The Relationship between Online Social Networking and Academic and Social Integration

Article excerpt

This article examines the relationship between online social networking (OSN) and perceptions of academic and social integration for first-year residential students at a rural regional comprehensive university. Students spent an average of 2.5 hours on OSN websites per day, primarily interacting with campus peers, friends and family. There was minimal OSN interaction with faculty and other non-student members of the campus community. OSN was not a significant predictor of social integration. Controlling for background variables, OSN was a significant negative predictor of academic integration.

Today, college students always seem to be electronically connected. They listen to mp3 players, play computer games, talk on their cell phones, send text messages and e-mails, and spend a lot of time on computers surfing the Internet and interacting on various online social networking (OSN) sites. How much time do they spend on these activities? What effect do these forms of connection have on their college experience? The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between one form of this electronic connection - online social networking (OSN) ~ and academic and social integration for firstyear residential students at a rural regional comprehensive university. This study measures the extent to which students are involved in OSN and identifies their social networks. It also provides insight into how student involvement in OSN is related to academic and social integration at a single institution.

OSN allows for individuals to create their own unique web presence, commonly called a social networking profile. Through this "profile," students Uve an online identity while exploring friendships and relationships with other individuals who also have profiles on the same social networking website (Facebook.com, 2007). College students use a variety of online social networks, including facebook.com, myspace.com and xanga.com (Eberhardt, 2006). Students create their profile by answering generic questions that prompt them to disclose personal information. In addition to contact information such as name, e-mail, address, and telephone number, a profile contains information categorizing individuals based on interests in music, movies, and hobbies. The profile also allows for self-expression through pictures and videos.

College student involvement in OSN appears to be a daily activity that has increased in popularity in the last few years (Bugeja, 2006; Capriccioso, 2006; Finder, 2006; Hirsch, 2006; Kim, 2005; Shier, 2005). Worries about student exploitation, excessive disclosure of personal information, and negative portrayals of students or die institution have led some institutions to send students proactive messages expressing concerns and explaining the responsibilities tied to OSN (Bugeja; Read & Young, 2006). Many of these concerns arise from student inexperience surrounding public accessibility to information posted on the web (Bugeja; Read, 2006).

OSN interactions between students and members of the campus community could play a key role in student integration into college, thus influencing persistence. This study identifies die role OSN plays in the college student experience and establishes ÖSN as a form of involvement as defined by Astin (1984). The literature shows undergraduate college students spend a significant amount of time on OSN websites (Grigg & Johnson, 2006; Jones & Soltren, 2005; Kolek & Saunders, 2008; Stutzman, 2006). However, it is unknown whether OSN holds the same value in connecting students to the institution that on-campus involvement does, or rf OSN is a complement to or inhibitor of connecting to the college. One of the areas of focus in this study is to identify the amount of external connectedness students maintain through OSN to see if that has an effect on academic and social integration. The practice of OSN also raises questions about the influences OSN may have for students who sequester themselves in their own private spaces, instead of being socially involved in oncampus activities. …

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