New Study Says Wealthier College Students Socialize On Facebook Differently — And Reap Benefits

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June 27, 2013 ‐ By Ann Brown

Purdue University Libraries Associate Professor Reynol Junco polled 2,359 college students with an average age of 22 years old and asked them estimate how much time they spent on Facebook and what they did during that time. According to this study, college students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely than their wealthier peers to communicate and share on Facebook, reports Huffington Post. Junco discovered that students spent an average of 101 minutes daily regardless of their backgrounds. (A previous study by Junco, however, showed self-reporting to be an inaccurate representation of the time students actually spent on Facebook.)

But users whose parents completed a lower level of education, which is a proxy for socioeconomic status, were less likely to use seven of 14 of core social activities on Facebook. These activities include tagging photos, messaging privately, chatting on the site and creating or RSVPing to events, found the study. And gender, more than race or class, is also a factor. Female students surveyed were more likely than their male counterparts to comment on Facebook, post status updates, and share, tag and browse photos.

According to Junco, not using these other Facebook services could surprisingly have long-term ramifications. “Failure to connect in these ways could deprive students of the benefits of participation on such sites, such as increased social capital, improved social integration, opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, and improving the technological and communication skills valued in today’s workplace,” he wrote.

Other studies disagree with his theories about Facebook. But while contradicting studies have found increased Facebook usage can harm academic performance, Junco maintains students who socialize on Facebook using these tools will have stronger relationships, which can improve their on-campus experience.

He also suggests that Facebook use can help college students develop solid ties to the academic community. “Using Facebook for communication and connection with fellow students helps strengthen social bonds, which leads to a greater sense of commitment to the institution and to increased motivation to perform better academically,” Junco argues.

Beyond Junco’s study, the Pew Research Center has also found that higher-income adults are more likely to use social networking sites: A December 2012 study found that 48 percent of adults in households earning under $30,000 per year used social media, while 65 percent earning over $75,000 did so.

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