University students’ reliance on social media can make you reconsider.

University students know how to navigate social media better than they will ever know how to write an academic essay. In today’s world, social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, connect everything and everyone. These sites provide the tools for students to develop their relationships, learn new things, and share their own knowledge.

However, it is no secret that social media can be a double-edged sword. As much as it provides a means of staying connected, it can also have serious negative effects on university students’ well-being and academic life.

Studies show that in a span of 10 years, from 2005 to 2015, the use of social media amongst people aged between 18 and 29 increased at a 78%. This is consistent with the appearance and development of smartphones.

On average, almost 28% of university students spent more than six hours a week checking their social media. Students also tend to touch their phones around 2,617 times a day. That is just the average user, but think how the numbers increase with the recent epidemic of social media addiction.

The truth is that social media can be beneficial for students. With everything available on the internet, it is easier for students to succeed in university given that they have immediate access to all the information they need and are more easily exposed to a wide range of global opinions and ideas, which can foster creativity.

Furthermore, in order to succeed in college, it is important to create meaningful connections and be aware of what is going on in one’s immediate social environment. Facebook is the most popular social media site amongst students because of its usefulness in facilitating connections with a particular community.

At UBCO, almost all student organizations have a Facebook group or page which allows them to keep track of how many people are engaging with their content. These groups and pages provide insight on how they can reach the student body better and are mostly used as a tool to promote events as effectively as possible.

A study done by Junco found a correlation between the amount of time spent on Facebook and the off-line engagement students had with their campus community. In other words, if you see an event on Facebook you are more likely to attend it and therefore more likely to spend time developing in-person connections.

Despite this information being supported by some studies, there are also some others that have somewhat contrary results; it really depends on the community and how engaging and useful the activities provided by the campus may seem to students. Sometimes, social media use does not correlate with off-line engagement and can have detrimental effects such as creating a sense of isolation in some students.

Being able to share everything online creates one of the biggest problems society faces today: the consistent comparison between ourselves and others. Instead of fostering meaningful connections, social media can make everything appear more ‘shallow’ and can cause serious mental health problems such as body image issues, anxiety, depression, etc.

Approximately one out of every six students has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. When a virtual profile or life becomes more important than the real one, students can end up measuring their worth by external factors such as the amount of likes they are getting in a picture, unconsciously deteriorating their own self-awareness and their mental strength to resist outside input about their own lives.

Social media usage is a problem when it becomes a source of anxious thoughts that disturb a student’s academic and social life, hindering university success.

A tool is only as powerful as one allows it to be; social media is no exception. No one can deny that sites such as Facebook and Instagram break physical barriers that allow for the quick sharing of incredible ideas and make possible wonderful connections that would otherwise be impossible. However, students need to be cautious of the power they grant social media in their personal lives.