Time spent on Facebook is related to involvement in campus activities

Posted by reyjunco on August 22, 2011 in Research |

Facebook and higher education These findings are from my latest paper “The relationship between frequency of Facebook use, participation in Facebook activities, and student engagement” to be published in an upcoming issue of Computers and Education. I asked students to estimate (using a few different indices) their frequency of using Facebook and what they did while on Facebook and then related those frequencies to engagement outcomes. This study is unique in that it’s the first one to connect what students do on Facebook to outcomes. Other studies of Facebook use and academic outcomes have used non-continuous measures of time spent. As some of you know, that’s one of my research pet peeves– truncating your variance before the fact.

On to the results– using hierarchical linear regression (N = 2,368) with gender, ethnicity, and parental education level as control variables, I found that time spent on Facebook was a significant positive predictor of time spent in campus activities.

Although time spent on Facebook was a significant positive predictor, it wasn’t the strongest predictor of time spent in campus activities. In fact, it was the weakest predictor. The strongest positive predictors, in order of strength (with strongest first), were:

  1. Creating or RSVPing to events on Facebook
  2. Commenting
  3. Viewing Photos
  4. Average time spent on Facebook per day

There were also negative predictors of time spent in campus activities. In order of strength, they were:

  1. Posting photos
  2. Checking up on friends (or what students call “stalking,” “creeping,” or “lurking”)
  3. Playing games on Facebook (as an aside, I’m so happy to have data showing that Farmville and Mafia Wars are “bad” :))
It is important to note that these data are cross sectional and correlational and while it’s nice to think that Facebook use may be causing students to be more engaged on campus, it could also be true that students who are more engaged on campus to begin with use Facebook more. It is also important to note that there were other findings reported in the paper, one of which showed that time spent on Facebook was negatively related to scores on a measure of student engagement based on the National Survey of Student Engagement.

As always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on these findings. Please share them in the comments.


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  • Liz Gross

    After my first read, the thing I find most interesting that isn’t explored in the paper is the amount of time students spend on activities that are most positively and negatively related to you engagement measures.

    For example, it seems events (the most positively related) are never or rarely utilized by 85% of respondents, and “checking up” (the 2nd most negatively related) is reported sometimes, somewhat, or frequently utilized by 64% of respondents.

    So, although there are some positive relationships between facebook and engagement, at first glance it appears students are choosing not to pursue activities that are positively related, and rather choose to pursue the activities that are negatively related.

    One good outlier – commenting is popular and positive!

  • That’s right Liz. The plan is to run a path model in the near future to try to clarify these relationships.

  • Looking back on my college days, the periods in which I spent the most time on Facebook were the periods I was most involved in leadership in campus organizations.  I’d  connect with members to reinforce in-person interactions, create events, upload pictures, and post relevant links and comments.  Campus involvement increased the amount of content I created, and content creation requires more follow-up than Facebook scanning activities. 

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