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Leave my Facebook alone!

Previously on WhatWouldWesleyDo: Musical motion means progress

I am still on that hiatus I was talking about, but because of my recent “promotion” I have had to do more work journalistically. Provided I don’t do anything stupid, like going back and forth with jackass readers, I will be the opinions editor. Honestly, I ain’t ready for the position and I can’t really explain why I took it… hmm. However I do know that I appreciate the confidence of my editor, Kenny Colston, and managing editor, Melissa Vessels, for giving me the opportunity, and I’m generally honored anytime someone finds what I have to say interesting enough to read/hear. So thank you all as well.  I would say I won’t let them or you guys down down, but I am pretty sure I’ve done that already… oh well. Here’s the column:

Recent Facebook report lacks adequate research

April 28, 2009 by Opinions

Column by Wesley Robinson

Can we stop blaming Facebook for everything? I mean, seriously, it would be nice for little ol’ Facebook to be able to mind its own business and be the social networking tool it was designed to be, rather than the subject of criticism for any and everything under the sun. This time, the assailant is a recent “study” set out to determine whether or not the good book negatively affects students’ grades.

Here is a little information to provide a background for the cause of my frustration. According to the April 22 Kernel news story, the study surveyed 219 students at Ohio State University, including 102 undergraduate students and 117 graduate students. Of the participants, 148 said they had a Facebook account. The research results found the Facebook users’ GPAs ranged from 3.0 to 3.5, while non-users’ were 3.5 to 4.0. Users studied one to five hours a week, while non-users studied 11 to 15 hours per week. Aryn Karpinski, one of the conductors of the study, said the research does not necessarily mean Facebook affects faltering grades, but there is some kind of connection. Karpinski also said if Facebook was not a factor, some students would find ways to avoid studying anyway.

On the individual level, I have a problem blaming a social networking site for widespread quantitatively measurable academic decay, at least in a published study that may influence the way people think. I spend a good deal of my time on Facebook, and I can say that at no point does Facebook stop me from studying — I stop myself from studying. I choose to go to the URL, I choose to chat, I choose to look at pictures and do everything else that Facebook offers. Interestingly enough, the study mentions that students would find other ways to divert their time from studying and only seeks to prove something that seems to be pretty intuitive, only it does so in the worst way possible. If that is the case, then what really is the purpose of the study other than to throw another stone at Facebook?

I don’t doubt that Facebook may affect a student’s GPA, but what good is the study if a student is going to find some other way to kill time? In short, you have to deal with the consequences of your Facebook use. In regard to the most basic statistics, my Statistics 200 instructor, Will Bradley, would probably have some sound counsel for study contributors Karpinski, a doctoral student in education at Ohio State University, and Adam Duberstein, an academic adviser at Ohio Dominican University: “Friends don’t let friends extrapolate.” The duo conducted and published a study finding that Facebook had a negative relation to students’ grades, but probably took the most statistically incorrect way to come up with results.

It started with a sample size that could no way measure the affect of Facebook across academia. Using 219 students as a population sample for a social networking site with such widespread impact popularity is probably as irresponsible as students who allow Facebook to consume their lives. Very little can be determined from such a small number in such a contained area, and such extrapolation should be condemned. Furthermore, other variables may play a role in this study like gender, sex, location, age, grade, race, ethnicity, major, IQ, et cetera — beyond just time studied, GPA, being a graduate and undergraduate student. Essentially, the survey is incomplete and even with a larger sample, lacks value as a statistical measure from which information could be gleaned.

As a more than “moderate” Facebook fan, disgust with the report is a given. But from sheer character and statistics-based arguments, the study is asinine and probably shouldn’t have been allowed to see the light of day, let alone receive media attention. If Facebook can easily distract someone enough to affect their letter grade in the range of half a letter grade, then our education system or those individuals’ personal values and priorities are all out of whack. And if all it takes is surveying 219 students in Ohio to come up with a scientific test to determine some kind of unknown correlation that may or may not be a factor, then we really need to find better researchers and let Facebook and its users do their thing. I mean really, what did we learn? What solutions will come from this invaluable research.This study, without a concrete conclusion, sounds like another radical witch hunt to me.

Here is the Kernel news story by Kylie Burness documenting the story relative to the University of Kentucky.

This will most likely be my last column of the year and what a more fitting way to go out than with a rant about Facebook and statistics. The only thing that could possibly be of more interest to me would be… you guessed it. SOFIA!!!!

This is one of my favorite things :)

This is one of my favorite things 🙂

Too bad the Kernel doesn’t publish photos like this… she’s looking extra ethnic in this one!


  1. fatimah
    05/03/2009 at 8:32 pm

    congrats wes! you will do great 🙂

    and yes.. there was a time before facebook and i found plenty of ways to distract myself from school. and still graduated, yay!

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