The Effect of Social Network on College Students’ Academic Performance

free essayMany researches on social networking sites (SNS) show that the sites have both positive and negative effect on the academic performance of students at all levels. However, the proliferation of mobile devices and an increased access to social sites among college students represents the point that SNS have significant impact on their educational life. The positive aspect is that SNS improves active learning, student/faculty contact, communication of expectations, access to information, and the appreciation of diversity among others. The negative side is that, social networks can expose students to cybercrimes such as cyberbullying, identity theft, and cyberstalking. Such outcomes can result in harmful effects on the physical and mental health of students, and consequently affect their social engagement and overall performance. Besides enabling their users to share videos and photos, as well as to stay informed through Instagram, twitter, Snapchat, and other social networks, these platforms have a significant impact on business, cultural, and political life of people across the globe. Arguably, social sites are examples of disruptive technologies. In the higher education circles, they have revolutionized the way students and faculty members communicate. Additionally, they have created an opportunity for students to collaborate and share resources within virtual environments. Furthermore, students can also improve their engagement in the learning processes as they can share and discuss the course content more easily as compared to the physical world.

The ubiquity of handheld devices and the increased access to the Internet among college students has both positive and negative effects on the academic performance of students. Industry and academic researchers are increasingly giving attention to the impact of social network sites (SNSs) on the performance of college students’. As of consequence, there is an array of both qualitative and quantitative researches, concerning the positive and negative effect of such SNS as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook among others (Junco, Heiberger, & Loken, 2011). In the academic world, social networking goes beyond posting photos and videos and includes using these applications as tools for connecting geographically disconnected students by enabling them to form virtual communities and collaborate with each other.

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Social networking sites produce a positive effect when used appropriately in education. Research shows that if Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other SNS are used for educational purposes, the sites can cause a positive change in educators’ opinions (Grosseck & Holotescu, 2009; Kuh, 2009). Additionally, the virtual environment, created by these sites, enables educators to perform more activities, which is not possible in traditional lecture environments. For instance, lecturers can create awareness of the date and time, when webinars, related to the course materials, are conducted. Through Twitter, teachers can share links to more online educational resources. Typically, students’ access to physical documents in libraries is limited by the scarcity of the resources. Therefore, by using SNS for academic networking, students are more likely to access the big number of academic resources online. Unquestionably, all disruptive technologies have benefits and pitfalls; hence, social networks are not exceptional.

Definition Social Networks

Social networks are widely defined as Internet-based services, enabling users to develop online profiles and share connections with other users (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). The nature of the connections and type of digital content, shared on these social networks, vary from site to site. The term social networking site (SNS) is widely adopted by researchers as a general term for social networks within the realm of social media and information technology. They appeared as an extension of Web 2.0 technologies. As for the definition above, the first noticeable social network was launched in 1997 (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Between 1997 and 2001, several community tools were configured to support the creation of profiles and connections. Since then, a number of SNS were introduced to the global digital landscape.

Common Social Networks Used by College Students


Twitter is an online SNS that enables its users to read and sent short messages, termed as tweets (Twitter, 2016). It was founded in 2006 by Noah Glass, Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, and Biz Stone in San Fransico, Carlifornia. Its viral nature is based on the fact that it is globalized and can be accessed through any computing devices with access to the Internet, including PCs, mobile phones, and tablets. Unlike other social networking sites, which enable the transmission of long texts, Twitter’s short messages are limited to 140 characters. Similarly to other sites, only registered members can post tweets. The site is accessed through the mobile application or website interface. Currently, Twitter has over 300 million active users (Twitter, 2016).


Instagram is a social networking site that allows users to share videos and photos. The application was initially released in 2010 by Facebook developers (Instagram, 2016). Users can take photos and videos using their phones and share them with the help of application, either privately or publicly. One of the outstanding features of Instagram is that a user can share videos and photos via other social networking sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Tumblr (Lux, 2011). Instagram’s popularity among college students and faculty members is attributed to the fact that its license is freeware. Additionally, the application is supported by a large number of platforms, including iOS, Windows, and Android. After its acquisition by Facebook in 2013, the application has continued to gain traffic more than ever. In December 2010, Instagram had over 1million users. Interesting that by June 2016 the application has already had over 500 million users (Instagram, 2016). This is an illustration of its popularity in the public domain. Despite the fact that Instagram is a neutral network in terms of gender, female users are slightly more numerous than male users. Additionally, its usage has been demonstrated to be more widespread among urban dwellers.


Snapchat is a multimedia mobile application, enabling users to share image messages. It is relatively new, compared to Twitter and Instagram in the sense that it was first released in 2011. Its popularity is relatively low as it is available only in 20 languages and is supported by Android and iOS operating systems. Additionally the application’s license is proprietary in nature. Despite these limitations, the application has evolved into a blend of public content and private messaging, including live events, publications and brand networks. In regards to its application in the education world, Snapchat is used for various creative purposes. Its popularity is attributed to its security and privacy features, as well as to the fact that it is enjoyable (Snapchat, 2016). Snapchat’s core functionality entails the creation of multimedia messages, often termed as snaps. These multimedia messages can consist of a short video or a photo. One of the features that make it enjoyable to use is that the snaps can easily be edited to include effects, filters, drawings, and captions.

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Effect of Social Networks on College Students’ Academic Performance

Positive Effects of Social Networking Sites on College Students’ Academic Performance

In a study, conducted by Junco, Heiberger, and Loken (2011), on the impact of Twitter communications on college students’ grades and engagement, the analysis showed that faculty and students were highly engaged in learning process in ways that transcend the conventional classroom activities. The authors involved 125 first year students undertaking a pre-health test. The experimental group consisted of 70 students, whereas 55 students formed the control group. This study provided quantitative evidence that social network sites such as Twitter can serve as an educational tool to support students’ engagement (Junco et al., 2011). Additionally, the study showed that Twitter can be used to mobilize the teaching stuff into a more participatory and active role in the learning process. Instagram helps students to learn about shared humanity (Lux, 2011). Through Instagram, both students and educators can gain knowledge about the academic and social lives of other individuals, located in different parts of the world. Collectively, these sites help students to broaden their life perspectives and outlook.

At the center of the positive effects of social networking sites is the fact that they help to empower students. In this context, empowerment can be viewed in terms of supporting education and increasing access to educational resources. Moreover, the sites support the empowerment of both male and female students. Unlike the traditional learning environments, which make female students face numerous challenges, social sites, provide similar accessibility opportunities. Therefore, both male and female students can improve their discussions through virtual environments. As far as shy students are concerned, social networks provide them with some form of protection, because digital devices shield them from direct contact with other students and teachers. As a result, self-esteem and confidence of such students is improved. Students are empowered by social networks as they can join support groups, which are often unavailable offline. Due to the fact that students dominate in most social networks, they can champion for their rights through the cooperation in large numbers.

In acknowledgment of the power of social networks, faculty members are increasingly joining the SNS. These sites have the capability to rally students and teachers from various spheres of life. Consequently, the sites motivate mass movements. Through social networks, students become more informed about industry expectations. As a result, students, who use social sites, are in a better position, when they need to choose their career paths, and they are better prepared to find good employment opportunities than the students with limited access to the Internet. Additionally, employers are increasingly moving to the social networks, because they are offered a broadened access to interns and job applicants. By having access to the information, regarding industry expectations, students are more likely to improve their in-class and out-of-class engagements. Consequently, students improve their grades and engagement in learning processes. For example, through Twitter, students can connect with various industry experts on LinkedIn.

Instagram and Twitter also helps students to improve their relationships and to create new socio-economic and political networks. These sites support students’ relationships, because they can contribute to the creation, maintenance, and management of the relationships among students or between students and faculty members (Hertlein & Ancheta, 2014). For students, the sites can be used as platforms to communicate with friends and families. Therefore, the growing presence of students from diversified backgrounds on social networks strengthens communication, which is the bedrock of good relationships. According to Hertlein and Acheta (2014), social sites enable people to stay in contact with their families and friends, living in geographically distant locations. The same is true for students from abroad, undertaking various courses in foreign countries. In essence, these sites improve communication either vertically or horizontally. As a consequence, there is an increased communication between students and faculty members. It implies that the transmission of messages, regarding expectations and active learning is facilitated. The desired result is that students improve their engagement and grades. This point of view is based on the fact that the collaboration and information sharing (photos and videos), induced by Instagram and Twitter, can improve student’s memory. Normally, it is much easier for students to memorize the content in pictures and videos than the content of an abstract text. Furthermore, social networks speed the transmission of information either among students or from educators to students. Beyond the academic circle, these sites serve as the key sources of news. It is an advantage for students to be informed, because it widens their perspectives, regarding the practical world. Additionally, students can benefit from a wide source of information and news.

Negative Effects of Social Networking Sites on College Students’ Academic Performance

Similar to all disruptive technologies, social networks, have negative effects on the students’ engagement and grades. Despite their viral nature, Twitter and Instagram can compromise the accuracy of educational information. Unmonitored editing and filtering of the primary content can result in a continuous error. As a consequence, their viral nature can result in the spread of inaccurate information (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). This information is expected to have a detrimental effect on the academic performance of students. Additionally, educational information can be misinterpreted because of missing facts and figures. Twitter is blamed for this negative effect of relying on social sites, because its messages are limited to 140 characters. Furthermore, students can be psychologically and eventually physically harmed by the viral nature of these sites, especially when they are used to spread unreliable or false information. Given that both physical and psychological health of students is pivotal in their academic success, any disruption in their health can have negative effects on their performance. Students with an extended digital footprint on social networks are more likely to be negatively affected than students, who rarely use these digital platforms. In an event of relationship problems, these students are more easily distressed than students with minimal digital footprint. Such problems affect even the actual offline relationships. For example, an unpleasant conflict between students in a social network can lead to a physical confrontation. Revealing private and personal identifiable information (PDI) on social networks can expose students to cybercrimes, including cyber buying, cyberstalking, and identity theft. Such phenomena have harmful effects on the psychological and physical health of some students.

Educators are highly concerned about the negative effects of social networks because of several reasons. At the center of the concerns is the assertion that the performance of students is affected by the type and amount of digital content, accessed through social networks (Hertlein & Ancheta, 2014). For instance, nude photos and videos can affect the concentration of students. Additionally, the extreme life styles of some celebrities can alter students’ objectives and perception of life. As face-to-face communication reduces, physical contact among students or between students and their lecturers diminishes. These observations make it evident that social networks have negative effects on students’ performance if they are accessed and used inappropriately. In general, these undesirable effects of using social networks can affect in-class and out-of-class performances of college students.

Social Networking in Higher Education

In higher education, social networking entails Internet-enabled devices and practices that support the creation, collaboration, sharing, and participation in academic activities. These social sites are increasingly attracting the interest of higher education management, seeking means to engage and inspire students to be more active learners than before. There is a growing interest in integrating various types of social networks into the higher education learning process (Grosseck & Holotescu, 2009). Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming an integral part of the United States college students’ lives. A report by the Higher Education Research Consortium (HERI) showed that 94% of first year students use SNS (HERI, 2007). Students’ engagement consists of the psychological and physical energy, devoted by a student to an academic experience. The key components of students’ engagement include academic (in class) and out-of-class involvement. As highlighted in the section on benefits of the social networking sites, Twitter and Instagram extend students’ engagement in out-of-class activities, thereby improving their overall performance in the academic realm. In the higher education world, out-of-class engagement entails taking part in educationally relevant activities, as well as devoting time to co-curricular activities, which are pivotal in students’ success (Junco et al., 2011). Some of the underlying elements of good practices in college, linked to the engagement, induced by social networks, include cooperation among students, prompt feedback, active learning, faculty/student contact, respecting diversity, communicating expectations, and emphasizing time management (Kuh, 2009). Logically, there is an increased students’ engagement, which appears along with the growth in the adoption of social networking sites in the college learning process (King & Robinson, 2009).

Following the observation that social networking sites have both positive and negative effects on students’ grades and engagement in learning processes, it is important for the faculty the teaching staff to promote their positive usage. In other words, faculty members should create awareness of the effects of using these social sites on their student fraternity and the public in general. First, colleges can limit the use of handheld devices during lectures. In other words, students should not be allowed to access social networking sites during lectures. In that regard, the concentration of students will be improved, hence stimulating their academic performance. However, for IT and business-related lectures that often require the demonstration of the functioning of these sites, it is important to set the limit only for particular sessions. In line with the view that most educational institutions do not give enough attention to SNS, as they rarely discuss the power of the sites, these institutions should change their principles and start to exploit the sites for academic benefits. That is to say, educators should view these sites as tools for academic networking. For instance, educators should ensure that students have accounts at Twitter and use them to share links to the academic resources. Additionally, educators can retweet other relevant links, related either to educational world or to other topical spheres such as industry. An apt example is retweeting links to Webinars, dedicated to technologies, such as Oracle, and other areas of learning.


This paper explores the effects of social networking sites (SNS) on the performance of college students. In line with the hypothesis, presented in the introductory parts of this paper, research shows that SNS have both positive and negative effects on the grades and academic engagement of college students. Twitter and Instagram are very popular among college students due to their global reach, multilingualism, and independence. Additionally, Twitter is quicker in nature than Instagram and Snapchat, owing to the fact that it has been active for over a decade and its 140-character feature speeds communication. Evidently, the development of the Internet world provides students and faculty members with innovative ways to learn, research, and share information. Therefore, colleges should apply the advantages of the digitized world that people live in today. Additionally, colleges should acknowledge that people live in a social world, which should be reflected in the studying process, as the students’ fraternity migrates to the digital space. In conclusion, colleges should teach their students how to use these digital platforms for an effective collaboration and explain how they can be actively engaged in learning processes with their help. In that regard, students and the educational community as a whole will benefit form social networking sites.