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Survey links Facebook and GPA

Published: Monday, May 18, 2009

Updated: Monday, May 18, 2009 17:05

Since it was launched in 2004, Facebook has become an Internet phenomenon that has grown beyond the initial subculture of college-aged students to include hundreds of millions of members world-wide.

In 2008, Aryn Karpinski, a doctoral student in education research at The Ohio State University, began an exploratory survey that found a correlation between Facebook use and lower grade point averages among college students.

“I think every generation of college students has their technological phenomenon that happens, or maybe when technology wasn’t such a big deal maybe some other kind of major phenomenon, whether it be war, [or] I don’t know some other kind of social movement,” Karpinski said.

The survey included open-ended and closed-ended questions and was administered to a total of 219 students. The survey sample included undergraduate and graduate students with 148 Facebook users and 71 non-users. The 148 users who participated in the survey reported, on average, a range of GPAs from 3.0 to 3.5 with one to five hours of studying per week, while the 71 non-users reported an average range of GPAs from 3.5 to 4.0 with 11 to 15 hours of studying per week.

“About 65 percent of the Facebook users in my study said they used their accounts daily or multiple times per day,” Karpinski said.

Kanisha Iwuagwu, a senior majoring in biology, said she probably checks Facebook four to five times a day, which can distract her from homework and studying.

“I don’t think it has a major impact on my academics, but it definitely takes time away from studying,” Iwuagwu said.

Mohamed Abushaban, a senior majoring in respiratory therapy, said he spends about an hour per day on Facebook and has seen many students become obsessed with the social networking site.

“Some people can’t handle using Facebook because it takes over their life, they become a ‘Facebook Creeper’ — someone who checks Facebook obsessively, following peoples’ photos and lives,” Abushaban said.

While the survey results garnered a major reaction from the media, Karpinski said the media did not accurately portray her findings.

“First of all, a lot of the media sensationalized the findings and made it seem like I was saying Facebook causes people to have lower GPAs and causes people to fail out of school, and that’s not the case,” she said. “My data showed that there was a relationship between the two ... there is a difference between correlation and causation.”

The survey also included sections dealing with general Internet activity, extracurricular activities and hours per week students spent working in a paid position. Karpinski said there was a correlation between Facebook use and the hours per week spent by those students in extracurricular activities.

“Facebook users are more likely to spend more hours per week in extracurricular activities, which doesn’t really surprise me because people who are involved in extracurricular activities are the social people who are involved and have large networks and maybe need Facebook to contain that,” she said.

According to Karpinski, Facebook users are more likely to spend fewer hours doing paid work per week, which she said could be explained by the fact that people who work part-time or full-time jobs have less time to spend on social networking sites.

Karpinski said she first thought about conducting the survey in 2004 while working as a teaching assistant during her master’s program at West Virginia University.

“I noticed that people were spending hours online looking at their friends’ walls and all this crazy stuff, so I said if people are spending an absurd amount of time on this thing then there has to be something going on — this is quite the phenomenon to investigate,” she said.

When Karpinski was an undergraduate student, she said the technological phenomenon was AOL Instant Messenger.

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