Faculty Spotlight: Social Media

Social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, are the norm for college students. In and out of the classroom, students are generally engaged in at least one, if not all, of these social media platforms. As use of social media increases, what are the consequences for students? How is social media impacting mental health among college students?

Fear of Missing Out (FoMO), is a phenomenon that has gained attention with the rise of social media. Defined as a “pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”.1 Essentially, FoMO could explain why college students feel the need to be constantly engaged in social media. Research has indicated a relationship between academic motivations (intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and a-motivation), social media engagement in the classroom, and FoMO.1 Students that were either extrinsically motivated (e.g. “I’m in college because I can get a higher paying job when I graduate”) or a-motivated (e.g., "I’m in college because I have to be”) had a positive relationship with FoMO, which in turn lead to more social media engagement.1 These findings could point to the use of social media as a means of distraction for students that are already struggling with finding intrinsic motivation (e.g., “I’m in college because I enjoy learning”) in the classroom.

While FoMO is a relatively new phenomenon being examined among college students, depression is not. However, with the addition of social media, depression among college students is being examined in novel ways. Looking specifically at Facebook envy (e.g., seeing others with or doing things you want but cannot have), researchers hypothesized that Facebook use would predict depression.2 Interestingly, Facebook use did not predict depression among college students, however, heavy Facebook use is associated with Facebook-related envy, which increased self-comparison to others.2

Overall, awareness of the consequences of social media on college students may be helpful in self-monitoring social media use. While the research on social media use doesn’t appear to swing one way or the other for it being harmful or not, it’s important to recognize that while technology advances, we are continuing to see and feel the consequences of social media inside and outside the classroom.

1Alt, D. (2015) College students’ academic motivation, media engagement and fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 49, 111-119. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.02.057
2Tandoc, E. C., Ferrucci, P. & Duffy, M. (2015). Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebook depressing? Computers in Human Behavior, 43, 139-146. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.10.053


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