Ethics and College Life Part 3: How Will You Use Social Media?

Social media may connect you or isolate you, depending on what you do with it.

There’s no doubt that social media plays a big part in the lives of almost all college students.

As reported in a SAGE Open study, “Recent studies indicate that 83 percent of adults 18 to 29 use the Internet while attending college and 90 percent reported being members of social media websites.”

Participating in social media is as widespread as driving a car and the two activities have a lot in common: They can both be useful and fun but also come with risks that a responsible user should be aware of.

Being Overly-Connected

There is evidence that over-use of social media can affect your mood and productivity. According to researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, people who engage directly with others using messages, posts, or “likes” experience positive changes in their mood. But when they browse content passively, they feel more lonely and disconnected.

Constant use of social media — like perpetually checking your cell phone — to the exclusion of “real-time” interactions can result in missed opportunities for fun, making friends, and actually absorbing what your professor is lecturing about. And obviously, unrestricted media time that eats into your study time has predictably negative results.

Cyber-Bullying

One of the biggest risks you may encounter through social media is cyber-bullying, or repeated hostile or aggressive messages intended to inflict harm or discomfort on you or others.

In a study conducted by professors at Indiana State University, 22 percent of college students admit being cyber-bullied, primarily through a social networking site or text messages. Recognizing cyber-bullying can be tricky, as Dr. Alexis Kennedy, of the University of Nevada explains, “Sometimes conversations are insulting and casual to be funny, but if you keep repeating those insults and you aren’t reacting to the emotional response of your victim, you are bullying them.”

How can you avoid being either a perpetrator or victim of cyber-bullying? Here are some tips:

  • Respect and treat other people the way you want to be treated.
  • Don’t say it online if you wouldn’t say it in person.
  • Don’t forward or add to cruel messages.
  • Pay attention to your privacy settings on social media sites; share your content only with people you know.
  • Share your online life with your parents — they can help if you run into problems.

Read more about ethics and college in the next article in this series: Ethics and College Life Part 4: How Will You Respond When Others Behave Badly

Sources:

McDaniel, J. (2013, November 20). Social media impacts happiness, research says. Tufts Daily. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from Tufts

Rice, C. (n.d.). Protect Yourself from Cyberbullying. CollegeXpress: Scholarships, College Search, Lists and Rankings. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from College Express

Zalaquett, C. P., & Chatters, S. J. (2014, March 19). Cyberbullying in College. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from Sage Journals

Bullying in College. (n.d.). RA Magazine.com | The Responsibility Issue | Bullying in College. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from Behance

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