This paper examines the impacts of social networking through a multi-layered study of the benefits, positive and negative effects they have on people more especially tertiary students in Botswana. It states what social networking is, as well as explaining what tertiary students are. It goes on to define the analysis of social networking trend as well as assessing the impacts of it towards the productivity of tertiary students. Data has been collected from interviews, questionnaires and published reports from the internet. This paper challenges the argument that social networks don’t impact the lives and productivity of tertiary students in Botswana.
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The rapid growth of social networking that has been observed over the last two to three years is indicative of its entry into mainstream culture and its integration into the daily lives of many people, Ofcomm (2008). In parallel with this, there has also been considerable media coverage of the growth of social networking in tertiary institutions, its potential positive outcomes and concerns about the way that some students engage with it. Social networking sites offer people new and varied ways to communicate via the internet, whether through their PC or their mobile phone. They allow people to easily and simply create their own online pages or profile and to construct and display an online network of contacts. Users of these sites can communicate via their profile both with their friends and with people outside their list of contacts. This can be on a one-to-one basis, or in a more public way such as a comment post for all to see
Social networking has a major impact on universities and colleges in Botswana as a lot of students are now using sites like myspace, twitter and facebook to communicate search and share data and even to socialise through them. These sites are attracting a huge number of people as they use them to establish links between friends even publishing and maintaining their profiles, (Subrahmanyam K 2008). The impact of social networks on productivity of tertiary students is an important issue that has caught both educators and practitioners’ attention in recent years. Social networking also has great effect to the industry since sites like facebook are of importance to students as they are able to express themselves but the main problem is that students stop working and spend much time to navigate through it. The measurement of student productivity is certainly open to many definitions. So to address the issue of learning effectiveness, it is better to design a field experiment comparing student performance when they combine social networking with school work.
Questions raised in this study are:
Is an individual’s position in a social network related to his or her performance in school?
What kind of social relations are linked with student’s academic performance?
The main purpose of this study is to explore the impact of interpersonal relationship networks on students’ academic performance online and offline and to find out the key human relationship determinants for students’ performance.
2.0 ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL NETWORKS
2.1 What is social networking?
Social network can be said to be a group of socially related nodes linked by means of one or more relationships. A set of connections (members), are those nodes connected by the relations whose patterns can be studied. The units are commonly known as organizations or persons, thus the connected units can be studied as the principle says, (Marin A. and Wellman B. 2009).
At the most basic level social networking sites allow users to set up online profiles or personal homepages, and develop an online social network. The profile page functions as the user’s own webpage and includes profile information ranging from their date of birth, gender, religion, politics and hometown etc. In addition to profile information, users can design the appearance of their page, and add content such as photos, video clips and music files.
In addition to this, users can also build a network connection that they can build as friends. It is important to note that the term friend in this context does not refer to the traditional friend. Therefore it means anyone who has been invited or been invited by the other user.
2.2 History of social networking
History of networking sites started first by the launch of SixDegrees.com in 1997. Users were permitted to list friends after making profiles. By 1998, they were able to view friend’s lists and profiles existed on community and dating sites. Classmates.com permitted persons to connect with friends from different institutions and search the network for any other person they would have known before even though they were not able create profiles even listing their friends. The combination of these features was then made through SixDegrees couple of years later on, (Boyd et al 2007).
This clearly indicates that the first social networking site to be used was Six Degrees. It emerged in 1997 and users were allowed to register and edit their profiles in 1998. Everything in life has start time and the end time therefore SixDegrees did not do well as may be people were not able to access this site or they did not know the usage of it. Even though SixDegrees attracted a lot of people as users, it was unsuccessful to become a sustained business and this made the business to close its operations in the year 2000, (Boyd et al 2007). The downfall of this business was that, large number of people was taking the use of Internet seriously but most did not have the potential to connect with their friends who were online. After the close of this networking site, some other networking sites emerged.
2.3 Engaging in social networking sites and reasons why students engage in social networking
Research by Boyd (2008) showed that tertiary students were more likely to access social networking sites on the internet at their schools than anywhere else. Media reports have suggested that some tertiary schools in Botswana have banned access to these sites. If these reports reflect widespread practice, it is likely that access to the internet at home will become an increasingly important factor in use of social networking sites.
There are a number of ways why tertiary students use social networking sites. At the point when fears and anxieties diminish, tertiary leaders may start to appreciate that social networking tool and technologies can be utilized to:
Find and meet new friends. One can find people of every kind from all over the world. Or you can just focus on meeting certain types of new friends
Help one find old friends which were last seen many years ago.
enable speedier location, access and sharing of information;
enable more efficient leverage of contacts and knowledge;
help retain key employees by improving satisfaction in the workplace;
break down time and geographical boundaries to improve communication between widely dispersed personnel;
reduce expenses because one can chat with a friend very far for free
2.4.0 How people use social networking sites
The building blocks of social networking sites are the individual members’ profiles. No two profiles are identical, but they typically contain basic information about the user such as name, sex, home town/country and contact details as well as other information such as race, religion and politics. Alongside this basic information, most social networking sites also allow users to write potted biographies about themselves and to go into great detail about their likes and dislikes. For example, on MySpace these are termed ‘blurbs’.
An important feature of social networking sites for most tertiary students in Botswana is the ability to contact others in a playful way, using ‘pokes’ or similar gestures. These gestures are a feature of most social networking sites and, depending on the site are called names like Pokes, Fives, Love or something similar. They are a way of gesturing to other users and getting their attention. These gestures, or symbolic cues, are fun for many users and provide a level of excitement as people log on to see what messages they have. They can also provide social status or reassurance, depending on the number received and who they were received from.
Students can post photos and videos on their social networking sites, in addition to their profile photo. Photos are important both for constructing and revealing one’s identity, and for sharing important events and moments with a wide group of people (especially family and friends).
Some students and less confident ones reported that the virtual nature of the communication they had through these sites had allowed them to express themselves more confidently. These students also reported using MSN and texting in a similar way. Social networking sites appeared to allow less confident individuals, particularly teenage boys and girls and older single women, to express themselves in new ways and to talk confidently to people they knew, and also to contact people they didn’t know.
Some teenagers and adults in their early twenties reported feeling ‘addicted’ to social networking sites and were aware that their use was squeezing their study time. Many students had experienced this drawback, although to differing degrees. Some students described how they might go onto their site just to check for messages and then emerge a few hours later – having been drawn into commenting, searching and generally having fun.
2.4.1 Case 1
Kabo Magowe (22) is a young man who schools in Botswana Accountancy College and while I was on the internet doing my online research I asked him if he knows anyone who has a problem with Fece Book. He said to me, “yes I do. I know this other guy who had to re-take three courses after he failed them because he used to spend much time on Face Book”.
Alice is a Humanities student at the University of Botswana, aged 23, living in a rented apartment in an urban/suburban area. She depends mainly on her allowance and she doesn’t receive extra money from parents. She spends much of her time in the evening at school chatting to people she has met in chat rooms in Face Book. She has had an affair with one guy she met online which lasted eight months. They would talk to each other daily and their avatars would go and ‘get a room’ at Planet Lodge. After eight months they met in public and she learnt that he was married, so she finished the online relationship, although she really felt they ‘had something special’. Despite her experience, she still feels that social networking sites are a much easier way for single women to meet people, especially as they are not able to go out very much and it gives them a chance to talk to lots of people and feel less isolated.
2.5 Positive impacts of social networking on students
There are a number of ways in which social networks impact the lives of students and people. Some of the positive ways are:
They help in education by allowing teachers and coaches to post club meeting times, school projects, and even homework on these sites.
Social networking Web sites are helping businesses advertise, thus social networking Web sites are benefiting businesses – therefore the U.S. – economically.
They help them meet others who share the same interest
Social networking can be used by individuals as a way of looking for a job or job hunting
Social networking can be used as a positive cause/awareness, i.e, money raising benefits for someone who was in a car crash, house burnt down, or also raise funds for the people involved in natural catastrophes like the Haiti earth quake etc (these are actual events)
They help people to stay in touch with friends long distance
They can be used to renewed friendships – high school/college friends
Keep track of community service
2.5 Negative impacts of social networking on students
Social networks also have negative impacts on the lives of students or people in general. Some of them are:
Students are waste precious time that could be spent doing homework, thus social networking websites are encouraging the creation of a lazy generation.
Users of social networking websites are extremely vulnerable to fraud, and can have money stolen from their bank accounts just because of signing up for these sites.
Users of social networking websites are extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse or harassment.
In the case of computer labs, social networks use up most of the bandwidth in them. They are so interesting that one will want to open a lot of web pages at the same time and imagine if 50 students do that at the same time.
3.0 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.0.1 Social networking: qualitative research into attitudes, behaviours users and how tertiary students in Botswana use social networking sites
Methodology- questionnaires were issued to different students from different tertiary institutions in Botswana. Questionnaires were used because they are easy to analyze and also written questionnaires become even more cost effective as the number of research questions increases. Questionnaires are familiar to most people (Berdie, Anderson, and Niebuhr, 1986). Nearly everyone has had some experience completing questionnaires and they generally do not make people apprehensive. They are less intrusive than telephone or face-to-face surveys. When respondents receive a questionnaire in the mail, they are free to complete it on their own time-table (Cahalan, 1951; Jahoda, et al., 1962). Unlike other research methods, the respondent is not interrupted by the research instrument.
Core Objectives- To identify, explore and understand the behaviours, attitudes and barriers to tertiary student’s use of social networking sites
Sample Size- 25 students
Field Work Period- 8 March to 12 March 2010 (5 days)
Sample Definition- Social networking student users aged 19+. The sample included 5 students from University of Limkokwing, 5 from the University of Botswana, 5 from Botswana Accountancy College, 5 from Gaborone Institute of Professional Studies and the last batch of 5 from NIIT. The sample also comprised of students who have internet connection from their homes and those who used the one at school.
Name of tertiary institution
Botswana Accountancy College
University of Botswana
University of Limkokwing
Gaborone Institute of Professional Studies
Do you have a social network you are involved in?
If your answer is yes on the above question, which social networks are you part of?
When do you usually surf your social network sites?
During class hours
How many friends do you have on your friend list that you don’t know or talk to?
10% – 30%
40% – 60%
When do you find it necessary for you to log onto your favorite social network chosen at number three above?
Anytime I get access to an Internet connection, whether it’s during a lesson or not. Sometimes, I would go out and find an Internet connection and if it means going to
the internet café I would do it.
When I’m bored and have nothing else to do
Sometimes, when I want to catch up with friends
How long do you take surfing your social network?
1hr – 2hrs
2hrs – 3hrs
Has social networking negatively affected your studies?
Give reasons for the answer provided above
Relevant to decline in school work
Nothing to do with school
Which internet connection do you use?
The questionnaires handed out to students in different institutions were all returned fully and accurately answered with no faults or damages what so ever. The results are as follows:
From the 25 sampled students, 92% of students have a social network account from different web sites and only 8% of students don’t have any. The 8% is the 2 students’ school at Gaborone Institute of Professional Studies. This result leaves us with only 23 questionnaires to analyze. From the 23 students with social network accounts
91% of students have Face Book accounts and 8% of students are not on face book but rather on Hi5.
When it comes to the times at which the students surf their social web sites, 61% students have stated that they do it during class hours, while 26% students surf during lunch time, 4% surf during after hours and 2 students do it during weekends.
Again, when it comes to a portion of friends that particular student has, but never talks to or don’t know, 11 students say they don’t know or talk to 10 – 30% of their total friends, while 2 student doesn’t know or talk to 40 – 60% of his total friends. 10 students don’t talk or even know 70%+ of their total friends.
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16 students say they surf the social network sites anytime they get access to an Internet connection, whether it’s during lessons or not. They say sometimes, they would go out and find an Internet connection even if it means going to an internet café. 2 students surf the web sites only when they are bored and 5 students surf when they want to catch up with their friends
6 students say that they spend an hour to 2 hours on their particular web sites, 12 students spend 2hours to 3 hours on their particular sites and 5 students spend 4 hours+ on their particular web sites.
From the overall 23 students, 87% say social network sites have impacted them negatively on their academic work and this has caused them to fall gradually from their high marks to low marks. 13% students say they are still doing well in school and social networking hasn’t impacted them negatively on their school work because they don’t mix school with pleasure.
78% of the 23 students have got no internet connection at their homes which means they use the connection at school and 22% students have got internet connection at home
The results above have made it clear that social networking is common among many tertiary students in Botswana. The results also show that it (social networking) impacts the way students perform in school negatively. From the sample of students selected from different tertiary institutions in Botswana, one would say in every 5 students, 4 students have accounts on different social networking sites. The most common social web site used or visited from the sample is Face Book which of cause was developed by a tertiary student. With Face Book being common this means that the majority of the world population is on Face Book therefore there are many people to stay in touch with.
Even though there is a big dish full of friends to socialize with, there are people who request friends and yet they don’t know them and they and don’t even talk to them or chat with them. Friends are just added to increase the list of friends’; it’s like a competition among tertiary students. More friends mean more profiles to check out. For example if a student has 200 friends on face book and yet he/she does not have internet connection at home but rather uses the connection at school, this means that he/she will have to spend more hours at school being unproductive viewing friend’s profiles. The results have highlighted 16 students from a total of 23 students who visit social networking sites during class hours and mostly during lab sessions. This is very bad because there is lack of concentration during classes and therefore students fail. Lastly, from the 23 students sampled, 87% of them have shown that social networking has affected the way they perform academically.
In a few years time the chances are that social networking will be part of almost everyone’s life are very high. Most people will take advantage of the fact that they have accounts on social network web sites and erasing or deactivating them will be impossible because of the fact that they have many friends around the world and losing touch with them will be a disadvantage. With the majority of tertiary institutions in Botswana having social networking sites blocked from their computer labs, most households will have internet connections in the near future, many of which will be high speed. Accessing the Net wherever and whenever one chooses will be commonplace thanks to both the small wireless devices most people carry and the variety of alternate points of access. All of these modern upgrades mentioned above will make social networking for tertiary institution students to even surf them more and frequently. I have a great believe that the number of students without internet connections at their households will gradually reduce in great numbers.
Social network web sites have negative impacts on the lives of tertiary students in Botswana. They affect the way they perform at their different institutions. Social networking has become a habit on tertiary students, they cannot live without them. Even when they are disabled from their schools, one will go to thee extend of finding an internet connection in order to go online.
Since social networking is a habit among tertiary students in Botswana, I would recommend that they should balance them, use them equally. They should give their school work more priority because school is the key to success and not Face Book friends.
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