read with a pinch of salt and remember to take a step back and form your own opinions.