Social media is a double-edged sword: connectivity, entertainment and inspiration vs. insecurity, anonymity and judgments.
Students still spend hours of their day glued to a cell phone screen.
“I like viewing content,” says Nicholas Vollero, a freshman nursing major, “but I know it holds an underlying power that affects my choices and judgments. This could be seen as a negative.”
With the introduction of screen time apps, students are now given realistic and accurate views on the amount of time they spend on their phones.
Of the 174 Southern students surveyed by Crescent, 52 percent of students responding say they spend between four to six hours a day on their phones. About 24 percent spend seven to nine hours a day on their phones and 4 percent admit spending 10 or more hours a day.
Traditional college students make up what is known largely as the “digital generation.”
Much of the day is spent connected to the digital world with about 25 percent of students saying they spend less than three hours a day on their phone—most of that time being on social media applications.
For Southern students surveyed, the apps they gravitate to the most are YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.
Whether it is staying connected to friends and family, following life and style pages, memes, politics or news, social media is usually the “go-to.”
The most popular app, Instagram, is used by 94 percent of students, according to the survey. It is followed by Snapchat, which is used by about 87 percent of students, then YouTube with 82 percent.
These numbers are consistent with the numbers reported in a 2018 Pew Research Center study stating that in the United States, Instagram and Snapchat were especially popular among ages 18 to 24, coming in at 75 and 73 percent, respectively.
The other “classics,” such as Twitter, which was released in July 2006, and Facebook, released in February 2004, are not as popular with students, with 53 percent of students reporting that they use either app.
“Twitter can be toxic,” said Katerina Varsos, a senior anthropology major.
However, newer apps are also on the rise.
About 44 percent of students have begun to use TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service app released in September 2016 that allows students to go “viral” with lip-synching, dances and inspiring trends.
The impact of social media, however—positive or negative—on students is mixed.
“I judge myself based on Photoshopped pictures,” says Hannah Schmidt, a freshman healthcare studies major. “But it’s also a way to escape from reality.”
On the other hand, Benson Rodrigues, a junior physics (7–12) major, says he views social media primarily as positive because it allows him to stay connected to his family who lives far away.
“Through apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger I can stay in contact with my family in India,” says Rodrigues.
Another student, Terrence Jean-Paul, a freshman marketing major, says social media is positive for him because it helps him to reach out to people that are “just like me.”
Kayleigh Rahn, a junior recreation and leisure studies-therapeutic recreation major, says she can see both the negativity and positivity that comes with having social media.
“Both. Negatively because I definitely compare myself and think of what I don’t have,” says Rahn. “It is positive because I found free workouts and fitness accounts to make healthy changes.”
Amy Orenstein, a senior chemistry major, says social media cheers her up and gives her inspiration but also creates unattainable standards.
Danielle Parent, a sophomore recreation and leisure Studies major, says while she follows content that can be funny, emotional or cute, she does see how social media can be both positive and negative.
“I like being able to connect with people far away,” says Parent, “but not how I feel so under a microscope and criticized.”
Sarah Santaella, a freshman psychology major, and Danielle Klaskin, a senior biotechnology major, say social media negatively impacts their lives by causing them to procrastinate or keeps them from going to sleep.
About 67 percent of Southern students say they use their phones late at night.
According to a Psychology Today article, heavy usage of social media and digital devices, especially before bed, can negatively affect the quality and quantity of sleep.
Some students say the negative impact of social media can be controlled, by blocking or unfollowing the source of the negativity; such is the case for Madison Barron, a junior elementary education major.
“I feel like it has positive and negative effects,” says Barron. “Sometimes it depends on who you follow or keep up with. You can filter our content that has a negative effect, but it always seems to pop up somehow.”
Jaime Roy, a junior studio art-painting major, says social media does not have an impact on her because she does not use Instagram or Facebook and barely posts on the apps she does have. However, she says she favors Snapchat.
“I think Snapchat may have positively affected me because it feels like people are easier to talk to on there because it feels less like the whole world is watching whatever you say or post,” says Roy.
Aaron Guzman, a senior general studies major, says he frequently curates the content he wants to follow, choosing to enjoy, “peace, no drama.”
Benjamin Coombs, a senior social work major, says he stays online for one to three hours a day for that very reason.
“I only consume positive [content],” says Coombs, “hence my seldom use of social media.”
Gio Fernandez, a freshman healthcare studies major, says he uses the apps Instagram, Reddit and YouTube for entertainment purposes such as memes and gaming and anime topics.
Fernandez says he chooses to stay away from taking too many selfies and becoming obsessed with gaining likes or followers.
Alyssa Donovan, a senior early childhood education major, says she prefers to live in the present rather than being constantly online.
“When I was younger—a high school sophomore and college junior—it consumed most of my time,” says Donovan. “Now I only follow friends and news and spend more time [in real life.]”