Right now, hundreds of thousands of college students across the US are cramming for the end-of-semester finals. Either that, or they’re procrastinating on Facebook. Which, according to a study from Lockhaven University of Pennsylvania published last month in Computers in Human Behavior, really isn’t such a bad thing, as far as grade point average is concerned.
Of the more than 1,800 students surveyed, 92 percent admitted to using Facebook, and those who do log on spend an average of 106 minutes each day on the social network. For every additional hour and a half (93 minutes) spent on the site, GPAs dropped an average of 0.12 points. That said, the study found “no strong link” between Facebook usage and a drop in GPA. Instead, the grades a student got in high school are twice as strong a predictor of how well he or she will do in college.
The study also found that students who shared links via Facebook, or checked the site simply to see what their friends were doing, often did better in class. Students who simply posted a lot of “OMG, I’m not eating ramen again… LOL” kind of status updates did worse.
All in all, there is appears to be no statistically significant correlation between Facebook usage and getting bad grades.
“Though there is a relationship between extensive Facebook use and a small drop in GPA,” says the study’s corresponding infographic (see below), “the study does not prove that either one causes the other. Students with lower grades could simply use Facebook more, or there could be a third factor that affects both but isn’t studied here.”
This is certainly not the first study to look into the effects of social networks on classroom performance, and it won’t be the last. But at the end of the day, do we really need these kinds of rigorous inquiries to tell us that studying less and screwing around on the Internet more will result in lower grades, if taken to an extreme? Of course not, but it doesn’t make them any less telling.