Most students can’t remember life without the Internet, having grown up with access to even the most primitive forms of AOL.
Since the years of AOL Instant Messenger and greetings of "You’ve Got Mail," Internet technology has evolved, and with it has come social media.
Today, websites like Facebook and Twitter have become a basic part of our lives. Even though we can remember a life without social media, that life is quickly moving behind us. Social media is changing our personal lives, our social lives and, most importantly here at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, our academic lives.
When it comes down to it, there’s no doubt that taking a break to check your notifications is a distraction from school work. Molly Farley, a junior English major, fully admits that social media is a daily interruption.
"It’s something to do other than homework, and when you want to get distracted, it’s the most accessible thing since we’re on the computer most of the time anyway. Just pull up a new tab and it’s there," Farley said.
Students have made social media a frequent part of their daily routines, oftentimes referencing it as a source of news to keep in touch with the world. The problem? It has an addicting effect, making it feel almost impossible to delete.
"There are a lot of reasons for why I would like to delete my Facebook," Farley said. "Mostly because I don’t like how we get involved in everyone’s lives without getting to know them in real life, but I like to stay connected with family and social life. I can’t delete it because I’m so nosy and I like to know what’s going on, especially with my family so far away."
Another problem that students are discovering is that the more that social media develops, the more they feel compelled to keep quiet in class. Websites such as Twitter limit us to expressing our thoughts in 140 characters or less, leaving students feeling like they can’t speak until their thoughts have been edited and compressed in their minds to fit that "140 character" mentality.
"We feel like we need to say everything in short, concise phrases, like how we do on social media. Especially in big lectures, students don’t speak up very often, and when they do, full ideas are never really explained anymore," Farley said.
Andrew Dax, a senior Health Promotion and Wellness major, doesn’t have either a Facebook or a Twitter.
"I used to have a Facebook, but I was constantly getting rid of it and bringing it back. I finally decided to get rid of it for good when I found myself no longer interacting with my friends on it. I only used it to read a bunch of updates from people I didn’t care to stay in touch with from high school," Dax said.
"It became a means of killing time instead of a way to stay connected, so I deleted it. Now, no matter how I use that extra time, I find myself doing anything more productive than Facebook," Dax said.
Dax does notice a difference in the classroom and finds himself lost when people refer to Facebook and Twitter, but he doesn’t find that reason enough to make himself an account.
"I don’t always get jokes in class, and I can’t creep on people, but I can live without both of those. I wouldn’t get a Facebook again unless it would provide me with a professional means of networking in my field instead of a means to waste time," Dax said.
96 percent of all college students use Facebook, making the social media tool a common and often assumed thing to have. Being part of the 4 percent who don’t use Facebook, Dax is often questioned why.
So is social media good or bad for students? When used to network professionally, connect with other students and discover news, it can be beneficial, but if study time is being replaced with scrolling through your newsfeed, it may hurt you in the long run. While there is no straightforward "it’s good" or "it’s bad," sometimes we just need to turn off the computer and take a walk around campus.