April 18, 2009
Facebook Lowering College Student Performance?

Are losers attracted to Facebook or does Facebook addiction turn people into losers?

Typically, Facebook users in the study had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, while non-users had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0.

In addition, users said they averaged one to five hours a week studying, while non-users studied 11 to 15 hours per week.

Of course the third possibility is that learning less in college doesn't hurt one's ultimate career prospects. Maybe being more social even better equips one to use networking to advance in one's career.

How much are technological addictions lowering people's performance at productive work? I know women who describe to me the huge amount of time their teenage sons spend in virtual reality games and other online addictions. They see their kids accomplishing less toward setting themselves up to succeed in the job market.

Different media (blogs, discussion forums, social networking sites, phone messaging, etc) encourage and discourage different kinds of intellectual activity. My own writing of web logs has made me do a lot more reading of material to give me more accurate and informed opinions. The web logs end up serving as an extended memory bank on many topics and I understand far more about a variety of topics as a result. But from what I've been reading in Facebook posts so far what I see is that media form seems to discourage deeper intellectual development. A larger number of less informed people speak to each other in smaller groups about trivial things.

There are probably corners of Facebook that have more substantial discussions. But the format gives you so much coming from your old childhood friends that it seems defocusing and shallow. People writing higher quality material are better off writing blogs.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 April 18 03:54 PM  Comm Tech Society

Fat Man said at April 18, 2009 5:51 PM:

From TFA:

"Science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and business majors were more likely to use Facebook than were students majoring in the humanities and social sciences."

At many schools, STEM majors carry lower GPAs than others because of the more objective, and rigid grading in their schools. I don't know if the researcher has captured a cause or an effect.

Andrea said at April 19, 2009 6:30 AM:

Like, oh mha god, you are sooo stupid!

Condescend said at April 19, 2009 6:39 AM:

Small sample, and possibly no/insufficient correction for STEM vs non-STEM students = worthless study

jvon said at April 19, 2009 7:01 AM:

Andrea, I think I love you. :)

Back when I was in college the addiction du jour was internet chat. (IRC, in my case). It did probably negatively affect GPA among CS majors, including me. Whether it damaged my career, that's hard to say; I chiefly interacted with other computer professionals, some of whom were more successful than I was, a couple of whom went on to become obscenely rich.

I doubt the phenomenon that's been discovered, if one has been discovered at all, is a lack of intellectual seriousness on the part of Facebook users. Distraction, quite possibly. But reading blogs isn't going to help them score any better on their exams either, sorry to say.

PD Quig said at April 19, 2009 8:54 AM:

I dropped my FB account two weeks ago. I'm starting a trend. 200 million to go.

Steve said at April 19, 2009 9:18 AM:

"At many schools, STEM majors carry lower GPAs than others because of the more objective, and rigid grading in their schools. I don't know if the researcher has captured a cause or an effect."

That might be true, but don't forget about the difference in hours per week spent studying. I'd be surprised if STEM majors as a group spent less time studying than their colleagues in the humanities and social sciences.

Mikey NTH said at April 19, 2009 9:33 AM:

When I was in college the major distractions were beer, euchre, beer, and the fair sex.

Sarah said at April 19, 2009 9:35 AM:

Given that the Science & Engineering library at my school was open 24/7 and you could be in there at 11pm on the Friday after Thanksgiving and still find dozens of students silently communing with fifty-pound textbooks, and the various humanities/social science libraries were deserted except during finals week (and even then, were empty after about 8pm,) I'd tend to agree that "STEM" students spend more time studying than peers in less insane disciplines.

I mean, there's a reason I switched to political science from computer engineering. Beyond the tech bubble bursting, I mean.

Hamazasb said at April 19, 2009 10:57 AM:

I graduated from one of the top Universities in this country with a 3.3 GPA. I have a law degree, passed the bar examination in two different states, and I am a fairly successful lawyer after 24 years. I use FB primarily to keep in touch with my family members who are in another state, and to find old college and high school friends I have lost touch with.

Anyone who has 1/2 a brain should have learned long ago: GPA and class standing is meaningless once you land a real job.

Ron Coleman said at April 19, 2009 2:39 PM:

I'm with Hamazasb, except .3 GPA points lower but pretty much "and then some" across the board.

I think a lot of the people who had higher GPA's than I had in college (and law school) make more money than I do.

That makes me a "loser"?

Faith said at April 19, 2009 4:08 PM:

GPA is meaningless and no predictor of success. I graduated from a far than prestigious school with a 3.0 GPA. I'm Vice President of my company. Last week I had to let go of two PhDs who had perfect grades and graduated with lots of greek letters after their name. I hated doing it, but they weren't performing up to snuff. My boss, the President and CEO of our company and an MBA drop out, insisted we cut the dead weight.

bryan kennedy said at April 20, 2009 9:36 AM:

I think one of the main reasons that Facebook looks so trivial is because it can be so valuable in real life human interactions. I just don't think you are seeing the whole picture when someone updates their status or comments on a picture. That interaction is connected to lots of real world social time with the people involved. This same thing isn't true with comments on blogs as much. I guess I just think it's a case of apples and oranges.

Now...which one will be more "valuable" going forward in a career? Apples or oranges. Hmm, I tend to think that a blend of both will be pretty important. At this point I'd value an employee with lots of social network connections and the creativity that this can imply over someone who'd only studied their butts off in Chem. I still want then to know the basics for sure. But then again, I work in a creative field. Ramble ramble....

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