Facebook users may be more concerned with their Facebook status than with the status of their GPAs, according to a recent study that correlated use of the social networking site with poorer academic performance.
In a survey of 219 students, Ohio State University doctoral student Aryn Karpinski found that Facebook users had GPAs ranging from 3.0 to 3.5 and committed one to five hours per week to studying. Non-users had a GPA of 3.5 to 4.0 and devoted 11 to 15 hours per week to studying.
Karpinski developed the idea as a graduate student at West Virginia University. She noticed Facebook’s increasing popularity among the students she taught as a T.A. “I might have signed up for it if I were an undergraduate then,” she said.
That was 2004, the beginning of Facebook. Last year, she conducted the study by delivering a five-page survey with open-ended questions to graduate and undergraduate students as they sat in class.
U of C students have their own explanations. Third-year Anya Thetford said that she browses Facebook 10 to 12 times a day. The correlation did not surprise her.
But Thetford believes that Facebook does not affect her grades. In fact, she thinks it might help some students.
“Generally people with higher working memory will perform better with distractions like listening to music,” Thetford said. “I could see Facebook being a distraction, but for students with that problem it might not have an impact.” Despite her frequent visits, Thetford maintains a 3.76 GPA.
With only so many hours in a day, any distraction takes time away from studying. First-year Diana Fedorova, who holds a GPA of 3.5, checks her Facebook 10 minutes each day, after she checks her e-mail. “If you spend so much time on Facebook, you miss out on study time,” she said.
How people use Facebook may explain some of the impact. Someone who dithers away hours by answering quizzes about which Disney princess they are may have more of a problem remaining focused than the people who use Facebook as a form of communication, Thetford said.
Third-year Brian Young said he saw nothing wrong with the casual use of Facebook. He checks his three times a day, often while doing homework. “With moderation, it won’t destroy your grades” he said. Young’s GPA is 3.1.
It’s possible that students more prone to procrastination are the ones who are most likely to set up Facebook accounts in the first place. “I think almost everyone uses Facebook. And anyone who doesn’t use it has made a conscious decision,” said first-year Matt Larraz.
First-year Jacob Jerkovich does not have a Facebook account. “I don’t see a point. Some of the people are your friends on Facebook, but what does that mean?” he said. He has stayed off the networking site, despite the pressure from his friends. Jerkovich has a 3.4 GPA.