Balancing university and a pandemic

2020, please slow down.

Society was beginning to recover from the drought, bushfires and floods. Then you hit us with an outbreak of a virus and into a national lockdown we went. This pandemic is bigger than we had expected, affecting all aspects of society and life.

How is this affecting university students?

This research project for BCM212, a core subject of Communications and Media at University of Wollongong was designed to grasp an idea of how students balanced the stress of a pandemic and their university workload.

There are limitations to the project, the main ones are.  Firstly, the convenience sample of the BCM212 students does not accurately represent the population of university students, let alone the whole population of the BCM212 students. The sample size is rather small for a statistical test and thus is difficult to find significant relationships with the data. Secondly, there is limited research regarding students experience during a pandemic. Thirdly, personality traits are a variable that affect social media behaviour and the response to a global pandemic. Finally, the sample size is not clearly diverse and have no indication on age or gender, in which would also be a variable in social media behaviour.

With that said, let’s continue.

Since the pandemic, students at University of Wollongong as well as other Universities transitioned to remote learning. This impacted students’ routines, learning experience and mental health. In one of the surveys, 13 out of 14 students said their study routine changed due to Covid-19. Following this question, a large majority of the students said this change made them feel stressed, anxious and nervous. The question “Do you feel Covid-19 has impacted your motivation to study?” received mixed responses. 61.1% of the 36, had agreed that the pandemic had negatively impacted their motivation to study.

“moving everything online has been difficult for me personally because I struggle to find motivation for online learning”.

Further responses included “I have a higher level of anxiety and being at home gives me more options for procrastinating”, “yes, more stress, work load has tripled and really not coping” and “yes, moving everything online has been difficult for me personally because I struggle to find motivation for online learning”. In contrast, other students said “It has motivated me in a good way, I have a lot of time on my hands and I feel as though I need to make most of this time”, “It has probably made me more motivated, just because it’s something to do” and “I study more since I have more time”. The relationship here is time, and how it is spent, in which is dependent on variables such as personality traits, environment and lifestyle.

The picture painted here is time, and how we spend it. Which, from my perspective is dependent on variables such as personality traits, environment and lifestyle.

The transition to remote learning caused students to be more active on social media, as 86.1% of the 36 respondents said their social media use had increased.  Social media during this time was both a blessing and a curse, as people were able to connect with each other during isolation, the platforms also became facilitators and multipliers of Covid-19 misrelated news (Ali & Kurasawa 2020). 63.9% of the respondents claimed their social media was full of Covid-19 news. A student said that seeing the Covid-19 news made them “constantly feeling overwhelmed and trying to control anxious thoughts and stresses”.

“constantly feeling overwhelmed and trying to control anxious thoughts and stresses”

Stress, depression, anxiety and a preference for online interactions are the expenses of social media addiction and obsessive behaviour (Chugh 2020). It was recorded that 94.5% of the 36 respondents spend over 2 hours a day on social media for non-university purposes. Of this result, 38.9% admitted to spending 3-4 hours and 16.7% admitted to spending over 5 hours a day. Majority of the respondents reported they simultaneously swapped through the following applications; Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Tik Tok. A study reveals social media multitasking is associated with higher stress and anxiety (Becker, Alzahabi & Hopwood 2019). 91.6% of the respondents found themselves mindlessly scrolling through social media.

When studying, 63.9% of the respondents said their phone was on their desk and 25% said they turned it on ‘do not disturb’. Essentially, these results demonstrate our dependency on smart phones and social media, as we ensure they are in our sight, we are multitasking and evenly scrolling through social media without intentions.

Although the impact of the pandemic on student engagement has not been thoroughly researched to acquire enough results for a strong opinion. I believe it is clear this topic requires attention by professionals across the education and mental health industries, to support students during a crisis and to develop a healthy relationship with technology.

Remember, we are not alone. Your mental health is a priority, your happiness is essential and self-care is a necessity.


References

Ali, H & Kurasawa F 2020, ‘#COVID19: Social media both a blessing and a curse during coronavirus pandemic’, The Conversation, 22 March, viewed 26 May 2020, < https://theconversation.com/covid19-social-media-both-a-blessing-and-a-curse-during-coronavirus-pandemic-133596>.

Becker M, Alzahabi R, & Hopwood C 2013, ‘Media Multitasking is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety’, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, vol 16, no.2, pp. 132-165.

Chugh R 2016, ‘Addicted to social media? Try an e-fasting plan’, The Conversation, 4 April, viewed 25 March 2020, <https://theconversation.com/addicted-to-social-media-try-an-e-fasting-plan-56804>.

BCB212 Reflection

The research project has now come to an end.

As a result, I have developed basic skills and an understanding of the process designing and developing a research project (emphasizing the basic skills).

Due to my research topic being based around student’s well being, academic performance and social media use, the nature of it could be sensitive to some. I ensured that my approach was ethical. However, I feel I tiptoed around sensitive topics. In which, could have fractured the project’s purpose.

Limitations in the project have been a good learning curve. As I read over and developed relationships with the data, I find what I was missing in the project, variables. I have discovered that variables such as personality traits, environmental factors, economic factors, peer factors and other contributing variables to one’s lifestyle, have significant influence on the results. For instance, one’s personality can have a healthier interaction with social media and be more engaged academically. Whereas, other personalities can be dependent and distracted by social media, making them disengage from their studies. The response to a global pandemic is also dependent on previous life experiences and mental health. However, due to the time limitations of the project, capturing these variables would have been difficult and still, limited.

Planning and reiterating were a major part of the process. At the beginning of the project, I was well organised and well equipped. However, circumstances changed and I had not kept to the schedule. I had iterated in two components of my project, firstly, being behind I had to change plans in order to meet the due date. Secondly, when the results came through, I had noticed I needed more statistical data for the project, so I made a second survey.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the process and the BCM212 subject. The topic of my research project resonated with me as I felt I had lost a lot of motivation due to the pandemic and having to isolate. I found myself be more engaged (unintentionally) on social media and it had impacted my mental health. Seeing the responses roll in, it was comforting to see that we are not alone.

Breathe Mental Health GIF by YouTube

Research Proposal: Social Media Addiction lowers our Academic Performance

The birth of the internet brought us closer and made us smarter…

This paradox could be true, could be false. Up to you.

My intended research topic is the impact social media has on academic performance. Social media are online platforms that enable users to create, share content and participate in social networking. Social media has grown exponentially, becoming a significant part of our lives and our daily routine. 72% of the Australian population have actively adopted social media and statistics show an 10% increase of users each year.

Thanks to smartphones, connecting to people has never been faster and easier. However, our relationship with smartphones and social media can be negative, as we can become addicted.

A multitude of studies showed that technological addictions, including addictions on the Internet and social networking sites, had positive associations with stress, anxiety, and depression and negative association with academic performance, all of which negatively affects satisfaction with life (Samaha 2016). There are various forms of anxiety which includes excessive worrying, a sense of fear, restlessness, overly emotional responses and negative thinking (Vitasari P 2010).

The Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences research found a correlation between high levels of anxiety and low academic performance (Vitasari P 2010). A study from Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking investigates the relationship between people’s media multitasking and depression and anxiety (Becker 2013).  This multitasking behavior is the use of smart phones for texting, checking social networks, surfing the web, playing games and listening to music whilst in class or studying.

Ritesh Chugh, Senior Lecturer CQ University Australia presents the realities of social media addiction in Australia, states the expenses of addiction & obsessive behavior result in:

  • Poor social relationships
  • Isolation
  • Compulsivity
  • Stress
  • Victimization
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Exhibitionism
  • Preference for online interactions.

Ritesh introduces strategies for users to practice, so they can build a healthier and less toxic relationship with social media, through discipline and self-control (Chugh 2010). Understanding and managing our emotions are essential for our well-being and are key to academic success (MacCann 2020).

To strengthen my understanding of this topic and to develop a somewhat successful questionnaire, I will research symptoms of behavioral addiction. Understanding these signs, I will tailor my questions to point out the underlying behavioral patterns. From the brief research I have conducted, I put up two polls on twitter for the BCM212 students. My aim for these two questions was to discover the amount of time spent on social media for non-university related purposes and how much students check their phones.

I received the following results.

41% of the respondents spend 2-3 hours on social media a day.
62.5% of the respondents check their phone often when studying.

These results suggest our high dependence on social media and smartphone. No one had turned their phone off to avoid distractions when studying and 62.5 % check their phone, this could suggest obsessive behavior. From doing some research for this topic, I can see the relationships between our addiction to social media, anxiety and academic performance.

This research project will be beneficial not just for my own self-development but my peers as well. As we discover and become aware of bad habits we have built, we can educate ourselves and find healthier process that enable us to reach our full potential.

This topic resonates with me, because I have found myself over the years becoming more addicted to social media and it affecting my mental health. Being aware of this, I notice its potential to impact my academic performance. This topic is accessible and relevant in today and for our future selves. Mental Health as a topic can be quite sensitive, I will take into account of this and be as ethical as possible.

References:

Becker M, Alzahabi R, & Hopwood C 2013, ‘Media Multitasking is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety’, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, vol 16, no.2, pp. 132-165.

Chugh R 2016, ‘Addicted to social media? Try an e-fasting plan’, The Conversation, 4 April, viewed 25 March 2020, <https://theconversation.com/addicted-to-social-media-try-an-e-fasting-plan-56804>.

Hawi N, Samaha M 2016, ‘The relations among social media addiction, self-esteem, and life satisfaction in university students’ Social Science Computer Review, vol 35, no.5, pp. 576-586.

MacCann C, Minbashian A, Double K 2020, ‘Understanding Emotions is nearly as important as IQ for students academic success’, The Conversation, 3 March, viewed 3 March 2020, <https://theconversation.com/understanding-emotions-is-nearly-as-important-as-iq-for-students-academic-success-131212>.

Vitasari P, Abdul Wahab M N, Othman Am Herawan T, Sinnadurai S S 2010, ‘The Relationsip between study Anxiety and Academic Performance among Engineering Students’, Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 8, pp. 490-497.

A BCM212 Research Project

#mycuriosity

Social Media – do we use it or abuse it?

Social media has grown exponentially, becoming a significant part of our lives. 72% of the Australian population have actively adopted social media and statistics have shown an 10% increase of users per year.

From my personal experience, I know social media can be very distracting. I have gone through the process of deactivating and deleting accounts, promising myself that I will never return. – Contact me through text

However, due to the nature of society and it’s attachment (I will call it) to social media, I had signed back up. Work and University both use social media to communicate.

Unfortunately, I have found myself, checking my social media accounts a lot more than I had intended to.

Being aware of this, I have noticed its potential to affect my performance during my studies. Has it become a bad habit? Am I addicted? How much is it affecting my mental health? I could be using this time for studying, making healthy foods, sleeping and exercising… You know, the healthy habits that would help us reach our own full potential.

The relationship between social media and mental health has always been something I have been interested in. Having an understanding of this, I would be able to help myself and others. I feel in this technological world we live in and the drastic growth of social media, we have not been prepared for the negative implications.

Research Project : The Student Experience

#MyCuriosity is the relationship between social media and our ability to perform our best, academically.

The topic is extremely broad, with many pathways to go down. I could research the positive or the negatives. I will, however, focus on the negatives. Because from my perspective, I feel we are quite addicted to social media. I would like to discover other students’s feelings about social media and how they feel it affects their academic performance.

Now, obviously there are other contributing factors that can be affecting academic performance.

This could be our bad habits such as:

  • Pulling all nighters
  • Leaving assessments to the night before
  • Eating crap foods with no nutritional value
  • Procrastination

Sound like you? To be honest, it sounds like me. I have come to blame my addiction to social media. I feel, if I could control my use of social media, I could effectively follow through with my goals.

What’s my plan?

Research symptoms of behavioral addiction, read previous studies of social media addiction and begin designing a questionnaire.

Due to time limitations of the research project, I must narrow down my question to a finer element of the student experience.

It will go something like this..maybe.

The relationship between Social Media and our…

  • Study habits
  • Sleep routine
  • Time management skills
  • Self-worth
  • Focus