According to the Pew Research Centre survey of U.S. teens (2018), when asked, 81% of the subjects responded with positivity towards the impact of social media within their lives. The teenagers commended social networking for the building of stronger friendships and the exposition to more diverse platforms, nevertheless, still expressed concerns over drama and social pressure (Anderson and Jiang, 2018). The public network has been defined as web-based software that sanctions the possibility of virtual relationships, groups, conversation, and sharing (Kietzmann et. al., 2011). Of late, Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp have become frequently used social media platforms (Ahmad, 2019). When allied with education, many authors suggest and emphasize the use of social media to complement work both inside and outside the classroom. This essay aims to explore the impression social media has made on higher learning within the twenty-first century: both the advantages and disadvantages, as well affirm that though the benefits may overshadow the drawbacks, social media is a dangerous tool; if not handled fittingly.
To begin with, there are numerous disadvantages to the use of social media in higher education. Firstly, the quality of information can be undermined. Many lecturers and professors warn against the use of material from certain platforms of social media such as Wikipedia for academic projects. Yet despite, data from such sites is still produced. One student puts it, “I still use Wikipedia but I don’t reference it anymore (Zhang, Flammer, and Yang, 2010).” Traditional metrics of evaluation and critique cannot then be easily applied to such findings. Therefore, the lack of guidance in filtering and selecting quality information from social media sources is a shortcoming, one that can be avoided if proper counsel were administered. Nevertheless, this demerit goes on to hinder the student’s ability to effectively use social media as a font of procuring knowledge.
Secondly, for some international students, as second language learners, the use of social media can be a challenge. In 2010, Liu et al. conducted a study in the United States that yielded results that showcased that language was a substantial apprehension for Chinese students who used online communication tools. A similar study reported that a large percentage of the Chinese student population in the United States felt feelings of intimidation when it came to writing because of a lack of confidence in their English proficiency (Thomson and Ku, 2005). A more recent study on Malaysian students in Australia displays a sense of hostility toward online discussion platforms, as they are perceived as “difficult and boring” (Yee, 2015, p.591). This according to Sleeman, Lang, and Lemon (2016), is a direct result of a lack of familiarity with this type of learning environment. Thus insecurity concerning the capability to utilize the host academic language consequently affects the performance when incorporating social media into learning.
In addition, given that access to social media and online platforms is undemanding, it may come as no surprise that some aspects of life have become virtual, an example of such aspects can be bullying. Cyberbullying is a destructive, online, deliberate persecution repetitively carried out by a group or individual, against a target that cannot easily defend themselves (Cheng, 2012). Although usually prevalent within the K-12 stages of education, research designates that cyberbullying does, in fact, exist among university students at a rate of 10% to 28% (Zalaquette and Chatters, 2014). Cyberbullying can happen in the manner of chat rooms, instant messaging, text messaging, and emails. University students who have experienced such a feat have often: been rendered suicidal, dropped out, or quietly suffered through the ordeal. They testify to feeling miserable, cross, and frazzled; a sign of the psychosomatic after effect of cyberbullying. Therefore, this can be a catalytic agent for a decrease in the attendance and performance of students overall, seeing as this has now reached a sizeable number of electronic onlookers.
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