Social Media: A Path to Academic Failure

I was distraught when three of my professors this semester said computers were not allowed to be used during class. “HOW am I going to survive these classes without my computer” I thought.

Taking notes on a computer is way more efficient than hand writing notes. I can type way faster than I can write, if I make a grammar or spelling mistake I can go back and change it, and I don’t have to worry about not being able to read my chicken scratch handwriting.

But honestly, the real reason I was annoyed was that I wouldn’t be able to send a quick text in class or check Facebook if I got a little bored.

However, I am allowed to use my laptop during The Living Earth, my science core class. I haven’t been absent to a single class but I have definitely not been present. Each Thursday I begin the class by doing my homework that’s due in Tuesday’s class (at least I’m being somewhat productive). But then I’ll get a Facebook notification and obviously I’ll check it, then I’ll click the home button, and then see a funny meme, so I’ll tag my friend in it and we’ll go back and forth sending each other memes for 20 minutes.

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In the middle of class, I usually realize that I haven’t listened to a single word my professor has said and I’ll start to really pay attention. But then I’ll get another text message or Facebook notification, or the person sitting next to me will show me a funny meme and it will all start over again. Until all of a sudden everyone around me is getting up because class is over and the only thing I have written in my notes is the date and maybe the topic of the class that day.

Now I completely understand why I shouldn’t be allowed to use my computer in class. The goal of social media is to get your attention and then keep your attention. Facebook and Instagram know exactly how to do this. I can spend hours scrolling through my explore page on Instagram because it never ends and the posts are tailored to what I like. After my roommates and I finished Riverdale on Netflix, we tagged each other in a couple posts about the show and for weeks Riverdale fan pages populated my explore page.

However, it is not simply the social media that is so distracting. It’s the way that all of my social media accounts are connected to my computer. Apple has a feature on their laptops that allows the user to connect their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter) and their Apple Id so they get notifications and text messages (if you have an iPhone) straight to their computer. The goal is to make it easier for the user to log into and stay up to date on their accounts and it definitely works. Even when I am trying to pay attention and take notes these notifications are always popping up. It starts by just checking to read one text message and then the group chat goes off about what we’re doing that night or Kylie Jenner being pregnant and I can’t look away.

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It’s seriously impacting my academics. Last week I had a quiz in my science class and I needed to study because I had yet to listen to more than 10 sentences out of my professor’s mouth. The night before my quiz I taught myself two chapters of information which would not have been necessary had I just shut my computer and paid attention in class.

A study was done at Cornell University that examined the effects that using a laptop in class had on memory of lecture material. This study found that those who used their laptop in class scored significantly lower than those who did not use their laptop during class. Multitasking is most often ineffective and only leads to poor academic performance.

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As much as I hate not being able to use my computer in class, I do admit it is for the better. It’s instinctive to click on a notification when it pops up on the screen. This is why social media and texting are incredibly tempting and therefore have a negative impact on academic performance.

(Don’t worry Professor Kane, your class is really interesting and I don’t need to be distracted by social media to get through it.)

6 comments

  1. I think we all can agree at some point we are multitasking when we have our computers open in class. We are millenials…”multitasking ” is our middle name. Even though using a computer for writing notes, it is easier to fix any grammatical errors but it is also known that you remember things more when you physically write them down. I do not mind too much when we are not allowed to use laptops in classes.

  2. Technology can be a powerful tool in the classroom and beyond in terms of productivity and spreading information, but I can, like you, attest to it being a hinderance to learning. Study after study has confirmed this, like the one you referenced done by Cornell. Once the laptop is opened, it is far too easy to get distracted by social media. While many professors do not allow the use of laptops in class, you almost always need them to complete homework or study, where focusing is still a challenge. It is almost funny to think that students in the past had to procrastinate by actually speaking with one another.

  3. The disruption of notifications while in class definitely has a huge effect while in class. I think that’s why there’s been the advent of so many chrome extensions and phone apps that reward you for how long you can go without opening a social media app. One thing that I’ve always wondered is how the companies that created these platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn) can use them seamlessly at work without becoming distracted. If they can still be productive while receiving hundreds of messages per day, then shouldn’t we have something to learn about discipline when we’re just trying to pay attention for a 50 minute class vs. an 8-hour work day.

  4. I’m laughing because I actually read this post during my Globalization class. I agree that having laptops in class can be incredibly distracting whether you want them to be or not. The way that social media, texting, and the internet are integrated into our lives, it feels almost impossible to disconnect for an entire class. Since the first day of class, it has been a slippery slope of paying attention less and less—allowing my computer’s capabilities to take more and more of my attention. I completely understand why professors do not allow laptops, I also believe all of the studies that show more productive learning when laptops are not present, but the addictive nature of social media and texting keep me from taking out a pen and paper.

  5. Haha. Nice caveat at the end. I get it. I’ve taken FB off my main work computer, because it tended to suck my time too much. I’ve had students actually say that they like the “no computer” policy in most classes.

  6. I actually took the Living Earth last year and totally get what you mean! It is so incredibly tempting to go on social media during class, especially a large one (I have had to turn off the texting feature on my laptop so at least I won’t get tempted by that). I am not totally surprised by the study done by Cornell University (side note: I went to visit a friend there once and actually fell asleep in her lecture hall) and I always find it so much easier to remember information if I write it down! Plus studying on a screen is tough for me so I figure if I’m going to have to print it out anyways I might as well take handwritten notes. It will be interesting to see how technology develops and what future gadgets our kids will be getting distracted by in school, that is, if they even go to brick-and-mortar schools anymore!

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