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Impact of Social Media in Education


The 21st century brought the advent of social media which has drastically changed people’s lives. Social media is software, networking instruments, and Internet platforms that are used for a variety of uses such as content sharing and creation, communication, and collaboration. According to Fuchs (2017), social media are internet-based applications that are developed on the technological capabilities of creation and sharing of user-generated content, going beyond interpersonal communication with the aid of universally accessible and scalable interconnection techniques.

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By the current year of 2020, the concept is significantly widespread due and virtually everyone in developed countries with access to smartphones and computers utilizing one of the major social media platforms. These have grown on the basis of popularity in younger populations in particular, with children as young as 13 years old able to create social media accounts. Naturally, social media tools became utilized in educational environments in order to facilitate teaching and learning processes due to their engagement and popularity amongst high-school and college-aged students. Social media has positively impacted education by enabling learning, sharing, and collaboration, but continues to maintain concerns from a large body of students, parents, and educators as being distracting and ineffective in the instructional process.


Upon researching the general concept of social media, it became evident that the primary user base remains in the teenage and young adult category, which utilizes the largest array of platforms (Perrin & Anderson 2019). The origins of social media platforms, particularly the universally popular Facebook stem from college students which poses a critical question of the impact of social media on education. This research question although rather broad is specific enough to explore the context. A search of the literature on the UNISA library catalog and Google Scholar found an overwhelming amount of literature, including original research, synthesis, and theory that explores the various impacts of social media in education.

In particular, I wanted to focus on two concepts: 1) the effectiveness of social media tools for educational purposes; 2) the perception of social media use by students and instructors. Despite narrowing down the topic with these keywords, this research has grown to be so influential in recent years that both searches drew tens of thousands of results, even with limiting the search year of past 2016. The literature was selected based on the relevance of headlines and research direction in the abstract as well as the reliability and prestige of the journal. Some articles had internal citations to books or other articles which fit the search criteria, these were explored as well. Overall, approximately 25 literature sources were selected and narrowed down as the report was written based on their usability for the general topic.

Indicators of quality


All literature used in this report was published originally post-2015. The information has not been updated as the majority of these are journal publications. The context of the data may have changed slightly due to the online learning element during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The sources are targeted at an audience who are interested in or active participating stakeholders in the educational sector. The information extensively covers all potential points of interest regarding the topic allowing for a comprehensive overview of the impact of social media on education.


The research selected was conducted by respectable authors and published in key journals in the industry. The articles are cited numerous times in other literature.

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All sources come from peer-reviewed journals or publications which significantly increases their accuracy and validity. The sources were checked for reputation and any questionable sources were not utilized


The purpose of the existence of this research is the soaring popularity of social media platform use, adapting it to educational contexts. The controversial nature of social media as both a tool and a distraction has prompted researchers and stakeholders to consider whether it is warranted for further support and integration.


The widespread popularity and adoption of social media have led to calls of leveraging and integrating it in education through various means. Social media holds a unique opportunity for innovating educational research and scholarly communication as well. Integrating social media has multiple uses in the education sector. Students’ learning can be enhanced through active engagement and digital collaboration on a new level. Both teachers and students can also engage in informal learning which includes exchanging resources and community-building activities (Greenhow et al 2019). Social media has a place in the modern educational paradigm with the potential of bridging and informal learning through participatory digital cultures. Social media becomes inherently a space for learning, which when applied through the lens of social constructivism and connectivism can facilitate the powerful features of instant connectivity and engagement in multimodal learning contexts (Greenhow & Lewin 2015).

A study by Price et al (2018) sought to investigate student perceptions on social media integration within course content. The general perception is positive, with social media use for education growing when officially integrated into the program and learning activities. Students found it to be engaging and informative in identifying important elements within the course. However, a part of the sample remains wary of using social media for professional or educational purposes, indicating that individual factors are critical to consider as well. Orlanda-Ventayen and Magno-Ventayen (2017) found that the instructor’s perspective contributes to social learning and is on par with worlds trends. However, there are disadvantages and individual preferences which suggest that social media should be combined with other free learning management systems.

A number of studies found that platforms have no practical use in instructional and learning contexts. Lahti et al (2017) surveyed students to determine the uses of social media in educational contexts and found that the majority of students do not report utilizing the platforms for studying or academic needs. Manca & Ranieri (2016) similarly found that social media utilization is consistently limited or restricted, with neither teachers nor students readily willing to integrate the social media components into educational practices. Common opposition to social media use in education cites pedagogical challenges, institutional constraints, and the general inappropriateness for the learning context. Most often, students utilize social networks for engagement in non-educational activities such as social communication and entertainment rather than learning or skill enhancement (Talaue et al. 2018). Social media use during class creates opportunities for distraction from the learning process with a negative effect to complete tasks and improving academic performance (Flanigan & Boychuk 2015).

Students also perceive social media as a distraction in many contexts. The social media platforms such as Facebook, create opportunities to shift focus via chatting, uploading photos, and other social activities. McCarthy and McCarthy (2014) conducted a study analyzing the distraction factor of working on Facebook. Students found social media to be largely unhelpful and distracting in the studying process, actually taking more effort to concentrate. Other students in a study by Wise et al (2011) concluded that the negative impact on attention was significant while also being a threat to privacy. In the contexts of blended learning in which social media is commonly utilized, findings by Erdem and Kibar (2014) indicate that platforms such as Facebook may be appropriate for communication and interactive aspects, but not useful in sharing homework or projects or promoting academic achievement.


When considering the impact of social media on education, there are three primary questions that become relevant.

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Does social media have a role and fit into the modern educational paradigm?

According to Greenhow et al (2019) social media serves as a bridge between formal and informal learning. It presents vital opportunities for active learning, engagement, collaboration, and community connection enhancement. In the modern paradigm, social media creates a digital space that can thrive and envelop the complexities of multimodal or digital setting learning. However, scholars suggest that students inherently adopt the role of consumers rather than full participants (Greenhow & Lewin 2015).

Does social media present a benefit to students and instructors who utilize it for education?

Social media generally benefits students greatly in the development of their learning, thinking, and social skills. There are other benefits such as ease of sharing and dispersing information. Social networking tools are vital to connecting learning groups and improving learning methods. Social and academic integration sees greater success among students with social media utilization (Price et al 2018).

What are the perceptions from stakeholders regarding social media use in education?

There are varying and mixed perspectives from students and instructors regarding the integration of social media use in education. Some see it as a modern method of supplemental learning and highly enjoy the connectivity, especially if social media tools are officially integrated into a course (Orlanda-Ventayen & Magno-Ventayen 2017). However, there are a number of negative perceptions, viewing social media as a cause for distraction in the learning context due to other non-education social features. A significant portion dislikes the concept due to personal preferences or aspects such as limited availability, tools, and forced implementation which does not enhance the learning process in any significant manner (Flanigan & Boychuk 2015; Manca & Ranieri 2016; Lahti et al 2017).

It is evident that social media use in education maintains a controversial nature. However, with widespread adoption, it has garnered positive responses due to the general engagement of students with technology systems and the various interactive features such as customization and sharing of content. It also maintains the added benefit of teaching students safe and responsible use of information technology. Networking is the essential foundation to professional lives, and many views the positive reinforcements and use of it in education can be relevant to the 21st-century education paradigm.


Based on the research it is evident that social media has permeated the educational sector. However, the mixed results indicate that it is not a universally beneficial tool. There are listed benefits of information sharing, direct access to communication, and general support, which should be promoted (Greenhow & Lewin 2015; Greenhow et al 2019). However, there is a range of negative effects of social media in education including distraction, poor integration, and negative effects on academic performance (Flanigan & Boychuk 2015; Manca & Ranieri 2016; Lahti et al 2017; Talaue et al 2018).

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Based on this research, the following recommendations are made:

  • Social media should not be outright rejected by educational institutions but promoted as a supplemental tool to enhance the learning process for those who may benefit from it.
  • Social media should NOT be commonly utilized during direct instructional and classroom time due to the possibilities of distraction.
  • Social media SHOULD be integrated as a method of communication and empowerment for students, teachers, parents, and school communication. The technical possibilities of social media platforms can be an effective manner of building an online community for the institution.
  • Social media is a highly viable tool for communication and exchange of information alongside traditional methods. This is particularly viable to reach students or share urgent information that may not be viewed via traditional communication such as email.


Social media has become a dominant force in society, permeating the lives of young people especially. There has been a significant inquiry into the impact of social media in education and its general place in the learning context. Results found that social media is able to be integrated into the educational paradigm as a bridge between formal and informal learning. The critical piece of information uncovered indicates that social media has been greatly integrated into a variety of educational contexts with positive results, but there are some mixed perceptions. The implications of the data presented in this report suggest that educators can implement pathways to the integration of social media in mixed-method modalities to the benefit of students. However, it should not be relied upon as a major or even mandatory tool, but rather as supplemental due to the potential for distraction and negative perceptions/individual preferences of students who may not benefit from it.


Erdem, M & Kibar, PN 2014, ‘Students’ opinions on Facebook supported blended learning environment’, The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 199-206. Web.

Fuchs, C 2017, Social media: a critical introduction: 2nd edition, Sage, London.

Flanigan, AE & Babchuk, WA 2015, ‘Social media as academic quicksand: A phenomenological study of student experiences in and out of the classroom’, Learning and Individual Differences, vol. 44, pp. 40–45.

Greenhow, C & Lewin C 2015, ‘Social media and education: reconceptualizing the boundaries of formal and informal learning’, Learning Media and Technology, pp. 1–25.

Greenhow, C, Galvin, SM & Willet, KBS 2019, ‘what should be the role of social media in education?’, Policy Insights from Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 178-185.

Lahti, M, Haapaniemi-Kahala, H & Salminen, L 2017, ‘Use of social media by nurse educator students: an exploratory survey’, The Open Nursing Journal, vol. 11, pp. 26-33.

Manca, S & Ranieri M 2016, ‘Facebook and the others. Potentials and obstacles of social media for teaching in higher education’, Computers and Education, vol. 95, pp. 216–230.

McCarthy, R & McCarthy M 2014, ‘Student perception of social media as a course tool’, Information Systems Education Journal, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 13-26.

Orlanda-Ventayen, CC & Magno-Ventayen RJ 2017, ‘Role of social media in education: a teachers’ perspective’, ASEAN Journal of Open and Distance Learning, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 1-7. Web.

Perrin, A & Anderson M 2019, Share of U.S. adults using social media, including Facebook, is mostly unchanged since 2018, Pew Research Center, Web.

Price, AM et al 2018, ‘First year nursing students use of social media within education: Results of a survey’, Nurse Education Today, vol. 61, pp. 70–76.

Talaue, GM, AlSaad, A, AlRushaidan, N, AlHugail, A, & AlFahhad, S 2018, ‘The impact of social media on academic performance of selected college students’, International Journal of Advanced Information Technology (IJAIT), vol. 8, no. 4/5, pp. 27-35. Web.

Wise, L, Skues, J & Williams, B 2011, Facebook in higher education promotes social but not academic engagement., Ascilite. Web.

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