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Ellison vs. Junco
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October 6, 2021 - 12:29 am

I found Ellison et al. (2007) piece more compelling because of two reasons, although both studies are prominent in the field. The first reason is about variable selection. Junco (2012) research basically looks at the relationship between time spent by students on Facebook and achievement of the students based on grades and time spent preparing for class. In this relationship, there is a high probability of confounding variables, that might be the ones explaining the relationship between time spent on Facebook and achievement. The findings of the study also signal this situation. Junco (2012) says ‘‘Time spent on Facebook was strongly and significantly negatively related to overall GPA, while only weakly related to time spent preparing for class’’ (p. 187). If the researcher assumes that there is a relationship between time spent preparing for class and overall GPA (which are indicators of academic success in the study), then why the relationship between time spent on Facebook and the two variables are not strongly significant? In fact, one of the limitations in the study is ‘‘It is unclear if GPA is the best proxy measure of academic success’’ (Junco, 2012, p.197). I found the variables in Ellison et al. (2007) study more convincing. It is more natural to think about Facebook use and social capital because gaining social capital is the promise of Facebook and the reason for people to use it. Another technique that Ellison et al. uses to persuade readers to the reliability of her findings is presenting all of the survey items with the overall responses by participants. It makes easier to see possible relationships between variables. On the other hand, I wonder what the results of this study would be, if it has been done recently because the study was published 14 years ago when Facebook did not have many features that it has today.

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October 8, 2021 - 12:16 am

I agree with your ideas on the problem of confounding variables in Junco’s (2012) article. Earlier in the paper, the author stresses “the time and effort students invest in educational activities that are empirically linked to desired college outcomes (Junco, 2012, p. 188)”. However, he failed to explain the weak correlation between FBtime and time spent preparing for class, and as a result, it has yet to be discovered how FB time negatively affect students’ GPA. As such, given that FBtime does not change the amount of time preparing for class, can you think of any other variables that might affect students’ GPA (even though I do not agree that GPA solely can represent students’ academic outcomes)?

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October 8, 2021 - 12:57 am

I totally agree with you, Jeong, about your ideas related to confounding variable and choosing GPA as the only outcome variable for achievement. Some of the possible confounding variables that I can think of are student motivation, expectations after graduation, engagement with the program, year in the program, attitudes toward social media, and access to technology. What is your opinion about the possible confounding variables? Is there anything else you would like to add to or remove from the list?

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October 8, 2021 - 1:56 pm

Thanks for your answer, Betul. I truly think the variables that you suggested as examples may impact students’ GPA as well as student’s overall learning outcomes. As you wrote, I strongly agree on “student’s motivation”, “attitudes toward social media..” that could be related to student’s mental and emotional/social factors, as I believe emotion and learning are highly connected. We can think of more other variables; however, as we both argue, this study has its own weak claims by measuring GPA as a proxy for academic success or learning outcomes.

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October 9, 2021 - 4:13 pm

While I agree with your assessment of Ellison’s study, I have also been thinking about how social media spaces are dynamic. Facebook was a hotbed of virtual social activity in 2007 when this paper was published, but it seems like it has lost quite a bit of popularity between then and now given their various ethical transgressions. So if we were to use a different and more popular social media platform today such as instagram, do you think the variables studied by Ellison would remain the same?

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October 10, 2021 - 8:15 pm

This is a good question that requires a careful analysis, Suha. I think the positive effects of social media might be almost equal to its negative effects today (for especially middle school and high school students), considering the psychological dimensions of social media use. If the study were repeated with a more popular social media platform today, there should be a variable about perception of self and perception of others, in addition to the self-esteem scale that was already used in the study.

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