Social networking sites (SNSs) influence virtually all spheres of our lives including politics, language and social interactions. Considering that social media is still in its infancy, it is only fair to infer that we are not yet fully familiar with the impact of the use of social media in regards to such issues as our privacy, relationships, and authenticity (Rosen, 2007). In the same way as any new technology, it is important to consider the type of behavior that social media encourages. Facebook and MySpace are examples of some of the SNSs that allow users to create individual online profiles where one can post personal information, upload photos, join certain groups on the social networking site, and send friendly requests. Even as such online profiles aid in the improvement of the user’s social networking skills, it could also prove to be detrimental especially to young adults as it consumes much of their time meant for other important activities like their education, socializing with families and friends, and developing their careers.
Kuss and Griffiths (2011) have described SNSs (Social Networking Sites) as virtual communities that enable users to create personal profiles, interact with their friends in real-life, and meet other individuals who share common interests. However, the authors further report that anecdotal evidence from case studies conducted on the topic indicate that being addicted to social profiles could result in mental health issues for certain users. SNSs are highly appealing to young adults and for this reason, we should be concerned about the increased amount of time that this age group dedicate to being on social media. If not adequately addressed, this behavior could prove addictive to them, especially in the case of college students.
In 2010, the global research firm Nielsen Company conducted a survey to determine the amount of time spent by individuals on social networking sites. The survey findings revealed that on average, the global audience spent two more hours on SNSs relative to 2009. The survey had drawn its respondents from 10 nations within the developed economy, and was mainly concerned with the usage of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. The largest active unique audience worldwide was drawn to Facebook, and users also logged in to this social network more times than any other social media site.
The findings of a survey conducted by Ipsos OTX (Open Thinking Exchange) show that Americans of between 18 and 64 years spend about 3.2 hours daily on social networks. In the category of emerging markets, Saudi Arabia had the joint highest percentage of SNS usage, alongside Mexico. On the other hand, Saudis aged between 18 and 34 years were found to spend an average of 3.8 hours each day on the aforementioned social networks (as reported by Marketingcharts, 2013). This clearly shows that young adults have a very high uptake of social networks, a behavior that could turn into addiction if corrective measures are not taken in advance.
The correlation between increased presence on online profiles and academic performance has been well documented in literature. In their study, Karpinski and Kirschner (2010) revealed that students who used Facebook frequently had a higher chance of scoring lower grades in comparison with their counterparts who never use Facebook or who use the social network sparingly. In the study, the average student user of Facebook was reported to post a Grade Point Average (GPA) of between 3.0 and 3.5. On the other hand, non-users of Facebook were reported to post a GPA of between 3.5 and 4.0 (Karpinski & Pirschner, 2010). Moreover, the study revealed that average Facebook users only invested between 1 and 5 hours per week in their studies, even as non-Facebook users were reported to invest between 11 and 15 hours per week in their studies. In sum, these findings show that spending more time on social networks like Facebook leads to lower grades (San Miguel, 2009). Ohio State University conducted a study whose findings showed that college students who spend more time on Facebook also study for less time, and hence their grades tend to be lower in comparison with students who never use Facebook (Kalpidou, Costin & Morris, 2011).
Increased time spent on online profiles such as those on Facebook and MySpace is also likely to affect the interaction between a young adult and his/her family and other acquaintances. While social network sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have been found to foster social capital and well-being of their users, a study conducted by Nyland, Marvez and Beck (2007) revealed that light users of MySpace felt more socially connected with and involved in the surrounding community, compared with heavy users. Moreover, the study also found out that most of the respondents were using MySpace for entertainment purposes and not to strengthen or maintain offline relationships. The findings of this study agree with a very extensive condemnation of SNSs to the effect that they result in users’ isolation (Hodgkinson, 2008).
Online profiles have also been implicated with hindering the recruitment of prospective candidates to a certain job, or progression of employee up the corporate ladder. As the uptake of social media among organizations increase, an increasingly higher number of companies are resorting to the use of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to aid in their recruitment process. Consequently, prospective employers will occasionally turn to social media sites to check if the candidate being considered for the job has posted any inappropriate information or photos on their profile (Matayoshi, 2012). The prospective employer will also check whether the candidate has demonstrated the use of inappropriate communication skills on their profile.
Although an increasingly higher number of young adults use social networks too frequently, such usage should be done with caution as the increased use of social networks has been shown to have a negative impact on the student’s academic performance. Moreover, it can turn into an addictive behavior whereby students spend more time on social media than on their studies. Also, increase use of social media interferes with the interactions that the young adults have with their families and friends ,and could lead to dysfunctional relationships. Finally, the use of indecent language or posting inappropriate messages and photos on social media could affect the employment prospects of young people as companies are increasingly relying on social profiles to vet prospective candidates.
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