The impact of social networking sites on students’ social wellbeing and academic performance

  • Published: 15 January 2019
  • Volume 24 , pages 2081–2094, ( 2019 )

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  • Sarminah Samad 1 ,
  • Mehrbakhsh Nilashi 2 &
  • Othman Ibrahim 3  

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Social networking sites have played an important role in enhancing students’ social presence. As an educational tool for online courses, they have significantly contributed in promoting students’ motivation for learning. The aim of this research is to investigate the impact of social networking sites on students’ academic performance. We conduct a comprehensive review on the usage of social networking sites in academic environments to identify the influential factors and propose a new model based on several research hypotheses. To evaluate the hypotheses and verify the proposed model, a survey is conducted on the female students from a major research university in Malaysia. We use Decision Making Trial and Evaluation Laboratory to perform the data analysis. In relation to the statistical technique, this technique can find the casual relationships among the factors, their effect size and their importance levels. The results of our survey revealed that there is positive relationship between social presence, students’ social wellbeing and their academic performance.

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Mehrbakhsh Nilashi

Azman Hashim International Business School, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), 81310, Skudai, Johor, Malaysia

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Samad, S., Nilashi, M. & Ibrahim, O. The impact of social networking sites on students’ social wellbeing and academic performance. Educ Inf Technol 24 , 2081–2094 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-019-09867-6

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The utilization of social networking sites, their perceived benefits and their potential for improving the study habits of nursing students in five countries

  • Glenn Ford D. Valdez   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-2799-8216 1 ,
  • Arcalyd Rose R. Cayaban 2 ,
  • Sadeq Al-Fayyadh 3 ,
  • Mehmet Korkmaz 4 ,
  • Samira Obeid 5 ,
  • Cheryl Lyn A. Sanchez 6 ,
  • Muna B. Ajzoon 7 ,
  • Howieda Fouly 8 &
  • Jonas P. Cruz 9  

BMC Nursing volume  19 , Article number:  52 ( 2020 ) Cite this article

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The abundance of easy and accessible information and the rapid development of social networking sites (SNSs) have proven that the world is small and within reach. The great implication of this interconnectivity is attributable to the change in the learning and sharing environment, which for the most part is something that classrooms are lacking. Considering the potential implications of SNSs in nursing education reveals the benefits of SNSs in allowing students to communicate and interact with a wider audience and beyond the classroom. The aim of this study is to identify the extent of SNS utilization, the perceived benefits of SNSs and the potential of SNSs for improving the study habits of nursing students in five countries (Israel, Iraq, Oman, the Philippines and Turkey).

This study is a quantitative cross-sectional study that determined the relationship between the utilization of SNSs, the perceived benefits of SNSs, and the potential of SNSs for improving the study habits of nursing students in the five participating countries (Israel, Iraq, Oman, the Philippines, and Turkey). This paper is based on carefully analysing the survey responses of a sample of 1137 students from an online hosting site. The online instrument focuses on the extent of the utilization and benefits of SNSs according to their accessibility, usability, efficiency and reliability.

Based on the Pearson correlation coefficient (r) our findings, reveal a significant positive correlation between the extent of a possible improvement in study habits and the extent of SNS utilization in terms of the four domains, namely, accessibility (r = 0.246), usability (r = 0.377), reliability (r = 0.287) and efficiency (r = 0.387).

It can be concluded that there is a significant positive correlation between students’ study habits and the extent of SNS utilization, meaning that the more students devote themselves to their study habits, the higher the level of SNS utilization. The use of SNSs by nursing students has positive and negative implications, and there is greater potential for further improving approaches to nursing education through the adaptation of curricula based on the proper utilization of SNSs.

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In today’s generation, the rapid and ever-changing advances in technology and interconnectivity through networking has dramatically influenced the culture of learning and knowledge acquisition. The abundance of easy and accessible information and the rapid development of social networking sites (SNSs) have proven that the world is small and within reach. The great implication of this interconnectivity is attributable to the change in the learning and sharing environment, which for the most the part is something that classrooms are lacking. Additionally, social media in nursing education have shown great potential for influencing students’ study habits [ 1 ]. Online SNSs (e.g., Facebook, Myspace, Flicker, Twitter, and YouTube) have emerged as the fastest means of exchanging personal and professional information among college students [ 2 ]. SNS utilization is defined as the utilization of information networks as a form of communication widely used for several purposes. SNSs are used to interact with users and to generate content, and in recent years, they have seen expansion with regard to creating and maintaining relationships between people [ 3 ]. The issues related to SNSs are unlimited, but there is growing research on the use of social media as learning tools in higher education [ 4 ]. SNSs function like an online community of web users, depending on the website, and many of online SNSs are based on a shared interest. Once accessed, users may begin to socialize. This socialization may include reading the profile pages of other members and possibly even contacting them. The profiles of SNS users vary according to users’ discretion with regard to privacy and their visibility settings [ 5 ]. In this age of technological acuity, the world has become too small, and communication has become more efficient than ever. SNSs have played a vital role in forging connections, and Facebook is the most popular SNS in use today. Facebook has become one of the most regularly visited websites among college students, and because of its rise in popularity, the subject of SNSs among students and faculty has been a topic of concern. SNSs are seen as an alternative to social interaction, access to information and face-to-face interaction. SNSs, such as Facebook, seem to provide a ready space where the role conflicts that students and faculty often experience in their relationship with university work, staff, academic conventions, and expectations can be worked out in a backstage area. SNSs, such as Twitter, are utilized as a tool for posting explanations in study groups, for academic advising, and for student education [ 5 ]. Many researchers have discussed the broad benefits of SNSs in higher education [ 6 ]. Nursing students have identified three proposed reasons for the use of social media to learn through social networking and to socialize with other students, thus establishing professional social networking [ 7 ]. First, SNSs also allow communication with students through instant messages. Second, they enable rapid responses to questions asked by students, and they facilitate virtual discussions that make students part of a community. Third, SNSs also allow active, interactive and reflective learning [ 8 ]. A study on the use of Facebook for online discussions among distance learners showed that there was more frequent interaction via Facebook compared to the use of a forum, which indicates that Facebook has the potential to be used in online academic discussions [ 9 ]. The use of Twitter allowed connections between students, access to external resources, improved learning, and support to access videos, providing opportunities for reflection, flexibility, collaboration, and feedback [ 10 ]. The use of a social networking tool called Ning verifies the feasibility and effectiveness of integrating interprofessional education, which most students showed interest in learning more about, and optimizing patient care [ 11 ]. The use of social networking platforms is a less expensive way to provide interpersonal education, and it creates the possibility of implementing interprofessional education on a large scale and in the long term [ 11 ]. A study identified that most students agree that the use of SNSs, such as Ning, contributed to adding knowledge and increasing their understanding of content [ 12 ]. A study considering the potential implications of SNS for nursing education revealed the benefits of SNSs in allowing students to communicate and interact with a wider audience and beyond the classroom [ 13 ]. One example is the creation of a research group called the mentor and researcher group (MARG), which creates mentors who use Facebook as a communication platform to promote events and serve as a network to discuss issues and concerns among nursing students [ 14 ]. Students realize that Facebook groups can be an innovative method of studying. Facebook has also been described as being useful in promoting learning among peers and teachers [ 15 ]. SNSs are widely used among college students and are beneficial to them because they have the ability to gather students from all over the world to mingle in one virtual world [ 16 ]. This also means that campuses can now begin to blend the subject areas of classes as well as different campuses. A similar study agreed that students spend, on average, 1–2 h a day on SNSs for educational purposes [ 17 ]. In this respect, a study on social networks and learning stated that students listed learning as a top priority when utilizing SNSs [ 18 ]. In contrast, other studies say that Facebook leads to lower grades [ 17 ]. Students have reported concerns that include time management issues, lack of information and communication technology (ICT) skills and limited technical infrastructure in some higher education institutions [ 6 ]. The use of social media has greatly shown an unlimited influence on a student’s general lifestyle. This research was empirically designed to identify the degree of SNS utilization by nursing students, the perceived benefits of SNSs and their potential for improving the study habits of students. This study also seeks to determine the relationship between the utilization of SNSs, their perceived benefits, and their potential for improving the study habits of nursing students in five countries. That is, this study was conducted in five countries: Israel, Iraq, Oman, the Philippines and Turkey. Geographically and demographically, Israel, Iran, Oman and Turkey are homogenous in terms of their settings and cultural background. On the other hand, although it is also part of Asia, the Philippines is more geographically and demographically different in many ways. According to the Internet World Statistics in 2019, the Philippines, Iran and Turkey were among the top 20 counties in the world with regard to the number of Internet users; on the other hand, in Israel and Oman, 3.8 and 2.2% of the population, respectively, are Internet users [ 19 ]. There is a scarcity of research that specifically addresses nursing education and the use of SNSs. Therefore, this study generally aims to shed light on the potential of SNSs for improving the study habits of nursing students in these five countries.

Research questions and hypotheses

This research seeks to answer the following questions: What is the extent to which SNSs are utilized as a means of communication in terms of educational purposes? What social media network is the most helpful for nursing students? What are the perceived benefits of SNSs in terms of accessibility, usability, efficiency and reliability? Is there a significant relationship between the extent of utilization and the perceived benefits of SNSs among nursing students? Does SNS utilization have the potential to improve the study habits of nursing students?

H01: There is no significant relationship between the extent of SNS utilization and the benefits of SNS among nursing students.

HO 2: Using SNSs has no potential to improve the study habits of students.

Study design

This study adopts a quantitative cross-sectional design to determine the relationship between the utilization and perceived benefits of SNSs and their potential for improving the study habits of nursing students in the five participating countries.

Research settings

This study was conducted in five countries. Country selection and participation involved a voluntary system. This study focused on the utilization and perceived benefits of SNSs and their potential for improving the study habits of regular nursing students in the selected colleges and universities of the participating countries. The study participants consisted of first-year to fifth-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSC) students from the five participating countries.

Sample and sampling techniques

The sample of respondents of this study constituted a 1200-student cohort selected from all the universities that met the set of inclusion criteria, and based on the online forms returned, 1400 links were forwarded. This purposive sampling technique was used considering the criteria for the population, and a post hoc sample was computed via proportion analysis using a confidence interval of 0.65 and a confidence level of 0.95 for a sample of 1137 students. The inclusion criteria were as follows : a. being a BSC student; b. being a resident of one of the five participating countries; and c. having access to online SNSs or similar platforms. The exclusion criteria were as follows : a. residing in a country not included in the study; and b. being students of the investigators/collaborators.

Ethical considerations

This study sought approval from Assiut University in Egypt ( IRB 08/08/2017 number 38 ) and ethical clearance in the respective participating countries. This study is a non-experimental study and did not utilize human subjects. It was performed by seeking permission and approval from the respective focal countries collaborating in this research. The three-part survey tool was administered through the use of an online survey, with a written consent section provided to proceed and to seek the respondents’ willingness to participate in the study. Returning the electronically tallied survey form indicated a willingness to participate. The identities of the participants and their personal information were left undisclosed. Blind tallying was used to secure privacy, and codes were used to maintain the anonymity of the participants. All respondents were informed that they could voluntarily withdraw from the study.

Data gathering procedure

The main communication letter with the approval of the IRB was sought from the preidentified colleges and universities in the five participating countries mentioned above. Once approval from the IRBs in each research setting was obtained, the corresponding co-researchers were in charge of the selection of the study participants based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Data collection took place between spring 2017 and fall 2018. Through a hosting site, a web-based online tool was forwarded as a link to the study participants for easy access.

Research instrument

The research instrument was subjected to both internal validity and reliability testing. Face validity and content validity were assessed and screened by two experts in the field of nursing research. A post hoc reliability test was performed, and the results of Cronbach’s α yielded a reliability of 0.92 and a margin of error of 0.8. A three-part questionnaire was utilized. Part 1 of the questionnaire sought to determine the demographic profile of the participants in terms of age, gender, the year level, the type of social media site used, and the country of residence. Part 2 of the questionnaire concerned the extent to which SNSs are utilized as a means of communication for educational purposes among nursing students. Finally, part 3 of the questionnaire addressed the perceived benefits of SNSs for nursing students. Both parts 2 and 3 used a four-point Likert scale. When responding to Likert-based questionnaire items, the respondents specified their level of agreement with a statement. They were asked to check the number that best corresponded to their answer regarding the extent of utilization and the perceived benefits of SNSs among nursing students. The highest score was 4, and the lowest score was 1.

Data analysis

The results of this study were analysed and interpreted using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (IBM SPSS 24.0). The weighted mean ( Table  1 and Table  2 ) was used to determine the average extent of SNS utilization among nursing students. It was also used to determine the perceived benefits of SNSs among nursing students in terms of the accessibility, usability, efficiency, and reliability of SNSs. After gathering all the completed questionnaires, the mean was computed and gauged according to the following range and qualitative sinterpretations:

Repeated-measures ANOVA was also utilized to identify any significant differences between the two different mean domains, and a post hoc test was performed using Bonferroni’s α [ 20 ]. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to test two or more independent samples that were drawn from the same population where the level of measurement was ordinal [ 21 ]. Pearson’s r is both descriptive and inferential [ 20 ], and it was used to determine the magnitude and direction of a significant relationship between the extent of utilization and the perceived benefits of SNSs among nursing students and to determine the relationship between students’ demographic profile, SNS utilization and the perceived benefits of SNSs and the potential of SNSs to improve the participants’ study habits. The statistical power used for correlations is 1.

The study recruited 1200 participants, based on which a post hoc sample using proportion analysis yielded 1137 students who were taken as the actual sample for this study. The profile distribution of nursing students grouped by country showed that the students from Israel were mostly 26–28 years old, female and first-year students. The nursing students from Iraq were mostly 20–22 years old, female and second-year students. In Oman, most of the nursing students were also 20–22 years old and female, and they were not classified as being first- to fifth-year students. They were irregular students who could be placed in between year levels depending on their nursing major courses, and they could be clustered in a specific year. In the Philippines and Turkey, most of the students were 20–22 years old, female and third-year students. Overall, the majority of the students were 20–22 years old, female and third-year students ( Table  3 ) .

The percentage distribution of the extent to which SNSs were utilized as a means of communication for educational purposes among nursing students in the five countries showed that the majority of nursing students slightly utilized SNSs in terms of their accessibility (61.3%) and moderately utilized them in terms of usability (60.2%). The distribution also showed that most of them moderately utilized SNSs in terms of their efficiency (45.2%) and reliability (46.8%) ( Table  4 ). Figures  1 , 2 , 3 and 4 show the extent of SNS utilization among nursing students grouped according to age, gender, the year level and country. The results also revealed that nursing students had varied responses in terms of their perception of the extent to which SNSs were utilized as a means of communication. At least 2.1% and at most 6.2% of nursing students did not utilize SNSs, and 27.8 to 61.3% of nursing students slightly utilized SNSs. It was also observed that more than one-fourth (30.6%) to 60.2% of the students moderately utilized SNSs. At most 16.8% of students perceived SNSs as being highly utilized. Moreover, on average, nursing students slightly utilized SNSs in terms of accessibility (2.34) and moderately utilized them in terms of usability (2.81), efficiency (2.74) and reliability (2.66). Similarly, nursing students slightly utilized SNSs in terms of accessibility. Regarding the extent of accessibility, the results indicated that nursing students sometimes used an Internet café (2.33), their campus (1.94), malls (2.42), restaurants (2.12), game consoles (2.23), an iPad (1.76) or USB broadband (2.20). They often accessed SNSs in their own houses (2.88) and via mobile phones (2.52) and portable laptops (3.01). In terms of usability, nursing students moderately utilized SNSs. This result means that they often utilized SNSs to receive updates on school activities (3.10), to gain more knowledge about their current lessons (2.97), to share their thoughts and opinions about discussions (2.79) and to carry out advanced studies (2.74). Sometimes, they utilized SNSs for communication purposes related to their studies (2.40). In terms of reliability, the results revealed that they often relied on SNSs to familiarize themselves with their future lessons (2.71), to receive updates on school activities (2.69), to improve their knowledge and skills (2.79), to participate in group research (2.72) and to carry out assignments and projects (2.75). This result means that they moderately utilized SNSs. In terms of efficiency, nursing students often enhanced their abilities to provide nursing care through SNSs (2.82). They often considered that the sources obtained from SNSs were accurate (2.71) and that they learned proper techniques related to nursing skills by using SNSs (2.56) ( Table  5 ). Nursing students were also recognized by their clinical instructors because of the expertise obtained from SNSs (2.39). This result meant that they moderately utilized SNSs.

figure 1

Line Chart of the Extent of Utilization of the Nursing Students Across All Domains when grouped by Age

figure 2

Line Chart of the Extent of Utilization of the Nursing Students Across All Domains when grouped by Gender

figure 3

Line Chart of the Extent of Utilization of the Nursing Students Across All Domains when grouped by Year

figure 4

Line Chart of the Extent of Utilization of the Nursing Students Across All Domains when grouped by Country

Regarding the question of what SNS nursing students found to be the most helpful, slightly more than one-fourth of nursing students considered Facebook (25.3%), WhatsApp (26%), and Google (25.8%) to be the most helpful social media networks. The results also showed that some students considered Instagram, Snapchat, e-learning, YouTube, Twitter, and others to be the most helpful. Three of the students (0.3%) claimed that they used no social media networks ( Table  6 ). In terms of usability, reliability, accessibility, and efficiency, the results showed that nursing students perceived SNSs as slightly beneficial in terms of accessibility (2.34). They also revealed that SNSs were moderately beneficial in terms of usability, reliability, and efficiency.

With regard to study habits, nursing students often have different study habits in terms of their time management, study focus, and personal perceptions of learning, as well as receiving good grades and carrying out assignments, in addition to the importance of earning exceptional grades. In terms of time management, students allotted enough time (2.85) for studying (2.74), scheduled a fixed time (2.94), and set the best time so that they could study (2.84), reviewing either every day (2.71) or every week (2.51). They also often considered how to focus entirely on studies (2.87) or how to become interested in their studies (2.93), for example, by seeking a quiet place (3.12) or, sometimes, by studying with music or while watching TV (2.41). Moreover, they often considered studying even without exams (2.70) or completing difficult assignments (2.70). They normally enjoyed learning (2.81), and they were always confident that they could receive good grades (3.10). They also frequently attached importance to earning exceptional grades (3), and they ensured that they knew which homework assignments to carry out (3.10) ( Table  7 ) . The results of the extent of SNS utilization in terms of accessibility, usability, and reliability suggested that the younger the age group of the nursing students, the lower their extent of utilization, except for the 23–25 age group. However, the results of the extent of SNS utilization in terms of efficiency contradicted this possible correlation; it suggested that the younger the age of the students was, the lower the extent of SNS utilization in this area, except for the 23–25 age group. The results further showed that there was a significant difference in the extent of SNS utilization in terms of usability (χ2(4) = 16.038, p  = 0.003) and efficiency (χ2(4) = 12.360, p  = 0.015). There was also a significant result in terms of reliability (χ2(4) = 11.012, p  = 0.026). However, pairwise comparison disconfirmed the result of a significant difference. The extent of SNS utilization in all areas was consistently higher in female nursing students, except for accessibility. This suggested a possible relationship where female students tended to have a higher extent of SNS utilization but not in terms of accessibility. The Mann-Whitney U test was performed, revealing that there was a significant difference in the extent of SNS utilization only in terms of accessibility. This result indicated that the extent of nursing students’ SNS utilization in terms of accessibility was significantly higher in male students than in female students. Since the results indicated a non-significant p -value ( p  > 0.05), this also meant that the extent of nursing students’ SNS utilization in terms of usability ( p  = 0.134), reliability ( p  = 0.264) and efficiency ( p  = 0.586) was the same regardless of gender. Regarding accessibility, fifth-year nursing students had the highest SNS utilization in terms of accessibility (Mn rank = 538.86), reliability (Mn rank = 603.22), and efficiency (Mn rank = 631.38). Fourth-year nursing students consistently had the lowest extent of SNS utilization in terms of usability (Mn rank = 471.68), reliability (Mn rank = 448.22), and efficiency (Mn rank = 419.48) but not accessibility (Mn rank = 486.23). It was also observed that there was a fluctuating pattern as the students’ year level increased, which was consistent with the results presented.

From the initial extent of SNS utilization of first-year nursing students, the extent of SNS utilization of second-year students was lower compared to that of first-year students. The extent of SNS utilization was higher in third-year students than in fourth-year students. Additionally, the extent of SNS utilization among fourth-year students was lower than that among fifth-year students. Inferential testing was performed through the Kruskal-Wallis test. The results of the test revealed that there were significant differences in the extent of SNS utilization in terms of accessibility when grouped by the year level (χ2(4) = 19.897, p  = 0.001), reliability (χ2(4) = 21.345, p  < 0.01), and efficiency (χ2(4) = 33.682, p  < 0.01). However, no significant difference in the extent of SNS utilization in terms of usability was found (χ2(4) = 1.187, p  = 0.880). A significant difference was found between the extent of utilization and the perceived benefits of SNSs in terms of accessibility (χ2(4) = 126.981, p  < 0.01), usability (χ2(4) = 40.096, p  < 0.01), reliability (χ2(4) = 51.915, p  < 0.01), and efficiency (χ2(4) = 147.964, p  < 0.01) ( Table  8 ) . It was observed that Oman and the Philippines had the highest mean ranks among all five countries, except for SNS utilization in terms of usability (where Israel obtained the highest mean rank). This result indicated that nursing students in Oman had the highest SNS utilization in terms of accessibility and reliability. The Philippines had the highest SNS utilization in terms of reliability but with a slight difference compared with Oman. Moreover, Turkey obtained the lowest mean rank in all areas, except in terms of accessibility. This result indicated that Turkey had the lowest SNS utilization in terms of usability, reliability, and efficiency. The extent of SNS utilization by nursing students was the highest in terms of usability (2.81), followed by reliability (2.74), efficiency (2.65) and accessibility (2.34) ( Table  9 ) .

Furthermore, the results of repeated-measures ANOVA revealed that there was a significant difference among the domains of SNS utilization. Hence, in an additional test performed using Bonferroni’s post hoc test, accessibility was significantly lower than usability, reliability or efficiency. However, usability was significantly higher than reliability and efficiency, and reliability was significantly higher than efficiency ( Table  10 ) . Pearson’s r revealed a significant positive correlation between the extent of a possible improvement in study habits and the extent of SNS utilization in terms of the four domains, namely, accessibility (r = 0.246), usability (r = 0.377), reliability (r = 0.287) and efficiency (r = 0.387). This result meant that there was a direct relationship between the two variables and further meant that the more the nursing students studied, the higher the extent of their SNS utilization in terms of accessibility, usability, reliability, and efficiency ( Table  11 ) .

The findings of this study identified SNSs and the relationship between their utilization, their perceived benefits and their potential for improving the study habits of nursing students in five different countries. Based on the analysis of the findings of this study, most student respondents were 20–22 years old, female, and in their third year. Our findings are similar to those of a study conducted in Pakistan, where the majority of the nursing respondents were female and within the 21–25 age group [ 22 ]. A relevant finding explained how social media are an important aspect of today’s adolescents, offering efficiency if properly utilized [ 23 ]. A similar study on social networking identified that SNS addiction was higher in male than in female students [ 24 ].

This study revealed that the majority of the nursing students across the five countries were more engaged in websites and SNSs, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Google. A study conducted in 2009 in Brazil and Singapore showed the wide utilization of Facebook on a regular basis [ 25 ]. These findings were also obtained in earlier studies where Myspace and Facebook were among the most popular sites among students, even though they were not created for educational purposes [ 26 ]. In the results of this study, it was also evident that the use of SNSs was important for establishing communication for educational purposes, and 61.3% of the respondents utilized SNSs for the purpose of relaying information relevant to their studies.

A study has suggested that SNSs are platforms that can be used to improve educational impacts by adapting modifications in the instructional curricula of medical schools [ 2 ]. The aspect of accessibility is an important factor in today’s generation of Internet-savvy students, and the study findings suggest the great importance of accessibility. It was found that students were able to gain access to their social networking profiles through Internet cafés, malls, restaurants and their campus. A study mentioned that access to information was just a click away and that the accessibility of the information on the Internet and SNSs was widely used, which was inherently identified as the main reason why most students were no longer visiting libraries [ 27 ]. Most students prefer SNSs because of their quick and easy access and, in particular, for the purpose of education and learning.

The usability of SNSs in terms of educational purposes is a topic that needs contextualization, as the study findings showed that nursing students in the five countries use SNSs for educational gains by taking advantage of the Internet to acquire knowledge on current lessons, by receiving updates on ongoing school activities, and by carrying out advanced studies. Many educational institutions are still dependent on a traditional learning system, which does not use the full capacity of SNSs as a tool for teaching and learning [ 28 ]. The results of this study contradict those of a study conducted in Oman, where the findings showed that SNSs were mainly used for entertainment purposes and were less used for educational purposes [ 29 ]. SNSs can present various media, such as photos, videos, interactive interfaces and games, which make them highly engaging among students. Moreover, nursing students engage in more interactive skill-based learning sessions. In terms of reliability, nursing students from the five participating countries identified that SNSs were moderately utilized for the purpose of keeping track of school activities and improving knowledge and skills. Regarding efficiency, students scored high in providing correct data and information, enhanced their abilities to provide nursing care, and learned how to perform proper techniques relevant to their nursing skills. It was also noted that some clinical instructors recognized the expertise of students drawn from SNSs, which was supported by a study intervention using SNSs that taught nursing students about ethical and moral behaviours through humanized mannequins in social networks, such as Facebook [ 30 ].

Advanced teaching strategies and the availability of updated and timely learning materials can be advantageous as learning platforms for nursing students. Overall, the nursing students in all five countries were aligned in that they moderately utilized SNSs. In terms of benefits, the students from the five countries said that SNSs were highly beneficial. According to a study, 54.92% of dental students at a university in India suggested that the usage of SNSs was beneficial for their studies and learning needs [ 31 ]. This result is supported by an online survey on social networking as a learning tool that found that the majority of students perceived SNSs as an innovative method of study support that guided learning and enhanced efficacy [ 17 ]. However, the results of this study contradict study results on the effects of online social networking on student performance that suggest that the time that medical students spend on SNSs could negatively influence their academic achievement [ 32 ]. The negative and positive aspects of SNS utilization are a contentious issue that has yet to be resolved because SNSs can be addictive and their improper usage may lead to less positive outcomes. Studying is a skill, and developing study habits is vital for the academic performance of students [ 33 ]. Some studies strongly advocate the use of SNSs as a means of becoming academically successful. For example, one study mentioned that Facebook and SNSs were considered the greatest distractions among college students, subsequently affecting their study habits and grades [ 34 ]. Based on the perspectives of nursing students with regard to their study habits, the study participants from the five countries unanimously identified time management as essential, and a fixed schedule was important when utilizing social networking platforms. This was evidently described by the results of a study showing that SNSs could enhance performance in a simple task environment but made no difference in a complex performance environment [ 35 ]. SNS utilization was also found to be consistently high among female nursing students. It is a known fact that nursing is female dominated [ 36 ]; there are confirmed gender differences that exist with regard to the technologies adopted, and they occur between genders from the age of 16 to 35 [ 37 ]. These findings are firmly contradicted by a study conducted in China showing that Chinese females were clearly less engaged with technology than Chinese males [ 38 ]. On the other hand, women who were found to have higher introversion and extraversion traits turn to the Internet for social services, such as online chats and discussion groups [ 39 ].

In a geographical and cultural context, it can be seen that in countries such as Iran, Israel, Oman and Turkey, the female gender is given less opportunity for public exposure, which results in a higher use of SNSs, which are viewed as a viable medium to socialize and be engaged with others instead of being physically present. A study observed that cultural considerations influenced the interaction platform of choice and the use of SNSs [ 40 ]. Oman and the Philippines were identified as having the highest SNS utilization. In a study of health science students conducted by Sultan Qaboos University, the findings showed that YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter were the most commonly used social media platforms. The findings generally suggest that usage and addiction are similar worldwide [ 41 ]. On the other hand, in the Philippines, the US-based Pew Research Center said that 88% of Filipinos felt that increasing Internet usage was good for education, given that the Philippines is often dubbed the “social media capital” of the world [ 42 ]. In contrast, with regard to SNS utilization, Turkey ranks lowest according to the findings of Kirschner and Karpinski in Turkey, whose study among undergraduate students revealed that students who reported academic problems were more likely to use the Internet for social networking (e.g., Facebook) purposes [ 43 ]. The results of the hypothesis testing yielded a positive relationship between study habits and the extent of SNS utilization among nursing students in the five participating countries. The levels of nursing students’ engagement in SNS utilization can be most beneficial and relevant when they uses SNS for purposes of studying. SNSs are deemed necessary in this generation of learners, wherein a significant amount of information is within grasp and readily available. The utilization of SNSs for educational purposes has both positive and negative implications [ 44 , 45 ].

Limitations

Our study has several limitations. Due to the cross-sectional nature of the study, it was not possible to explain the causal relationship with students’ demographic profile, such as their geographic location and culture, which will require a more extensive research design and strategy. In addition, the researchers acknowledge the lack of attention paid to the role of faculty members in facilitating the utilization of SNSs among nursing students in the selected countries.

The paucity of research and policies related to the integration of SNSs as a learning tool requires attention from both researchers and policymakers. The nursing students from the five participating countries were female dominated, and the extent of SNS utilization was higher among females. This study also identified that the nursing students moderately perceived the utilization and benefits of SNSs, taking into account accessibility, usability, efficiency and reliability. The most commonly utilized social media platforms in Israel, Iraq, Oman, the Philippines, and Turkey were WhatsApp and Facebook. Regarding the correlations with utilization, perceived benefits and study habits showed a positive relationship among the three factors. Similarly, the significant positive correlation between the study habits of students and the extent of SNS utilization means that the more students devote themselves to their study habits, the higher the level of SNS utilization.

Recommendations

This study further suggests that similar studies in the future should focus not only on the aspects of access, usability, efficiency and reliability but also on the inclusion of behavioural aspects. Cultural differences can also be taken into consideration. The homogeneity of the sample can also be addressed by tapping more diverse nursing student populations. Four out of five participating countries (Israel, Iraq. Oman and Turkey, with the Philippines being the exception) are homogenous in terms of culture and geographic settings. A mixed-method approach in future studies is also recommended to contextualize the confounding influence of culture and geographic location. Although there are several studies on SNSs and academic performance, very few studies in nursing academia have been conducted that focus on skills or psychomotor development through virtual platforms that can also be used in the teaching-learning process. The influences of SNSs on nursing students and their great potential for enhancing the study habits of students are an area of opportunity in regard to developing curricula that are not restricted to the four corners of the classroom. SNSs are by far the most current and the most relevant platforms that can further add to the learning success and academic achievement of nursing students. Tailored strategies for enhancing student participation, interaction and real-life learning are just a few of the advantages that can be obtained by tapping the positive contributions of SNSs as a teaching-learning tool in nursing education.

Availability of data and materials

All data generated or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Abbreviations

Social networking site

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Institutional review board

Mentor and researcher group

Information and communication technology

Statistical Package for the Social Sciences

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Oman College of Health Sciences, Salalah, Dhofar, Oman

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GFDV, ARC, and SAF – conception of the idea, research design, data collection/field work, data management, analysis, report writing, interpretation of the results, and provision of critical reviewing with intellectual input. GFDV, ARC, SAF, MK, SO, CLS, MBA, HF, and JPC – data collection/field work, data management and provision of critical reviewing with intellectual input. The authors have read and approved the manuscript.

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Valdez, G.F.D., Cayaban, A.R.R., Al-Fayyadh, S. et al. The utilization of social networking sites, their perceived benefits and their potential for improving the study habits of nursing students in five countries. BMC Nurs 19 , 52 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12912-020-00447-5

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Investigating the effect of social networking site use on mental health in an 18–34 year-old general population; a cross-sectional study using the 2016 Scania Public Health Survey

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Social Networking Sites (SNS) are commonly used, especially by young adults. Their impact on mental health is unclear. Moreover, little is known about how social factors, e.g. Perceived Emotional Support (PES), may affect this association. Mental health issues are increasingly burdening the young generation and society as a whole. This study aims to investigate the association between frequency of SNS use and number of SNS contacts with the mental health of a young, Swedish population. Additionally, the potential effect modification of PES will be analysed in regard to these relationships.

This cross-sectional study applied logistic regression analyses to data on 1341 participants (aged 18–34), retrieved from the Scania Public Health Survey (2016). Analyses were stratified by gender and the GHQ-12 scale assessed poor mental health. A 2-way interaction model was used to test for effect modification by PES regarding the association between SNS use and mental health.

Increased risk for poor mental health was found in women only. Using SNS almost hourly vs. less often resulted in an odds ratio (OR) of 1.66 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.16–2.38). The corresponding figures for having ≥600 contacts vs. ≤599 were (1.89; 1.21–2.97). Having low PES and using SNS almost hourly was associated with an OR of 3.12 (CI = 1.69–5.76; synergy index (SI) = 1.25). Low PES and ≥ 600 contacts resulted in an OR of 6.07 (CI = 1.73–21.33), whereby interaction was detected (SI = 2.88).

Women, but not men, with frequent SNS use and a high number of SNS contacts were more likely to have poor mental health, which was exacerbated in women with low PES. Facilitating PES could be an approach for improving mental health among young adults. Future studies on the use of SNS should focus more on gender analyses.

Peer Review reports

The invention and widespread use of Social Networking Sites (SNS) has arisen alongside the New Media Age. Websites such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter were designed primarily for communication purposes, where one can instantly message contacts, share photos, videos, or statements [ 1 ]; but also for entertainment, socialising or sharing news. As the use of SNSs is still a relatively novel phenomenon, the long- and short-term effect on health, especially mental health, is somewhat unknown and largely controversial [ 2 , 3 ]. In Sweden, the number of SNS users has risen steadily. In 2017, 81% of the population aged above 12 were using them, 56% on a daily basis; compared to 53 and 28%, respectively, in 2010. Individuals aged between 12 and 35 most commonly use SNS on a daily basis, women more than men. The most commonly used site in Sweden is Facebook, whereby in 2017, 76% of Internet users aged 16–25 and 74% aged 26–35 used Facebook on a daily basis [ 4 ].

Mental health problems are on the rise worldwide [ 5 ], largely due to an increase in depression [ 5 , 6 ]. Depressive disorders reside in the top three leading causes of Years Living with Disabilities (YLD), globally [ 6 ], with recent estimates predicting around 270 million affected individuals [ 5 ]. Depression correlates with an increased mortality, especially suicide [ 7 ], which is the second most common cause of death among 15–29-year olds [ 5 ]. In Sweden, the level of poor mental health in children and young adults has also risen in recent years, with no apparent aetiology [ 8 ]. The parallel rise in SNS use and poor mental health prevalence among young adults may suggest the former is affecting the latter [ 9 ].

Mental health and frequency of SNS use

It has been postulated that the mechanism linking SNS use and mental health issues may be increased time spent on SNS, thereby interfering with routine obligations and functioning [ 3 ]. One longitudinal study, using the experience sampling method, showed that increased SNS use predicted declines in affective well-being and life satisfaction [ 10 ]. Users may expect to ‘feel better than before’ after using Facebook for about 20 min, according to a three-part study on Facebook’s emotional consequences [ 11 ]. However, in an experimental part of this same study, increased time on Facebook prior to an assessment of emotional status correlated with negative mood [ 11 ]. Essentially, these results may suggest that if users’ subjective well-being is consistently undermined over a sustained period, this could lead to depression [ 2 ].

However, some articles posit that there is no significant effect of frequency of SNS use on depression [ 12 , 13 ]. Others suggest that certain types of activity and their specific SNS use predict depression. For example, passive SNS use (in the case of Facebook), would include browsing the newsfeed and reading contacts’ posts and profiles. During active Facebook use, one is actively posting content, engaging with other people’s content or communicating [ 2 ]. This could be an issue, because in an experimental and experience sampling study, passive Facebook use was shown to decrease affective well-being, whereas active Facebook use did not [ 14 ]. Several studies concern themselves with specific negative feelings associated with SNS use, such as envy [ 14 , 15 ], loneliness [ 16 ] or worry [ 10 ]. For instance, the relationship between passive Facebook use and affective well-being was mediated by envy, so that passive Facebook use increased feelings of envy which in turn decreased well-being [ 14 ]. Similarly, Tandoc et al. (2015) [ 15 ] found that depression occurred when envy was triggered during passive Facebook use. If envy did not occur, use of Facebook correlated positively with lower levels of depression [ 15 ].

The majority of studies have investigated the use of Facebook [ 2 ], though the use of Instagram also seems relevant. In Sweden, Instagram is used by 52% of the population, mostly by younger individuals [ 4 ]. Frequency of Instagram use was positively correlated with depressive symptoms, anxiety and self-esteem issues in a cohort study of 129 women between 18 and 35 years of age. These associations were partially mediated by social comparison [ 17 ]. Similarly, in another study of a mixed gender population, more frequent use of Instagram was significantly positively associated with depression [ 18 ].

Mental health and the number of SNS contacts

The number of SNS contacts is a frequently studied factor that may influence the relationship between SNS use and mental well-being [ 2 , 3 ]. Considering the results of the studies from section Mental health and frequency of SNS use , these may suggest that more SNS contacts exposes the individual to more content that could be detrimental to their mental well-being, for example due to a tendency to compare themselves or ruminate. In the Instagram study, the number of accounts participants were following as well as the participants’ number of followers correlated positively with depressive symptoms [ 17 ]. A further Instagram inquiry also found a positive association between Instagram use and symptoms of depression when following disproportionately more strangers than real life acquaintances. When following more acquaintances than strangers, increased Instagram use correlated with decreased depression [ 18 ]. This study is interesting in that it suggests there is a point at which following too many strangers can be detrimental to one’s well-being. Moreover, having a high number of Facebook friends predicted worsened life satisfaction for those who used Facebook for making new connections as opposed to strengthening current friendships [ 19 ]. In contrast, a study with a Finnish population, of whom most were students, concluded that the number of Facebook friends had no association with happiness nor life satisfaction, as this was confounded by personality traits [ 20 ]. It seems reasonable to hypothesise that having increasingly more SNS friends increases the likelihood of a larger proportion of these being distant acquaintances, superficial types of relationships or even total strangers, as was revealed in a study of college students’ Facebook friendship networks [ 21 ]. This might increase the exposure of other people’s SNS profiles and posts with whom and which one is less familiar with, in turn increasing the chances of using SNS in a less active and more passive way. Alternatively, a higher number of online contacts may, via the same logic, potentially increase negative social comparison, fuelling feelings of envy and thereby contributing to depressive mood [ 18 , 22 ].

  • Perceived emotional support

Perceived emotional support (PES) is defined as subjectively perceived support, which provides empathy or advice during times of trouble from important others, such as family, friends and partners, which differs from received support (the support you actually receive) [ 23 ]. Having low PES has been associated with increased depression and anxiety [ 24 ], poor general health, quality of life and other mental health outcomes [ 25 ].

Previously, interest in PES derived online from the use of SNS in association with mental well-being has been far greater, given SNS are social portals and so a potential source of PES [ 2 ]. However, it seems no study so far has investigated the role of “offline PES” in the relationship between SNS use and mental health. Understanding people’s environmental social factors such as their level of PES, could yield a better understanding of the associations between SNS use and mental health. In addition, as the above account of studies has shown, it is unlikely to be social media use alone that impacts mental health, but rather a combination with other factors, such as personality and social support structures.

In summary, research into the impact of frequency of SNS use and network size on mental health has provided mixed findings [ 2 ]. The immense interest into this topic has fuelled the production of a large research literature. Yet, despite this, results are conflicting and largely inconclusive [ 2 , 3 ]. SNS are also constantly evolving; new networks join, while others lose in popularity [ 26 ], all while people’s networks tend to expand [ 21 ].

The aim of this study was to examine the association of SNS use, in itself, and in relation to “offline PES ”, with mental health of young adults aged 18–34 in Sweden. More specifically, the questions are:

a) Does an association exist between frequency of SNS use or number of SNS contacts with mental health of young adults in Sweden?

b) Are young adults living in Sweden who have a high level of PES protected from the potentially detrimental effects of frequent SNS use or having a large number of SNS contacts ?

Design, participants and setting

The 2016 Scania Public Health Survey comprised individuals between 18 and 96 years of age. However, as most previous studies concerned younger populations, we decided to restrict this study to “young adults” (i.e. individuals between 18 and 34 years of age). The main reason for this was that the prevalence of high SNS use has been shown to be considerably lower among older individuals [ 4 ], which would invite a problem of statistical power. Thus, our sample comprised 1341 individuals (477 males and 864 females) (Table  1 ). A postal questionnaire has been sent out regularly in about 5-year intervals, collecting data on health, employment, environment, and more, from randomly chosen individuals 18–80 years of age residing in the county of Scania, southern Sweden [ 27 ]. In 1999, a cohort of the 13,589 individuals who responded to the survey was created, with young individuals being added to the cohort in 2010 and 2016. In the most recent survey in 2016, items tapping Internet behaviour were added. The individuals used in this study were between 5 and 21 years old when Facebook was made available to anyone with an e-mail address (accessibility beyond solely universities), provided they were aged 13 or above [ 28 ].

Measures and variables

Mental health was assessed using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). The GHQ-12 aims to detect psychiatric morbidity [ 29 ] and is intended for screening non-specific psychiatric illnesses of a non-severe nature [ 30 ]. Though it is aimed at detecting minor mental distress and disorders in general, the test tends to be mostly indicative of depressive symptoms [ 31 ]. Each item has four responses, generally reading “better than usual”, “the same as usual”, “worse than usual” and “much worse than usual”. At least 8/12 questions had to be answered to be counted as a valid GHQ assessment. The Standard/GHQ scoring method (0–0–1–1) was utilised (range 0–12), as recommended by the creators of the instrument, with being a “GHQ-case” defined as a score of 2 or higher [ 32 , 33 ]. The GHQ-12 scale has been found to be excellent for distinguishing depressive participants from healthy controls of a Swedish adult general population when using the GHQ scoring method, with sensitivity and specificity scores of 85.5 and 83.2, respectively [ 34 ].

Frequency of SNS use was measured using a single-item categorical scale to assess the extent of activity on SNS, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Participants indicated their frequency of use during the last 12 months from the categories, “not at all”, “maximum a couple times per month”, “a few times per week”, “at least once per day”, “several times each day” and “almost every hour”. This variable was, based on its distribution, dichotomised to “almost every hour” and “less than almost every hour”.

Number of SNS contacts was measured using a single-item continuous scale, in which participants entered “Approximately how many friends or contacts they have in social media” in 3 available boxes, therefore answers range from 0 to 999 contacts. This item was also dichotomised based on its distribution to ≤599 or ≥ 600 contacts.

Perceived emotional support was assessed using a single item phrased “Do you feel that you have anyone or some people that can give you real personal support to manage life’s stresses and problems?”. Answers included “Yes, for sure”, “Yes, probably”, “Not quite sure” and “No”, which were dichotomised to High and Low, whereby Low included the latter three answers. The question encompasses social support received from any person, be it family, friends or significant others [ 24 ].

Several background variables were considered to potentially influence the true result. Age was kept as a continuous variable in analyses but was dichotomized by the median to groups aged 18–26 and 27–34 in Tables  1 and S1 (Supplementary file  1 ). Gender was defined as “male” or “female”. Relationship status included “Married to or cohabiting with partner”, “Single” and “Other type of partnership”, whereby the latter may be a long-distance partnership, for example. This variable was dichotomised to “Married to or cohabiting with partner” and “Single or Other type of partnership”. Current main occupation included categories “Working”, “Student” and “Other”, whereby “Student and Other” was combined to one category. Working persons included all that worked either full time or part-time (due to being partially on sick leave, unemployed or retired). Students included all persons studying, whether they were also employed or not. The “other” category included “Labour market action”, e.g. “trainee”, “completely unemployed”, “home-maker without economic reimbursement”, “retired full-time”, “long-term sick leave” and “parental leave”.

Statistical methods and data analysis

The relationships between background factors and mental health are presented as numbers, frequencies and odds ratios. Further, logistic regression analyses were performed, using the IBM SPSS programme version 25. An alpha level of ≤5% was required for statistical significance. For the two multivariate models, several background variables were logically considered to be potential confounders, such as gender, age, educational level, current main occupation, relationship status, born in Sweden and PES [ 35 ]. If statistically significant, the variables were added in a stepwise manner to the regression models (Tables S2 and S3, see Supplementary files  2 and 3 , respectively) [ 36 ]. Age as a continuous variable was not a significant predictor to the outcome, although when dichotomised and categorised in the female regression analysis, some significantly increased odds was found for the 18–26 age group (Table S1, Supplementary file  1 ). However, the primary reason for keeping age in the model was for comparability purposes. The gender variable was further analysed by splitting the file, whereby it became clear that the association between exposure and outcome was only evident in females. All subsequent analyses were therefore conducted separately for gender. The variables main occupation, relationship status and PES were all statistically significantly associated with mental health, and they were thus included in the logistic regression models.

Possible effect modification by PES on the association between the two main exposures and mental health was analysed using Rothmans method for creating interaction terms [ 37 ], for the females only. Synergy index was calculated using the following equation [ 37 ]:

Descriptive statistics

Table  1 shows the sociodemographic data for the population investigated. More females ( n  = 864 (64.4%)) partook in the survey than males ( n  = 477 (35.6%)). Half the female population considered themselves to have poor mental health (49.7%) compared to males with a comparatively lower prevalence (37.1%). Around half the population use SNS several times every day (46.7 and 52.4% for men and women, respectively). The proportion of females that reported that they did not use SNS at all, was considerably lower (only 4.1%) compared to males (10.3%). The number of SNS contacts distribution is very much equal across genders, but most participants have under 300 friends. Having low PES is generally less common, though slightly more prevalent among men (31.2% for men vs. 26.0% for women).

Research question a) SNS exposures and mental health

Cross-tabulations and regression analyses in Table S1 (see Supplementary file  1 ) showed more detailed discrepancies between genders, in that poor mental health prevalence in the “Almost every hour” category increased for women (62.6%) and remained relatively stable for men (38.6%) compared to the reference group. The same prevalence pattern was seen in the number of SNS contacts between genders. Women who reported using SNS almost every hour had an odds ratio (OR) of 1.94 (CI = 1.38–2.73) concerning GHQ case status compared to those that reported using SNS less than almost every hour. Similarly, women with ≥600 SNS contacts had an OR of 1.79 (CI = 1.17–2.74) regarding poor mental health compared to women who reported having fewer than 600 contacts. The mean number of SNS contacts for women was 288 (standard deviation (SD) = 223) and for men 284 (SD = 246). PES was highly associated with being a GHQ-case, whereof only a slight difference between genders was noticeable.

Tables S2 (see Supplementary file  2 ) and S3 (see Supplementary file  3 ) show the multivariate logistic regression models for the two relationships of interest, namely frequency of SNS use and number of contacts with poor mental health, respectively. For females, the independent effects of association between frequency of SNS use and poor mental health remained strong (OR 1.66 (CI = 1.16–2.38)) in the fully adjusted model (Model 3). A slight decreasing trend occurred after stepwise adjustment (Models 1, 2 and 3). However, the only other significantly associated exposure variable was PES (OR 1.96 (CI = 1.42–2.71)), whereas age, main occupation and relationship status were not. The same pattern was seen in Table S3 (see Supplementary file  3 ) , which demonstrates that the fully adjusted Model 3 association between number of SNS contacts and poor mental health remained statistically significant (OR 1.89 (CI = 1.21–2.97)). Neither of the associations of interest (Tables S2 and S3, Supplementary files  2 and 3 ) were much affected by the potentially confounding variables. For males there was no association demonstrated in Model 3 concerning any of the two main exposure variables, after full adjustment of the chosen covariates (Table S2: OR 0.94 (CI = 0.54–1.66), and Table S3: OR 0.96 (CI = 0.52–1.76)).

Research question b) PES and mental health

This section builds on the first research question by aiming to detect how PES moderates the effect of frequency of SNS use and the number of SNS contacts regarding mental health. Provided the non-existing bivariate association in males, the subsequent analysis was not included for them.

Table  2 shows that among those who reported being active on SNS almost every hour, the effect on mental health was highest for those who simultaneously reported low PES, OR 3.12 (CI = 1.69–5.76). However, the evidence for significant effect modification between the mentioned exposure variables was weak, SI = 1.25.

Similarly, Table  3 shows that among those who reported having ≥600 contacts on SNS, the effect on mental health was highest among those who at the same time reported having low PES, OR 6.07 (CI = 1.73–21.33). In this case, there was an indication that the level of PES modified the effect of having many SNS contacts on mental health, so that low PES reinforced the negative effect of having a large number of contacts, SI = 2.88.

The findings of this study indicate an association between high frequency of SNS use and a large network size on the one side and poor mental health on the other side, among Swedish young female adults. Furthermore, it shows that this association is modified by the level of PES. Women who used SNS on an almost hourly basis had increased odds of experiencing poor mental health than when using the platforms less frequently, as well as when having more than 600 contacts on SNS compared to fewer. Women with high PES seemed largely protected from the detrimental effects of having more than 600 SNS contacts.

Despite the widespread knowledge that women, especially young women [ 38 ], are more frequently burdened by depression than men [ 39 ], it seems somewhat surprising that very few studies have specifically looked into the difference of impact between genders in SNS use and mental health [ 2 , 3 ].

Early age gender difference

In a recent, longitudinal UK study, girls and boys aged 10–15 showed decreasing happiness and increasing active SNS usage [ 40 ]. Additionally, socio-emotional difficulties (emotional, peer-relationship and conduct problems) rose for girls but declined for boys. The increased use of SNS at age 10 was associated with decreased happiness and increased socio-emotional difficulties in later years thereafter (up to age 15), in girls only. This study showed how at a very young age, use of SNS can affect girls’ well-being in later adolescent years [ 40 ]. It is thought that since the adolescent years shape one’s future physical and mental health to a large extent [ 41 ], many adolescents experiencing mental health issues during this crucial developmental period will go on to experience such issues in later years, especially in their 20’s [ 42 ]. Hence, a decline in well-being due to SNS use occurring from an early age onwards, could escalate and result in mental health issues in later young adult years. However, it may be, that this trend reverses beyond the young adult years, as women aged 27–34 in this study were slightly less likely to indicate poor mental health (Table S1).

Another study of an adolescent population with a mean age of 15 years found that passive Facebook use increased depressed mood in girls only, whereas active, public (posting content on their profiles) Facebook use was associated with depressed mood in boys. However, active public and private use in girls yielded positive outcomes when they perceived online social support [ 43 ]. Together, these studies suggest that SNS use affects children already at a young age, that these effects vary by gender, and by the way in which the sites are used.

Problematic Facebook use & a gender perspective

A meta-analysis on Problematic Facebook Use (PFU), or Facebook addiction, suggested that females were more prone to demonstrate PFU behaviour than males [ 44 ]. One definition of PFU is such Facebook usage that disrupts everyday life at school, work or with relationships, by causing distress in cognitive functioning and/or well-being [ 44 ]. In a meta-analysis of 23 studies with adolescent and young adult populations, PFU was positively associated with depression, anxiety and psychological distress in general [ 45 ]. Marino et al. (2018) found that time spent on Facebook correlated with PFU [ 44 ]. Females in the present study who reported using SNS almost hourly could in fact be described as exercising PFU behaviour. Of course, frequency of SNS use does not completely equate to time spent on Facebook, but the two variables go hand in hand. PFU individuals tended to have larger friendship networks compared to non-PFU individuals, and females with PFU also tended to send more friend requests and private messages [ 46 ]. It has been repeatedly shown that women use SNS for communicating, maintaining friendships and accessing social information, whereas men tend to use the platforms more for gaining information and playing games [ 47 , 48 , 49 ]. A deeper understanding as to why women use SNS more and are potentially also detrimentally affected by them could be provided by a gender perspective [ 50 ]. Essentially, gender roles are transposing onto the use of SNS, so that women are more attracted to use SNS for social connectivity than men [ 43 , 47 ]. For example, the behaviour to compare oneself on SNS is more common among women than men [ 51 ]. Indeed, increased Facebook use has been linked to increased social comparison, fuelling envy, and resulting in depression, which is partially grounded in causal evidence [ 22 ]. A difference between genders has also been detected, in that adolescent females who tended to compare themselves on SNS had worse depression outcomes [ 52 ]. Interestingly, when the number of SNS contacts was analysed in this study as a continuous variable, there was a statistically significant association between each additional contact and being a case for poor mental health in the female population, with an incremental chance of 0.1%, OR 1.001 (CI = 1.00–1.001). Though a small value, it is nonetheless meaningful, considering the number of contacts are as many as several hundred for many SNS users. Also, females have been shown to emotionally respond worse to negative images or messages, which may provide further explanation for the poorer health outcomes [ 50 ].

Our finding regarding the gender difference in the association between number of SNS contacts and mental health appears to be the first such finding reported in the scientific literature.

No gender differences

Some studies do not show differences in gender, such as Kross et al. (2013) [ 10 ], where declines in subjective well-being, associated with frequent Facebook use, were not moderated by gender. Gender was also accounted for by Verduyn et al. (2015) [ 14 ], however it did not moderate the relationships [ 14 ]. Although SNS use was associated with body image and eating disorders, this meta-analytic association did not differ between men and women in studies that examined gender [ 53 ].

It may be that a true association between SNS use and mental health has been clouded by combining gender in analyses, contributing to the mixed findings in the literature. Although most studies controlled for gender, a deeper analysis as in the above studies (sections Early age gender difference and No gender differences ) has been the exception.

PES & SNS use

Women are, in the absence of emotional support, significantly more prone to depression than men [ 54 ]. This was corroborated by the findings in this study. Similarly, in another Swedish study of late adolescents, women benefitted more than men in their psychological well-being from high-quality, trusting friendships [ 55 ]. The findings in our study showed that high PES protected very frequent SNS users from a negative impact on their mental health. However, the current findings may be an artefact in that persons with low PES inherently use SNS more than individuals with high PES, as a meta-analytic study showed low PES led to loneliness, which subsequently led to increased Facebook use [ 16 ]. A further study, which aimed to investigate PFU, performed a 3-way interaction analysis between PFU, neuroticism and well-being, which differed according to gender. Women high in PFU and neuroticism were at 17 times higher odds of having low mood compared to men low in neuroticism and PFU [ 56 ]. It has been shown that neuroticism and PES are related, in that females high in neuroticism also perceive lower emotional support [ 57 ], suggesting a similar finding to ours regarding the interaction between frequency of SNS use and low PES.

Most PES inquiries are concerned with online-derived support rather than offline ditto [ 2 ]. For example, one such inquiry found that larger Facebook networks were associated with increased perceived online social support as well as life satisfaction [ 21 ]. Further analysis in the above-mentioned study found a negative curvilinear relationship between the number of SNS contacts and perceived social support [ 58 ]. This meant that from a certain number and up to a certain number of Facebook friends, these provided perceived social support, but beyond these points, no or too little support was derived; the authors suggest this may be due to the time and effort devoted to friends becoming too much or too little, thereby contributing detrimentally [ 58 ]. Further comparable studies are sparse, so that the finding of effect modification by PES on the association between SNS use and mental health appears to be a novel finding.

Methodological considerations & limitations

The main limitation of this study is the cross-sectional design, which does not exclude causal effects in both directions between the main variables, and it is not unlikely that the causal mechanism may be bidirectional. Since non-response was not negligible, selection bias could be an issue and theoretically leading to either overestimation or underestimation of the found associations. However, it seems unlikely to be the major explanation of the findings. A strength of this study is the comparatively large sample size, which reduces the risk of random error. The main exposure variables were developed by one of the authors due to lack of well-validated alternatives, and are rather straight-forward questions on frequency of SNS use and number of contacts which are unlikely to be misunderstood by the respondents or to be an issue of other types of response bias. Since self-reported SNS use may be under-reported when compared to actual use, there is a risk of differential misclassification (i.e. if some high users with poor mental health were erroneously classified as non-high-users), and thus, our findings may represent an under-estimation of the true effect [ 59 ]. The outcome variable was measured by a very well-validated instrument, which also reduces the likelihood of misclassification. The associations were controlled for the most obvious potential confounders: age, occupation, relationship status, as well as PES, which does not exclude bias from confounding, but ought to render it a less likely explanation of the found associations. Finally, the SNS measures used in this study were not specific to certain SNS. As these sites vary in their purpose of usage, interface and content, it would be beneficial to include separate SNS survey questions. Facebook is the most commonly studied SNS [ 2 ], hence also the literature presented here is biased towards Facebook. Having said that, most Swedes use Facebook [ 4 ], therefore it is probable that these results are most applicable to Facebook.

Conclusions

Important findings emerged, in that statistically significant associations between frequency of SNS use and number of SNS contacts on one side, and mental health on the other side were found – albeit only among female participants. Furthermore, that this association was modified by the level of PES.

From this study’s findings, it is suggested that future research conducts deeper gender analyses, whether through stratifying by gender, conducting separate analyses or limiting the study population. These findings also raise further questions, hence why it is necessary to deeply investigate how SNS are used by women compared to men, allowing for comparability and providing information on protective behaviours. Equally important is to investigate the possibility of a causal association by employing more longitudinal studies.

In light of this study, SNS use in women with mental health issues needs to be targeted. For instance, psychological strategies to enhance young women’s PES could be utilised in therapy, at institutions (universities, schools) and within communities. Spreading understanding of potential detrimental effects of frequent SNS use or having relatively large SNS networks, and how to establish healthy SNS usage patterns, as well as form a SNS network that works to one’s benefit, may be target areas with which to improve mental health outcomes.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available by request to the corresponding author.

Abbreviations

Social networking site

General health questionnaire

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by grants from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE; diary no. 2015–00885) and by the Medical Faculty at Lund University. The funding parties were not involved in the design, collection of data, analyses, or interpretation of data, authoring of the manuscript, or in any other aspect of the study. Open Access funding provided by Lund University.

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CC and POÖ developed the survey questions for the section of interest. ES conducted the literature research, data analysis, and writing of the manuscript. CC and POÖ subsequently reviewed all analyses and substantially contributed to the writing. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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: Table S1. Sociodemographic characteristics, SNS use, and social characteristics, in relation to poor mental health.

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: Table S2. Logistic regression showing the associations between frequency of SNS use and poor mental health.

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: Table S3. Logistic regression showing the associations between number of SNS contacts and poor mental health.

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Scott, E.S., Canivet, C. & Östergren, PO. Investigating the effect of social networking site use on mental health in an 18–34 year-old general population; a cross-sectional study using the 2016 Scania Public Health Survey. BMC Public Health 20 , 1753 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09732-z

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How university teachers navigate social networking sites in a fully online space: provisional views from a developing nation

  • Jessie S. Barrot   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-8517-4058 1 &
  • Denson R. Acomular 1  

International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education volume  19 , Article number:  51 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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Although social networking sites (SNS) have been widely investigated, very limited information is available about how teachers navigate them within a fully online learning space, the challenges they confront, and the strategies they use to overcome them. Thus, we examined these underexplored areas by interviewing 14 higher education teachers in the field of social sciences. Using a cross-case analysis, overall data indicates that teachers had varied reasons for and considered different factors when adopting SNS for online teaching. Our study also reveals that they used SNS affordances depending on their own teaching contexts and took different roles when teaching online via this platform. Although teachers generally viewed SNS as an instructional approach, they also reported several technical, pedagogical, and learner-related challenges, which they attempted to confront using a variety of strategies. These findings confirmed that teachers’ pedagogical practices and decisions in an SNS-mediated learning environment are shaped by the interaction between and among the teacher-related factors, SNS as an instructional tool, and teaching goals mediated by the policies (existing or not) and their peers. Some key implications of our findings are on designing teacher development programs, recalibrating national, institutional, and classroom policies, and implementing a systemic approach to mitigating pedagogical challenges in an online learning space. Implications for future studies are also discussed.

Introduction

Two decades ago, the second generation of web-based applications emerged. These are known as Web 2.0 technologies that allow users to collaborate, create, and share content on the Internet. Since then, we have seen how they have changed the landscape of education, the way teachers deliver instruction, and the way students learn and process information (Bennett et al., 2012 ; Faizi, 2018 ; Hew & Cheung, 2013 ; Isaías et al., 2021 ). One popular Web 2.0 technology that has been gaining traction in the field of education is the social networking sites (SNS), which allow both the students and the teachers to produce and share content, process information interactively, collaborate, and interact with one another within an online space (Greenhow et al., 2019 ; Hew & Cheung, 2013 ). In fact, recent reviews have confirmed overwhelming support for the adoption of SNS to facilitate teaching and learning, whether within formal or informal learning contexts (e.g., Al-Qaysi et al., 2020 ; Barrot, 2021a , 2022 ; Manca, 2020 ; Masrom et al., 2021 ). Conversely, many criticisms and challenges were also reported regarding their appropriateness as a learning platform, resistance from students and teachers, technical glitches, and privacy concerns (Barrot, 2021b ; Chugh & Ruhi, 2018 ; Hsu & Beasley, 2019 ; Luo & Gui, 2021 ). Despite these issues, SNS remain a viable online learning platform. Some popular SNS used for pedagogical purposes include Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp.

Because of the massive popularity of SNS, they have been widely used and investigated within the context of blended, flipped, and face-to-face learning and typically from students’ experiences. However, very limited information is available about how they are navigated by teachers within a fully online learning space (e.g., Moran et al., 2011 ; Kamalodeen, 2016 ; Fedock et al., 2019 ), particularly regarding the challenges they experienced and the strategies they used to overcome them. Thus, this study probed this underexplored area within the context of a developing country, such as the Philippines. This study hopes to add value to the literature by providing a clearer picture of how SNS could facilitate interaction among students and teachers, facilitate online learning, create a conducive learning space, and promote flexibility in online learning delivery. This study would also shed light on how teachers’ practices and experiences vary as a result of interaction among teachers, infrastructure, pedagogical goals, institutional and classroom policies, and students. Consequently, these pieces of information could be used as a guide on recalibrating policies that embrace the use of SNS and designing training programs that could support teachers’ efforts to use SNS as a primary teaching platform or as a supplement for the existing learning management systems (LMS).

Literature review

Sns as a pedagogical tool.

During the early years of the World Wide Web, most users were mainly passive consumers of content. Web pages were static and primarily functioned as a one-way content delivery network that showcases pieces of information. But as society becomes more and more connected, complex, and dynamic, Web technologies have transformed into platforms that promote usability, user-generated content, and interoperability for their end-users. This transition from predominantly individualistic to participative social Web technologies gave rise to SNS. SNS are Web 2.0 technologies that allow users to share images, interact through photo and instant messaging, video call, curate and organize multimodal information, post status updates in reverse chronological order, and collaborate within online communities (Manca, 2020 ; Reinhardt, 2019 ). This definition suggests combining three essential components, namely Web 2.0 tools, user-generated multimodal content, and user communities. As of October 2021, there are at least 17 SNS platforms that attracted 4.55 billion users across the globe. Among the most popular ones are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, WeChat, and TikTok (Statista, 2021 ).

They have not only shaped the way we live, interact with one another, and process information, but their influence has also transcended the field of education. From a theoretical standpoint, adopting SNS for pedagogical purposes is hinged on connectivist theory, which argues that personal networks can be a source of learning various perspectives and essential information for decision making (Manca, 2020 ; Siemens, 2005 ). This theory also blurs the boundaries among leisure, social, and pedagogical dimensions of SNS to facilitate continuous learning (Manca, 2020 ). Another learning theory that supports the classroom adoption of SNS is social constructivism, which highlights the role of social interaction and a socially engaging environment in knowledge construction and learning (Greenhow et al., 2019 ; Vygotsky, 1978 ). From a teaching perspective, both of these learner-centered theories urge teachers to foster interaction and collaboration, promote a positive learning environment, contextualize teaching, provide opportunities for enjoyable, interactive, and pedagogically sound digital learning, and consider the connection among the different variables necessary for effective online instructional delivery.

From a practical standpoint, SNS can enhance online education by expanding the learning context to larger networked publics, allowing hybridization of expertise, providing multiple sources of information, and promoting the facilitative role of teachers (Greenhow & Galvin, 2020 ). They also offer a variety of flexible affordances for teaching. For instance, photo and video sharing features are used to share multimodal resources relevant to the subject and showcase students’ performances in the form of a digital portfolio. Instant messaging and comment features allow students and teachers to interact, collaborate, and engage in peer learning. Group features (as in Facebook) serve as a platform for the community of learners. Video chatting and live feeds support synchronous learning. Personal profiles serve as a source of information for teachers to better understand their students. All these SNS affordances are explored and integrated across different learning contexts, whether formal, informal, or non-formal (Greenhow & Lewin, 2016 ). Formal integration means that the adoption of SNS is within a structured academic context where a teacher controls the flow of learning. On the one hand, informal integration suggests that SNS are used within a learner-controlled context where students engage in self-directed learning. Unlike formal and informal integration that are situated within an academic context, non-formal integration means that SNS are used within a non-school learning environment.

Teachers’ roles within an online teaching environment

The growing interest in online teaching has pushed educational institutions to revisit their organizational, academic, and pedagogical practices. While academic institutions around the world are becoming more involved in online learning delivery, faculty acceptance, involvement, and development related to online teaching have remained modest (Natriello, 2005 ; Scherer et al., 2021 ). Consequently, teachers face increasing demand and pressure to reflect on their conception of effective teaching and their roles as agents of learning as teaching online requires the development of a new set of skills and pedagogies (Guasch et al., 2010 ; Sánchez-Cruzado et al., 2021 ). In terms of teachers’ roles, Anderson et al. ( 2001 ) identified instructional design and organization, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction as the three key areas that teachers need to attend to in order to ensure teacher presence. Alternatively, Badia et al. ( 2017 ) suggested that teachers’ roles in teaching online involve instructional design, managing learning activities, learning assessment, managing social interactions, and design and use of educational technology. These roles coincide with Goodyear et al.’s ( 2001 ) proposed framework on the roles associated with online teaching. These include facilitating online activities, counselling students, assessing performances, engaging in research, facilitating content knowledge, integrating technology, designing learning tasks, and managing online classes.

Research on teaching online through and with SNS

While there has been a gamut of studies that examined teachers’ practices and experience in a fully online teaching space (Baran et al., 2011 ; Kebritchi et al., 2017 ; Martin et al., 2020 ; Moore-Adams et al., 2016 ), information on how they navigate SNS to facilitate instructional delivery in this pedagogical space remains limited. One such study was that of Moran et al. ( 2011 ), who surveyed 1920 faculty teaching in higher education in the United States. The data indicated that over 90 percent of the participants were using SNS for teaching and professional purposes. Two-thirds of them used SNS during class sessions, while the remaining one-third used them for out-of-class activities. Teachers also reported that they navigated various SNS affordances, such as posting and commenting features and online videos, to facilitate online classes. Despite the overwhelming support for the use of SNS, the teachers raised concerns about the privacy and integrity of student submissions. As a quantitative descriptive study, their work did not look into teachers’ specific experiences and practices in greater depth. To address this gap, Kamalodeen’s ( 2016 ) participatory action research looked into the ways secondary teachers navigated SNS to determine their readiness for this new digital learning space. Using the mixed-methods approach, the findings revealed 11 ways of how teachers explored SNS: lesson plan file sharing, blog posting, online course enrolment, forum discussion, online chatting, creating a user profile, adding new participants/colleagues, collaborating, participating in opinion polls, media sharing, and Google doc collaboration. Although their data pointed to teachers’ readiness for this digital learning space, the study also revealed differences in their participation and the challenges they faced, such as Internet access, workload, difficulties in using Web 2.0 technologies, limited opportunity to express themselves, and technical complexity. Since the challenges and strategies were not Kamalodeen’s focus, her study did not attempt to explain the nature of these challenges and why such differences exist.

More recently, Fedock et al. ( 2019 ) investigated the online adjunct faculty members’ perception of SNS as an instructional approach. Using a case study design, the findings revealed three emerging themes from the interview data. These are uniformity of purpose vs. personal beliefs (theme 1), need for justification vs. importance of student engagement (theme 2), and facilitation vs. direct instruction (theme 3). Under theme 1, the data indicated that teachers had differing views on adopting SNS as a teaching tool but converged on prioritizing student learning goals. Teachers also reported that the lack of guidance and policies from the institution hampered their efforts to adopt SNS. For the second theme, Fedock et al. ( 2019 ) reported that teachers struggled in defining the purpose of SNS adoption and finding ways to align its use to specific instructional strategies and learning objectives. Issues on privacy, ethics, and students’ resistance and inability to separate social from classroom-related posting were also highlighted. Although teachers considered SNS as a useful instructional approach, many of them viewed SNS as a permissive and unsafe learning environment. To mitigate these, teachers set ground rules and well-defined expectations. In the case of facilitation vs. direct instruction , those teachers who perceived themselves as facilitators expressed support for the use of SNS, while those who preferred direct instructional approaches tended to reject SNS. The in-depth findings on teachers’ perception and experience provided rich information on the potentials and issues confronting SNS use as an instructional approach. However, it did not shed light on the specific affordances that teachers used to facilitate online learning and the specific strategies they employed to overcome their pedagogical challenges. The authors also cautioned that the participants’ status as adjunct teachers may have also influenced their perception of SNS.

As reviewed, previous studies somehow shed light on how teachers navigate SNS for online teaching and learning and their personal impression of SNS. However, these studies mainly focused on facilitating learning and did not attempt to explore other critical areas of online learning, such as incorporating flexibility, stimulating interaction, and fostering an affective learning climate. Moreover, other variables that might have influenced the way they adopt SNS were not fully examined. And while all of them shed light on the challenges in adopting SNS, none of them examined the strategies that teachers employed to overcome these specific challenges. Therefore, the current study was undertaken to complement the work of Moran et al. ( 2011 ), Kamalodeen ( 2016 ), and Fedock et al. ( 2019 ).

Conceptual framework

The current study is theoretically anchored on the activity theory (AT), which takes its roots from the sociocultural theory. This theory argues that human actions and understanding emerge from a complex activity that involves the interaction among the subject (people involved in the activity), object (purpose of the activity), and tools (physical and psychological artefacts) (Bannayan et al., 2014 ; Engeström, 2015 ). In the case of the current study, the teachers are the subject, facilitating full online teaching is the object, and SNS are the tools. These three elements of human activity are mediated by the policies that guide the activity, the community or social group where the subject belongs, and the division of labor within the social group (Engeström, 2015 ; Yamagata-Lynch, 2010 ). This theory is useful in gaining a nuanced understanding of how different elements, shaped the way teachers navigated SNS during fully online teaching, particularly their reasons for adopting SNS and how policies and peers shaped their practices.

Research questions

Situated within the context of a developing country, such as the Philippines, this study sheds light on how teachers navigate social networking sites in a fully online learning space. Specifically, the following research questions were addressed: (1) What are teachers’ reasons for adopting SNS and the factors they considered in choosing them? (2) What SNS affordances did teachers use to facilitate online learning? (3) How did the policies and their social group (i.e., peers) influence the way they navigated and adopted SNS for online teaching? (4) What are the challenges that teachers experienced when using SNS and the strategies they employed to overcome them?

Materials and methods

We employed a cross-case analysis to address the research questions. This approach allowed us to collect complex data about teachers’ experience in navigating SNS in a fully digital learning space and to understand the phenomena clearly from an emic perspective.

Context and participants

We invited 14 teachers from two private universities in the Philippines to participate in the study, and all agreed to be interviewed. Although the representativeness of the sample is limited, the two universities share the characteristics of the typical higher education institution (HEI) in the Philippines. Moreover, these two schools and all other Philippine HEIs use the same mode of teaching and learning delivery as mandated by the government higher education agency (i.e., adopting a combined synchronous and asynchronous online learning, a formal learning management system, and Web 2.0 technologies, such as SNS).

The participants were selected through purposive sampling using the following eligibility criteria: (1) have been teaching in a fully online learning space for at least one year, (2) have been using SNS for teaching purposes for at least two years, (3) with at least three years of teaching experience in higher education, and (4) with basic computer skills. As shown in Table 1 , eight of them are female, and six are male with teaching experience that ranged from 3 to 31 years ( M  = 12.07; SD  = 8.14), handling courses in the field of social sciences ( N  = 7), English ( N  = 3), education ( N  = 2), humanities ( N  = 1), and mathematics ( N  = 1). Thirteen of them obtained a master’s degree ( N  = 13), while one has already completed her doctoral degree. All 14 participants have delivered the instruction using both the synchronous and asynchronous modes. In terms of navigating SNS for instructional purposes, all teachers have been using them for at least three years in an informal learning context. Informal learning context refers to a learner-controlled context not directed by the school or any external agent. It is mainly a self-directed, spontaneous, and exploratory type of technology-enhanced learning.

Instrument and data collection

We collected the data using semi-structured interviews, which asked relevant information on three areas: the teachers’ background information, the preliminary questions on using SNS for pedagogical purposes, and the main questions. The background information section contains questions about their name, affiliation, gender, age, designation, years of teaching experience, courses being taught, and educational attainment. The preliminary questions section centered on the online learning mode they used in class, the social media platforms they used for teaching the course, and the length and context of using them (i.e., formal, informal, or non-formal). Finally, the main questions section zeroed in on these four areas: (1) teachers’ reasons for adopting SNS and the factors they considered in choosing them; (2) SNS affordances that teachers used to facilitate online learning; (3) how policies and peers influenced the way they navigated and adopted SNS for online teaching; and (4) the challenges they experienced and the strategies they employed to overcome them. The interview guide was validated by two experts in the field of education. They evaluated the instrument in terms of how it addressed the research questions, the clarity of instructions and questions, the appropriateness of length, and the accuracy of language. We revised the instrument based on validators’ comments. Thereafter, we piloted it to two teachers who were not part of the actual study. This phase allowed us to estimate the interview duration, address any vague items, and strategize on how we could elicit richer data from the participants.

The interviews, which lasted for about 60 min, were conducted online because of the ongoing restrictions on mobility and were recorded with the participants’ permission. To mitigate any social desirability biases, we ensured that teachers were relaxed during the interview, seated in a conducive environment, and open to discussing their thoughts. Prior to the interview, we obtained informed consent from the participants and oriented them on how the interview would proceed. We also informed them that there are no wrong responses as these are based on their experience, that their anonymity shall be protected, and that all their responses shall be treated with the utmost confidentiality.

Data analysis

After transcribing each of the interviews, we subjected them to a cross-case analysis, which involves a cyclic iteration of examining, interpreting, coding, and comparing data across cases (Aesaert et al., 2013 ; Miles & Huberman, 1994 ). We employed content analysis driven by the research questions, which dictated the four main themes (i.e., reasons for adopting SNS, SNS affordances navigated by teachers, mediating role of policies and peers, and teachers’ challenges and strategies). Then, we analyzed the transcript of the first participant and constructed the subthemes under each main theme. Then, we proceeded to analyzing the transcript of the second participant and integrate the subthemes with the preceding data. Related subthemes were combined, whereas unrelated ones were allowed to emerge as separate subthemes. This comparative and progressive method of analysis had been repeated until the analysis of all transcripts was completed. To ensure reliability and rigor of the analysis, we had a calibration session before independently analyzing the interview transcripts (i.e., two intercoders). During this session, we reviewed the research questions, the interview guide, and the data analysis procedure and discussed any divergence to arrive at a full agreement.

The current study sheds light on how teachers navigated SNS in a fully online learning space. To achieve this objective, we examined teachers’ reasons and the factors they considered for adopting SNS, such as user familiarity, cost, reach and immediacy, students’ preference, and customizable features. We also probed into how teachers used the SNS affordances (i.e., chat, posting and sharing, video call, and flexibility) to facilitate online learning and how policies and peers shaped their practices. Finally, we identified the different learner-related, technical, instruction- and assessment-related, and psychosocial challenges that teachers experienced and the strategies they employed to overcome them.

Teachers’ reasons for and the factors they considered in adopting SNS

The findings revealed the different reasons teachers had for adopting SNS in class. One of their primary reasons is to reach out to students faster and easier, especially when making announcements and updates (e.g., T1, T4, T6, T8, T10, T11, T13). For instance, T4 decided to use Facebook and Messenger because “it was the fastest way of communicating with my students. And it is more convenient for them, because primarily, they are spending, you know, 24 h a day checking notifications of their social media sites.” Other teachers reported that they used SNS because students could easily access these platforms and were frequently active on Facebook and Messenger (T6, T8, T10, T13), had difficulties in getting notifications from their official LMS (T8), and lacked access to their official LMS (T10). In other cases, teachers decided to adopt SNS as an alternative learning platform. Take, for example, T5, who shifted to Messenger when delivering lectures and explaining homework because of the technical glitches she experienced with Microsoft (MS) Teams. Alternatively, T7 used Facebook as her students’ platform for selling products as part of their culminating activity in their Economics class. Two teachers shared that it was the free data availability of Facebook and Messenger that motivated them to use SNS in their online classes. According to T2, “you just turn on the data and you can use Facebook for free, except you won’t be able to access the photos and the videos. So, still, if I just type my instructions as regular text, they will be able to read it." T14 also pointed out that students needed to have data to access MS Teams. Considering that not all his students have data allocation, he shifted to Messenger. Other reasons teachers had for using SNS in their respective online classes include promoting collaboration and multiple opportunities for learning (T3), engaging in private communication (T9), allowing them to monitor which students have read the announcements (T10), and establishing a community of learners (T12).

Five themes have emerged regarding the factors that teachers considered when choosing an SNS platform: user familiarity, cost, reach and immediacy, students’ preference, and customizable features. T1, T5, T6, and T11 converged that students’ and teachers’ familiarity was their primary consideration in choosing an SNS platform. As T1 noted, "the students are more familiar with these social media avenues since they use it practically every day, if not literally every minute of their social media usage. So, I’m taking advantage of that." T6 echoed the same point explaining that “MS Teams was new to us both on the side of the faculty and students, that’s why we shifted to Facebook Messenger as our primary online platform and those students are accustomed with all the buttons." Another group of teachers (T2, T4, T8, T12) identified the cost as a factor in deciding whether they would use it or not. T12 explained that “if they [students] don’t have enough budget for—for the load, they can still communicate as long as they have the signal from their chosen prepaid or SIM card in their—in their device that they are using." T2 further explained that students just need to turn on their mobile phones and use Facebook for announcements and instructions even without mobile data. However, she cautioned that students would not be able to access the photos and videos. The third factor teachers considered when selecting SNS is its reach and immediacy. T8 shared that it was the speed and reach of Facebook and Messenger that motivated her to adopt these platforms instead of an email, especially when reminding students about their submissions. T9, T10, and T11 echoed this claim by emphasizing the value of real-time feedback and response and speed in delivering instructions online. For instance, T11 claimed that “I use heavily social media, specifically, Facebook, so I can address quickly their concerns, ‘no. So, I think these are the reasons why I use Facebook before as our learning platform.” For T1, T8, T11, and T13, they took into account students’ preference. Using a platform that students like made them more at ease (T1, T8, T11) and highly engaged because they view SNS positively than formal LMS (T13). The last factor that teachers considered is the flexibility of features that allowed them to customize content (T3) and set up a virtual classroom (T7).

SNS affordances that teachers used during fully online teaching

When it comes to the specific SNS affordances that teachers navigated to facilitate online learning, virtually all of them used the chat feature either to stimulate interaction and collaboration among students (T1, T6, T7, T11, T12, T14), to facilitate learning processes (T5, T8, T9, T11, T12, T13), to foster and affective learning climate (T3, T4, T8, T9, T13), and to incorporate flexibilities during online classes (T2, T4, T5, T7, T13). For instance, T8 shared that “in Messenger, what I do is I create a group—a group chat for the students, so that if they would want to ask questions or clarifications, and they would want to immediately—for me to immediately get back to them, it’s easier for me to answer.” She added that she used the group chat in many instances to post encouraging words to motivate her students to finish their output. For T9, the group chat feature helped him set up a community of learners where students are free to share anything about the course and seek a help system. In the case of T5, she used this affordance to instruct students on how they should go about the assigned activities. She added that Messenger “is really very easy to use…, and… the flexibility is always there” especially when submitting their output remotely and beyond class time.

Similar to chatting, teachers frequently used the posting and sharing features to facilitate learning activities (T1, T2, T3, T4, T6, T13, T14). According to T2, she used these affordances when giving and soliciting feedback from students, posting relevant videos, uploading learning materials and files, engaging students in asynchronous recitation, and making announcements. In some cases, teachers used these features to promote interaction among students (T2, T3, T4, T13) and establish a positive learning environment (T1, T2, T6). For example, T13 and T3 facilitated a sharing of opinion and interaction among students after posting a link on Facebook. In the case of T1, she posted memes and emoticons to make students “a bit more comfortable.” Lastly, the posting feature allowed teachers to share learning resources (e.g., informative videos, recorded lectures, and links) to students for self-directed learning (T3, T6, T12, T13, T14) and upload reading materials for advanced reading (T6, T7, T8). Along with the posting and sharing affordances are the comment features used by teachers to provide constructive and immediate feedback as well as encouraging messages to boost students’ confidence and engage them in academic discourse, as in the case of T5 and T7.

Another key SNS feature that teachers find useful during online classes is the video call. For instance, T1, T3, and T7 let their students interact and engage in discussion and peer feedback through video call. T7 and T3 extended the use of video for delivering lectures and promoting a positive online learning climate, respectively. Meanwhile, T4 used this feature to have her students explore their creativity through video production. However, T2 cautioned that video calls could only be used when students and teachers have sufficient data allocation.

Some teachers (T2, T3, T14) also noted the flexibility of SNS affordances for synchronous and asynchronous online learning and teaching. T14 narrated that he used SNS for synchronous sessions and shared the recorded lectures with students who had Internet connectivity problems for their asynchronous learning. And since SNS is Internet-based, T1 commented that it somehow broke geographical boundaries, allowing students to participate in online classes despite living in remote areas.

Influence of policies and peers on teachers’ adoption of SNS

Another objective of the current study is to determine how policies and peers influenced the way teachers navigated and adopted SNS for online teaching. During the interview, all teachers reported that their respective schools had existing policies on online learning that covered the conduct of classes, assessment protocol, infrastructure, internships, support services, and netiquette for both teachers and students, among others. However, none of them were provided with detailed policies and guidelines on using SNS for instructional delivery as these platforms were merely optional and could only be used as a supplement, as most teachers explained. Given this, teachers adopted SNS based on their own initiative and not based on school directives. In fact, T10 observed that “some faculty members are, you know, using FB or FB Messenger to hold classes” despite directives from the school to use Canvas or MS Teams during formal classes.

The findings indicate that although teachers find the policies for online learning as a useful guide, they did not allow restrictive provisions to limit their pedagogical practices online, such as SNS adoption. As T1 commented, “the impact on me is very negative because the way I see it, it’s limiting.” T2 added that the school’s preference to use its official LMS did not deter her from using Facebook, which allowed her to engage in more personal conversations with her students and make teaching less formal. In the case of T10, he exclaimed that he would still use Canvas and MS Teams for formal learning sessions and SNS as a supplementary platform regardless of the school’s issuance of policies. For T7, the policies have little effect on her because he has been using the designated LMS (i.e., Edmodo) and Facebook even before the transition to remote online teaching. Unlike other teachers, T6 took a different approach to bridging the policies and students’ preferences by negotiating with students the platforms that they would use in online classes.

We also looked into how peers (i.e., co-teachers) shaped the way teachers use SNS. This aspect revealed mixed results. Some teachers reported that they were hardly influenced by their colleagues when using SNS in a virtual learning space. Take, for example, T7, who shared that it was her own decision because she knew what was suitable for her class. Nonetheless, she entertained feedback and suggestions, particularly on the platform’s additional features. T4 had the same perspective that her adoption of SNS is solely based on her own decision. Meanwhile, others felt that their peers somehow influenced their practices in using SNS through collaboration and professional learning sessions. T3 said that she, along with her colleagues, needed “to revise school policy for the social media platform for online class” to ensure uniformity in their practices. Conversely, other teachers reported problems with their school heads. For instance, T1 expressed her disappointment when she and her colleagues were prohibited by their department head from using SNS, especially when submitting student outputs. She considered this directive very limiting. T12 shared the same sentiment and highlighted the need for clear guidelines when implementing SNS in online classes.

Challenges teachers faced when using SNS and the strategies they used to overcome them

To address the last research question, we explored the challenges that teachers experienced in using SNS and the strategies they employed to overcome them (see Table 2 ). Most of the problems teachers encountered were learner-related, which included student resistance (T4), cost of Internet data for students (T5, T6), online distractions (T8), and SNS fatigue (T10). T8 explained that “since it’s a social media and they are using their personal accounts, they also get access to chatting their friends. Uhm, they also get access to other content that are not really educational.” T4 added that “not all students are that open-minded in terms of—or knowledgeable in terms of the usage of the social media.”

Equally frequent were technical challenges. T5, T10, T11, and T14 lamented that students struggled in coping with the lesson because of poor Internet connectivity. T10 further commented that “as long as we don’t have a reliable and a consistent Internet connection here in the Philippines, online learning would be very limited to those who can only afford such Internet services.”

Several issues related to teaching delivery and assessment also surfaced. Some teachers reported that it was difficult for them to monitor students’ performances and engagement during activities (T2) and to gauge whether the students understood the lesson (T13). For T4, she highlighted the greater accountability that she had because of possible misdemeanors of students, such as cyberbullying and intrusion of privacy. In fact, students were not the only ones who had privacy issues but also the teachers themselves. T4 added that she was very careful in posting personal activities on Facebook (e.g., going out with friends and drinking wine) because students might use her posts against her. For T7, she felt that her personal time and space were violated because students continued to message her even up to 2AM and 3AM. She felt responsible for this problem because she failed to set boundaries when using SNS as a learning platform.

The last challenge that surfaced during the interview was related to teacher’s feeling of isolation. T12 mentioned that he felt isolated when his students formed a group chat and privately communicated with one another without his knowledge. He added that “as much as I wish that I could be a part of their communication so that I can reach out with their concerns. Although, I can’t require them po, eh, to include me in their communication.”

With reference to the strategies they employed to address learner-related challenges such as resistance to SNS as a platform, teachers provided psychosocial support to students by giving encouraging words and positive feedback (T1, T2), using humor (T1), and exhibiting patience, understanding, and compassion at all times during online learning (T5). For those students who struggled to catch up with the lesson because of poor Internet service and high cost of mobile data, some teachers recorded and uploaded lectures that students accessed once they got a good Internet signal (T6, T11) and observed time flexibility, particularly when setting deadlines for the submission of academic requirements (T1, T8). In the case of online distractions, several teachers (e.g., T8) involved students in the crafting of the online class guidelines to ensure that they remain committed to the negotiated class policies and focused on the lesson when using SNS as a learning platform. The same approach was used by T1 to mitigate the higher accountability she had when using SNS. Furthermore, she clearly explained all the policies and requirements at the start of the term and made sure that they understood them. On top of these, they asked their students to turn on their cameras so they could see what their students were doing during class (T2). When it comes to addressing SNS fatigue, T10 adjusted the course schedule/timeline and reduced the synchronous sessions without compromising the target learning outcomes.

In the same way, teachers were burdened by the Internet cost of using SNS. To address this issue, some of them (e.g., T6) shifted to the free data version of Facebook and Messenger. This shift allowed both the teachers and students to experience uninterrupted engagement and interaction. When it comes to poor Internet connectivity on the teachers’ end, another strategy they used was to seek help from their superiors. Take, for instance, T11, who noted that “what I did is I asked my program head, my department chair to schedule me on the time where my internet connectivity is faster. So, hence, my schedule is 7:30 in the morning to 12, because my Internet connection… there is always a scheduled interruption, especially in the evening." Although teachers were generally familiar with SNS, the complexity of certain SNS affordances got in their way. To overcome this problem, teachers engaged in self-directed learning and explored these SNS affordances themselves (e.g., T7), sought support and help from their colleagues (e.g., T7), and participated in webinars (T14). In the case of difficulties in monitoring students’ performance and engagement, teachers used a variety of SNS affordances to gauge students’ progress. Among these are group chat and video call that allowed real-time and immediate feedback on student performances. Other teachers used a buddy system that allowed one student to help another student through peer assessment. This peer assessment served as an alternative to teacher assessment.

As reported above, many teachers also cited privacy intrusion as their major concern. One approach they did to mitigate this problem was to set clear boundaries on when and how they could be contacted by students through SNS, as in the case of T7. For T4, she did some fact-checking on what students posted and shared on their Facebook accounts. When it comes to the feeling of isolation, teachers sought advice from their peers and psyched themselves that they should allow students to have their private group (e.g., T12).

This study investigates how teachers in a developing country navigated SNS in a full online learning space, what challenges they faced when using SNS, and how they coped with these challenges. Overall data indicate that teachers had varied reasons for and factors considered when adopting SNS during fully online learning. Similarly, they navigated the different SNS affordances (e.g., video call, group chat, and posting and sharing) to facilitate interaction, facilitate learning, create a positive learning climate, and promote flexibility both formally and informally. The above findings lend support to earlier reports (e.g., Kamalodeen, 2016 ; Moran et al., 2011 ) on how teachers navigated SNS and its affordances during synchronous and asynchronous online sessions. Aside from their respective teaching contexts, the diversity in teachers’ practices and reasons may be linked to their attitude toward the pedagogical use of SNS. While most viewed it positively, some teachers did not find it pedagogically appropriate and preferred formal LMS as an exclusive learning platform (e.g., T10). Teachers who viewed SNS more positively tended to navigate its affordances more extensively, while those who viewed it negatively tended to limit its use to communication purposes only. The above findings have also confirmed the different roles that teachers play when teaching online, as identified by Anderson et al. ( 2001 ), Badia et al. ( 2017 ), and Goodyear et al. ( 2001 ). Among the roles that frequently surfaced are designing/planning instruction through flexible learning, managing learning activities, facilitating social interactions, and promoting a positive learning climate.

Our study also extends the findings of Fedock et al. ( 2019 ) and Kamalodeen ( 2016 ) by shedding light on the technical, pedagogical, and learner-related challenges they faced in this new learning space and how they coped with them. As the data suggests, their practices and the challenges and strategies they employed varied from one teacher to another and one school to another and were shaped by several factors. These findings align with the activity theory, which explains that online teaching is a complex phenomenon influenced by the interaction among the teachers, infrastructure or tools, and teaching goals mediated by institutional and classroom policies, fellow teachers, and students (Bannayan et al., 2014 ; Engeström, 2015 ). However, the findings reveal that policies had little impact on teachers’ ways of adopting SNS. Consequently, whenever there was a clash between these policies and students’ context, teachers tended to rely heavily on their unique teaching context when making pedagogical decisions and delivering instruction. The little impact that policies had counters previous reports that peers and policies significantly influenced teachers’ online practices (Badia et al., 2017 ; Ching & Hursh, 2014 ; Kelly & Antonio, 2016 ; Roby et al., 2013 ). One explanation for our finding is that teachers tended to disregard or adjust the policies when they found them insufficient and unclear. Data shows that teachers filled in the gaps in the policies (e.g., T5), revised them when they did not sit well with the realities in the classrooms (e.g., T6), and limited the use of SNS when policies were not available (e.g., T10). Thus, the teachers highlighted the need for recalibrating institutional policies that would embrace SNS as a pedagogical tool. These findings resonate with the work of Fedock et al. ( 2019 ), who found that a lack of guidance and leadership communication hampered teachers’ adoption of SNS as instructional tools. Hence, schools need to make the policies on institutional support, processes, and institutional practices available to ensure the effective integration of SNS into online classrooms (Orr et al., 2009 ; Pedro & Kumar, 2020 ). In the same way, teachers tended to be individualistic in their teaching practices when there is an absence of a concrete systematic approach to peer collaboration. The findings further indicate that the teachers’ embedded pedagogical framework significantly shaped the way they adopt SNS in cases of conflicts among the elements (e.g., T5, T7, T10). Nonetheless, further investigation is required to understand the reasons behind this phenomenon better, and whether this behavior manifests in both novice and experienced teachers.

Another important element that heavily influenced teachers’ approach to SNS adoption is their students’ context. These findings coincide with Fedock et al.’s ( 2019 ) report that teachers typically converged in prioritizing students and their learning goals despite differences in the teachers’ view and utilization of SNS as a learning platform. We observed the same behavior among the teachers in this study. And given the current health crisis and restrictions on mobility, teachers are bound by the national policy of implementing flexible learning where they practiced flexibility in time (synchronous or asynchronous), place of learning (remote or face-to-face), and mode of delivery (offline or online). This directive further reinforced the need to make students (i.e., their socioeconomic status, physical condition, mental health, learning resources, and home environment) the foremost consideration when delivering instruction and designing a learning plan via SNS, overriding even the existing policies and mandate from the department heads. Such a scenario echoes the arguments of Sithole et al. ( 2019 ) and Wang et al. ( 2021 ) on the key role that student characteristics and background play in shaping teaching practices in a virtual learning environment, as in the case of the current study.

Conclusions

This study explored teachers’ navigation strategies and experiences when using SNS in a fully online learning space. Overall data suggested that teachers’ reasons for and ways of navigating SNS during fully online teaching are relative to their respective teaching and learning contexts. The same is true regarding the challenges they confronted and the strategies they used to overcome them. These findings have confirmed what activity theory argues that teachers’ pedagogical practices and decisions in an SNS-mediated learning environment are shaped by the interaction between and among the teacher-related factors, SNS as an instructional tool, and teaching goal mediated by the policies (existing or not) and their peers. This study also provided initial information on teachers’ reliance on their intuition and embedded pedagogical framework when confronted with conflicts among these elements. Situated within the context of online learning during the pandemic, teachers’ responses showed that they prioritized students’ welfare (e.g., financial capacity, mental health, physical health) above anything else. Finally, teachers’ attitudes toward SNS appeared to have influenced their SNS utilization. This area is worthy of further investigation to determine the full extent of the interaction between teachers’ attitude toward SNS and how they navigate them.

Several implications can be drawn from our findings. First, this study shed light on the uniqueness of each teacher’s experience in using SNS in a fully online teaching space relative to their teaching context and interaction, among many factors. These findings require policymakers, school heads, and teacher trainers to design a nuanced, continuous, and progressive professional development (PD) program that aligns with teachers’ realities in SNS adoption. These PD efforts are crucial as they have been found to positively impact teachers’ ability to teach online (Brinkley-Etzkorn, 2018 ; Hungerford-Kresser & Amaro-Jimenez, 2020 ). Second, our study indicated the adverse impact of limited and unclear policies on teachers’ SNS adoption. This information would guide educational institutions and educational agencies in crafting or recalibrating national, institutional, and classroom policies that would help teachers harness the full potential of SNS as an instructional approach. However, the development of these policies may need to be transactional and participatory, involving various critical stakeholders (Timmermans, 2004 ). Finally, this study revealed that the challenges teachers faced were caused by interrelated factors. Since the problems are systemic, they also require a systemic approach to be successfully mitigated.

Our study is not without limitations, which can be addressed in future investigations. First, the qualitative nature of this study with 14 participants did not reveal a clear pattern regarding the most utilized affordances and teachers’ challenges and strategies. Future studies may embark on a mixed-methods approach using a larger sample size to determine whether any patterns exist or not. Since SNS adoption for pedagogical purposes may depend on the nature of a subject/course being taught (Barrot, 2021a ), it might be useful to zero in on each subject area (e.g., humanities, science and mathematics, engineering, social sciences) to better appreciate a field-specific data. Second, the context of this study is limited to higher education, wherein students are already highly exposed, familiar, and well-versed in using the different SNS affordances. The challenges teachers experienced and their instructional strategies may vary when used with younger learners. Hence, future studies may explore this area within the K-12 context for a more nuanced understanding of the SNS adoption in a fully online learning environment. Finally, future studies may dig deeper by probing the interaction between institutional policies and teachers’ embedded pedagogical framework in cases of conflicts and how much influence learner-related factors have on teachers’ behavior and pedagogical decisions.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Barrot, J.S., Acomular, D.R. How university teachers navigate social networking sites in a fully online space: provisional views from a developing nation. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 19 , 51 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-022-00357-3

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Online social capital: social networking sites' influence on civic and political engagement.

Charles L. Bush , Old Dominion University Follow

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Spring 2018

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Master of Arts (MA)

Sociology & Criminal Justice

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Scott R. Maggard

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Ingrid P. Whitaker

This thesis examines how using social networking sites (SNS) is correlated with levels of civic and political engagement of college students at Old Dominion University. Past research has yielded mixed results on the link between online social capital and civic and political engagement. Major limitations of past research include grouping together social networking sites that are substantially different and not considering these sites’ impact on the different forms of social capital. This thesis first examines how social networking site preference, intensity of use, and motives for use factor into an individual’s online social capital. Secondly, this thesis looks at how online bridging, bonding, and maintained social capital influence an individual’s level of civic and political engagement.

Results from an internet-based survey showed Instagram users had the highest level of online social capital. As expected, respondents who used SNS with greater intensity with the purpose to gather information had higher levels of online social capital. Additionally, individuals who had higher levels of online social capital reported being more civically and politically active. These findings contributed to the limited body of research focusing on SNS and online social capital and provide valuable knowledge about the link between using social networking sites and participating in political and civic activities. Future research should build on this research expand the scope of this study by sampling a broader sample, further validating the measures used, and comparing various forms of social networking sites.

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Bush, Charles L.. "Online Social Capital: Social Networking Sites' Influence on Civic and Political Engagement" (2018). Master of Arts (MA), Thesis, Sociology & Criminal Justice, Old Dominion University, DOI: 10.25777/fd8a-mt66 https://digitalcommons.odu.edu/sociology_criminaljustice_etds/18

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The educational use of social networking sites among medical and health sciences students: a cross campus interventional study

  • Nihar Ranjan Dash 1 ,
  • Ahmed Alrazzak Hasswan 1 ,
  • Jacqueline Maria Dias 2 ,
  • Natasya Abdullah 3 ,
  • Mohamed Ahmed Eladl 4 ,
  • Khaled Khalaf 5 , 6 ,
  • Ajmal Farooq 7 &
  • Salman Yousuf Guraya 1  

BMC Medical Education volume  22 , Article number:  525 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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In recent years, social networking sites (SNSs) have evolved beyond connection and networking to become a powerful instructional tool. There is still a dearth of knowledge on the professional use of SNSs for education particularly among students from diverse backgrounds. This study examined the extent and pattern of SNSs usage for education across six institutions and then conducted an interventional workshop to fortify and regulate the educational use of SNSs.

This multicenter study was done in two phases. In the first phase, an online cross-sectional survey using a validated inventory was administered to determine the prevalence, extent, and preferences of SNSs usage by undergraduate students in medicine, health sciences and dentistry across five centers. Later, the second phase of the study was undertaken in a 75-min guided live workshop about the appropriate use of SNSs in academia. Additionally, pre- and post-test surveys were conducted to assess the impact and outcome of workshop.

Of the 1722 respondents, 1553 (90%) reported using SNSs with the frequency of once a month to three to five times per day for education and to stay in touch with others. Most students agreed with the benefits of SNSs for education mainly in terms of information gathering, networking and collaboration. Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest were noted as the most preferred SNSs for education. Nevertheless, 63% perceived that proper instruction was required for the efficient use of SNSs. Following the guided workshop, there was a significant improvement in web technology understanding, digital professionalism, skills and knowledge on the productive use of SNSs. Students rated the efficient for conceptual learning, connection to community practice, e-portfolio, and collaborative learning as the top four major teaching and learning strategies, respectively, in the post-workshop survey.

Our study demonstrates that SNSs can be used as learning tools in medical education. However, SNSs usage should be regulated and guided for a more collegial and coherent learning climate in the digital realm. We urge medical educators to integrate SNSs into their courses for a technologically advanced and impactful curriculum.

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Social networking sites (SNSs) are online platforms that people use to establish social relationships and build networks with other people who share their personal or professional interests [ 1 ]. These sites are developed and secured by Web 2.0 applications which pertain to diverse web-enabled applications created on an open source platform and run by user-generated and user-manipulated content [ 2 ]. The most frequently used Web 2.0 applications include wikis (Wikipedia), podcasts (YouTube), blogs (BlogSpot), and SNSs including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and Wechat [ 3 , 4 ]. SNS applications are primarily used to foster friendships, stay in touch, share and exchange information, upload photos, videos, and news feeds [ 5 ].

Recently, SNSs have been incorporated into medical education to learn, interact, discuss, collaborate, recruitment and develop professional skills [ 6 ]. According to literature, in medical education approximately 75% of learners use some form of SNSs, of which only 20% use SNSs for academic and educational purposes [ 7 ]. Faculty use SNSs to post opinions, views, videos, chat, participate in surveys, and even manage some parts of their courses. From an educational standpoint, SNSs are frequently used as novel tools for teaching and learning and for enhancing educational interactions among peers, students, and faculty. The literature points out that Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp have been instrumental in guiding student assignments and projects, enhancing students’ learning engagements, creating a positive learning climate for education, particularly learning outside the classroom [ 8 , 9 ].

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed the education strategies dramatically across the world [ 10 ]. The distinctive rise of e-learning being undertaken remotely has revolutionized the use of digital platforms and SNSs. The successful integration of online learning using digital platforms and SNSs will continue to persist post-pandemic. However, an obvious gap in technology use between the faculty and students, where the z-generation students are quicker to adopt SNSs habitually than the faculty, can create a lag and imbalance between learning and teaching [ 11 ]. This digital divide sparks several questions, including whether we should limit SNSs or to follow the students’ preferred learning style as they are tech-savvy and feel more comfortable while learning in a cyber space.

While the frequency, pattern and purpose of SNSs usage have been somewhat deciphered [ 12 ], there is still a lack of information about the ethical and efficient use of SNSs by students for academic purposes. Despite the fact that medical educators have provided tips on how to use SNSs, particularly Twitter and Facebook, as learning tools in medical education [ 13 ], as well as interventional actions to improve medical students' use of SNSs [ 14 , 15 ], users continue to struggle with issues of confidentiality, privacy, and e-professionalism in the ever-changing social media environment.

This multi-center study was designed to determine the extent and pattern of SNSs use in education, as well as the impact of an interactive intervention on medical, health sciences, dental, and pharmacy students from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Malaysia, and Pakistan In addition, the participants were given the opportunity to learn about the available learning tools and features of SNSs, as well as the concept of e-professionalism. The findings of this study have the potential to increase awareness among undergraduate medical students and medical educators regarding their choices of SNSs and electronic professional identities through e-professionalism in response to the ever-changing landscape of social media.

This study was carried out in two phases. In the first phase, a cross-sectional study was conducted to determine the extent, nature, and purpose of SNSs by undergraduate students from a range of health professions. In the second phase, we conducted an interventional workshop which was based on the data and the key findings from the first phase of the study together with a pre-post survey to determine the impact and outcome of the workshop. A convenient sampling method was employed for the recruitment of the undergraduate students across all years from five different centers namely the College of Medicine (CoM) University of Sharjah (UoS) UAE, College of Health Sciences (CHS) UoS, College of Dental Medicine (CDM) UoS, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) and Ameer-ud-Din Medical College (AMC) Pakistan. These institutions were selected due to their significant commonalities in the curriculum contents including the courses, teaching and assessment modalities.

Study settings

The curriculum of the CoM at UoS in the UAE spans over six years and adopts a student-centred problem-based learning strategies. The MBBS curriculum is further divided into three phases: phase I—foundation year, phase II—pre-clerkship phase (years 1, 2 and 3) and phase III—clerkship phase (years 4 and 5). The CHS at the UoS has seven departments: medical laboratory sciences, medical diagnostic imaging, nursing, health services administration, physiotherapy, environmental health sciences, nutrition and diabetes. All seven programs utilize a classical 4-year outcome-based competency curriculum. The CDM at the UoS provides the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) program in an integrated, theme-based 6-year curriculum. It comprises of three phases: phase I- foundation sciences, phase II- integrated dental sciences and phase III- dental clerkship. The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at USIM Malaysia offers a 6-year medical curriculum that includes three years of pre-clinical training and another three years of clinical posting. The program adopts a discipline-based curriculum that incorporates both directed and student-centered learning. The AMC in Pakistan offers a five-year undergraduate medical program using the classical competency-based, integrated curriculum. Besides the varied geographical locations among all participating institutes, the undergraduate students in these institutes had some kind of social presence and used a wide variety of SNSs to post opinions, share surveys, share videos, post articles and course related material beside networking, entertainment and socialization. However, there is no structured course or teaching pedagogy in any of the participating institutions about the educational use of SNSs for medical and health sciences students.

Measurement of SNSs usage

In the first phase of the study, the research collaborators from each of the five institutes invited their students to participate in this study through emails. The study instrument was an online questionnaire that was sent via SurveyMonkey® platform. We adopted a previously tested and published English-language 20-statement social networking sites for medical education (SNSME) inventory[ 12 ]. The SNSME inventory captures the usage, extent and preferences of students for SNSs. The first six statements of SNSME gathers information about the frequency of the usage of SNSs from five options of never, once a month, once a week, once a day, and 3–5 times per day (Additional file 1 : Appendix I). The next 14 statements of the questionnaire capture the responses of the participants about the mechanisms for the usage of SNSs for education on a 5-point Likert scale (e.g., strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree). Data and key finding from this phase was used to develop the intervention workshop for the 2nd phase of the study.

Intervention workshop development

For the 2 nd phase of the study, a 75 -minute guided live workshop was developed and structured around the educational use of the three most common SNSs indicated by the study cohort. The workshop's main goals were to discuss the available features, benefits, limitations, and challenges of using Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest in medical education, as well as the attributes of e-professionalism and the mechanisms for protecting privacy and confidentiality. We invited the same cohort of students to register for an online guided workshop on the academic usage of SNSs in the medical field. The interested students were required to register through an online Google form. By analyzing the data from the SNSME survey, we came across a host of information about the most popular SNSs and a range of strategies that were adopted by students for the educational use of those SNSs. All registered students were invited to watch a 15-min pre-workshop presentation at their own time and pace though a shared link. The recorded lecture introduced students to Web 2.0 technology and the use of SNSs in medical education.

The workshop was designed with the agenda “academic use of Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest in undergraduate medical education” which was carried out live via MS Teams. During the interventional workshop, after a brief introduction, a 45–minute interactive presentation was delivered. This presentation vividly demonstrated the learning and collaborative strategies available on the three most popular SNSs opted by the students during the first phase. A brief account about e-professionalism and its advantages and disadvantages was also touch-based in this interactive presentation. This was followed by an open questions and answers session of 15 minutes. All researchers attended this workshop as facilitators and participated in groups discussions and in wrap up session. The attending students contributed by raising hands, writing in chat room and as well as by directly speaking to the presenters. During the workshop, participants completed a self-administered pre- and post-intervention questionnaire to assess their perspectives, insights, and the impact of the intervention. The questionnaire had five statements to respond on a Yes or No scale, two multiple-choice questions and one open ended question (Additional file 1 : Appendix II).

Data collection and analysis

The data was entered and analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences v.23 (SPSS). The quantitative descriptive analysis was done by frequency distributions which was illustrated in graphical and pictorial presentations in clustered bar charts. As all statements were organized in ordinal scale, inferential statistics were performed by non-parametric tests. As a pre-requisite to using other non-parametric tests (Mann–Whitney U and Kruskal Wallis tests), the normality of data was cross-verified by a one-sample Kolmogorov- Smirnov test. If a variable had a significant z value (< 0.05), this would allow us to reject the null hypothesis “data is normally distributed”. Therefore, non-parametric tests would be considered appropriate for the comparison of responses from genders, year of schooling and age groups. The Mann–Whitney U test was used to compare the differences in responses between genders and the Kruskal Wallis test compared the variations between more than two independent groups e.g., year of schooling and age groups. For the pre-post statistical analysis of the guided workshop, a paired t was used. A p- value of less than 0.05 was considered significant.

Respondent’s background

We received 1722 complete responses out of 1986 invitees (response rate of 86%): 1277 (74%) female students and 445 (26%) male students. The majority of the respondents (843; 48.9%) were between the ages of 18 and 20, 463 (26.9%) were between the ages of 21 and 23, 305 (17.7%) were between the ages of 24 and 27, and 113 (6.6%) students were over the age of 27. There were 515 (29.9%) students from CoM-UoS, 399 (23.2%) from CHS-UoS, 265 (15.4%) from CDM-UoS, 237 (13.7%) from AMC, and 306 (17.8%) students from USIM.Further, the distribution of the students across different years in the colleges are shown in Table 1 .

Usage, extent and preferences of students for SNSs

Out of the total 1722 respondents, 1553 (90%) used the SNSs for educational purposes with the frequency of usage ranging from once a month to 3–5 times per day (Table 2 panel A). In comparison to other centers, students from CoM-UoS had the highest percentage of active users of SNSs for education (29% of total users). Only a small proportion of respondents (9.8%) had never used SNSs for educational purposes. The majority of respondents (1475/1772 or 86%) agreed or strongly agreed that social networking sites were beneficial for educational reasons as shown in statement 18 ( S18. I have found social networking sites useful for educational purposes ) of Table 2 panel B. However, a small percentage of the respondents (2.5%) disagreed with the statement. Additionally, 1093/1722 (63%) respondents agreed (e.g., strongly agree and agree) that proper counselling was necessary for efficient use of SNSs for education as shown in statement 19 ( S19. Medical students need supervision and guidance for the appropriate use of social networking sites for educational purposes ) (Table 2 panel C). We discovered that the most frequently used SNSs for medical education were Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, as indicated from 379 (22 percent), 327 (19 percent), and 310 (18 percent) respondents of the cohort, respectively (Table 2 , panel D).

Figure  1 shows the clustered bar chart of the observed frequencies of responses through categorical variables (1 st category = never used, 2 nd category = once a month, 3 rd category = once a week, 4 th category = once a day, and 5 th category = 3–5 times a day). For the first statement ‘ S1 . How often do you use e-mail for sharing information for educational purpose? , we observed that most students (504; 29%) used email once a week for sharing educational material. For second statement ‘ S2. H ow often do you use social networking sites to keep in touch with peers and tutors?’ most (918; 53%) students used SNSs to remain in touch with their peers and tutors 3 to 5 times a day. Interestingly, most students (927; 54%) did not contribute to blogs writing as shown by their responses to ‘ S6. How often do you contribute to blogs or Wikis to share information, or for dissemination of knowledge?’ . Overall, students’ response to SNSs usage for education remained mixed.

figure 1

The observed frequencies of responses to statements about the students’ extent of the usage of social networking sites for education ( N  = 1722)

Figure  2 displays the bar chart of the observed frequencies of responses to statements about the students’ usage of the SNSs for education using the same categorical variables. The highest response was recorded for statement ‘ S12. Social networking sites help me to access educational resources ’, where most (871; 51%) students strongly agreed that SNSs was an important platform for sharing educational material. On the other hand, for the 20 th statement ‘ S20. I believe that social networking sites are inappropriate for sharing classroom materials, information, and discussing education related topics’ , majority of the respondents either disagreed (550; 32%) or strongly disagreed (371;21%). Similarly, the responses to other statements are outlined in Fig.  2 .

figure 2

The observed frequencies of responses to statements about the students’ perceptions of the usage of social networking sites for education ( N  = 1722)

Table 3 compares the mean ranks of all responses by students across their years of schooling. The results showed that the students’ responses were significantly different for all statements. The responses of foundation year students significantly dominated those from other years as evident by their higher mean ranks e.g., the highest mean rank of 1098 for statement 1. Likewise, the differences in responses to other statements are highlighted in italics. Table 4 compares all statements based on mean ranks across different age groups of students and the results showed that the students’ responses were significantly different from each other for all statements. Senior students with age groups above 27 years scored highest mean rank of 1167 for statement 1. The variations of the other statements are highlighted and italics. Table 5 compares all statements based on mean ranks across different colleges of students. It is noteworthy that senior students from CHS-UoS scored highest mean rank of 971 for statement 1.

Pre- post intervention surveys

A total of 143 students attended the guided workshop, however, we retrieved 89 complete responses to the pre-post surveys. There were comparable representations of students from all colleges of UoS, USIM and AMC. The results of the paired t test showed a significance improvement in the students’ understanding and knowledge about the educational use of SNSs by the guided workshop compared to their pre-workshop status (Table 6 ). Specifically, students’ understanding about Web 2.0 technology and its applications in the digital age improved significantly to 45% compared to 23% in pre-workshop survey ( p  < 0.000). Second, their knowledge about digital professionalism improved from 43 to 83% by the intervention ( p  < 0.000). Finally, students’ skills and knowledge about the productive use of SNSs significantly increased to 91% after the workshop ( p  < 0.00).

Table 7 shows the rankings of the learning strategies in SNSs by students in order of their preferences. The data showed a significant improvement in the students’ knowledge and understandings about a range of learning modalities on SNSs when compared to their pre-workshop levels ( p -value 0.007). We observed that students rated efficient for conceptual learning, connection with community practice, e-portfolio, and collaborative learning as top-four significant teaching and learning strategies, respectively, in post-workshop. Interestingly, the students’ cohort attending the workshop once again favored Twitter (38/89, 43%), Instagram (22/89, 24%), and Pinterest (20/89, 22%) as the three most popular SNSs being used for their teaching and learning, similar to the initial survey.

Our cross-campus study draws on the use of SNSs which can be transformed by faculty and students from medical and health sciences into an authentic digital footprints where they can work collaboratively within the medical community. Overall, approximately one third of the students’ cohort actively used SNSs for education, while almost one half of the cohort found SNSs as an effective and useful medium for education. The staggering upsurge of the adaptation of global digital applications is clearly fueling the use of SNSs as approximately 45% of the world population is using some kind of social media every day [ 16 ].Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest were the three most popular SNSs choices by our study cohort for their learning activities. Likewise, the study inferred that the students most commonly used SNSs for conceptual learning, connection with community practice, e-portfolio, and collaborative learning . Surprisingly, publishing ideas and opinions in real-time was the least preferred learning modality among the study cohort. This could be attributed to the poor writing and publishing skills of students who need further training on critical appraisals and micro-reflections.

In this study, Twitter was found to be the most popular SNS for medical education. By following hashtags, tweeting, and retweeting, students used Twitter to communicate with their peers, tutors, and faculty. Twitter usage promoted a variety of informal learning activities, such as self-directed, independent, and collaborative assignment work [ 17 ]. It aided in the formation of e-learning communities in a cyberspace interprofessional milieu, fostering flexible and collegial learning outside of regular work hours, particularly among medical students [ 18 ]. Junco et al., investigated the impact of Twitter on college students in 125 pre-health majors and concluded that Twitter had a positive impact on both students’ engagement and assessment grades [ 19 ]. On the other hand, a study by Scot et al., found a decline tendency in academic use of Twitter over time, notably in anatomy education [ 20 ]. Several possible explanations for this decline have been proposed, including social media fatigue, changing the nature and content of social media platforms, becoming bored and frustrated with a particular platform over time, and the young generation's constant desire to switch to a newer and trending platform, such as moving away from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and TikTok [ 21 ].

The second most popular SNS in our study was Instagram, a smartphone- and a tablet-based program with an image-sharing service, which asynchronously publishes images using a plethora of digital filters [ 22 ]. Because of its video and photo upload and sharing capabilities, it is becoming increasingly popular in human anatomy, radiology, and dental education [ 23 , 24 ].

The majority of Instagram users are young students aged 18 to 29 where they frequently upload informal peer-to-peer study-related material. Although Instagram has its own terms of service, which prohibit the publication of unlawful and confidential content, it still lacks quality control, confidentiality, and ethical and legal regulations for posting sensitive or personal information. Educators have an opportunity and responsibility to guide and engage the young minds in professional, and quality-assured informative in SNSs [ 20 ].

Pinterest, the third most popular SNS in our study, is an online service for creating and sharing images with an opportunity to create instructional resources [ 25 ]. A classic example of an image-sharing application in Pinterest is CTisus.com, a radiology-teaching website that enables users to browse a host of images of a specific illness with insightful notes and guidance. A great majority of students uses Pinterest to pin (add images), re-pin, comment, describe, and download images and flow chart for the academic activities.

In our study, CoM-UoS had the most active users of SNSs for education (453/514; 88%) when compared to other colleges. This could be due to the  fact that CoM-UoS students had the highest representation, as well as due to their constantly evolving affinity for SNSs. A study in 2014 at the CoM-UoS on the use of a Facebook page in anatomy teaching found a similar effect, with the majority of students embracing and finding it utility for learning [ 26 ]. This was followed by another study in 2016 where the authors reported YouTube and Facebook were the top ranked SNSs used by the students in CoM-UoS [ 27 ]. Senior students from CHS-UoS received the highest mean rank for their degree of online application connectivity. Likewise, CoM-UoS and USIM students showed the highest agreement with the statement ‘ I have found social networking sites useful for educational purposes ’. Another interesting observation from our research was that senior students above the age of 27 had higher mean ranks than their peers. This could be due to the nature of education, particularly clinical training and increased exposure to medical apps in patient care, thus more empowered to use SNSs professionally based on experiences [ 28 ], despite the fact that the process is unsupervised and unstructured.

From our study cohort, responding to the statement, ‘ medical students need supervision and guidance for the appropriate use of social networking sites for educational purposes ’, 63% students agreed for the need of professional training for the educational use of SNSs. There is no disagreement with this finding, although some medical schools offer a structured course or module on the educational use of SNSs [ 14 , 15 ], the usage of SNSs in education is still inconsistent and fragmented. Furthermore, there have been multiple reports of medical students acting in an unprofessional or questionable manner, breeching privacy, compromising confidentiality, and blurring personal and professional lines, all of which have resulted in uncertain legal ramifications [ 29 , 30 ]. The live workshop session was held to support students and raise awareness about the use of SNSs in medical education, notably Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Additionally, the educational intervention highlighted the emerging concept of e-professionalism, “attitudes and behaviors (some of which may occur in private settings) reflecting traditional professionalism paradigms that are manifested through digital media” [ 31 ]. The interventional workshop, according to the vast majority of students, improved their knowledge of social networking sites for medical education as well as Web 2.0 technology and its applications in the digital sphere. We believe, for a successful use of SNSs in medical education, a thorough review of all SNSs and professional development programs for faculty, healthcare practitioners, and students is required. Finally, all stakeholders should have access to institutional regulations for implementing, maintaining, and monitoring a safe and legal digital policy.

Study limitations

This study has few potential limitations. First, there was a small sample of students who attended the online session. Despite the small sample size, the engagement and response rates were satisfactory. Second, the limited access to various SNSs, as determined by their local laws and regulations, could have influenced the study findings. Third, a selection bias of the attitudes and practices of the respondents who used SNSs were different from non-respondents who potentially did not use SNSs. Despite these limitations, we believe that this study accomplished its objectives of measuring SNSs usage among medical and health sciences students and in guiding them for their better educational application.  

Conclusions

In conclusion, among undergraduate students in medicine and health professions, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest remained the top popular SNSs for academic usages. Their applications are currently highly inconsistent and personalized. In comparison to the traditional and orthodox teaching and learning pedagogies, however, the future of SNSs in academia appears promising and powerful. Through involvement, collaboration, peer supported learning, and feedback, SNSs might potentially improve students' learning experiences. As the pedagogical benefits of SNSs are currently only partially realized, there is a room for an increased beneficial use of SNSs in medical education.

Availability of data and materials

The original data can be acquired from the corresponding author upon reasonable request through email.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to all students who actively participated in both phases of the study and provided valuable data for this research.

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Clinical Sciences Department, College of Medicine, University of Sharjah, P Box - 27272, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Nihar Ranjan Dash, Ahmed Alrazzak Hasswan & Salman Yousuf Guraya

Department of Nursing, College of Health Sciences, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Jacqueline Maria Dias

Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Sains Islam, Nilai, Malaysia

Natasya Abdullah

Department of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Mohamed Ahmed Eladl

Department of Preventive and Restorative Dentistry, College of Dental Medicine, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Khaled Khalaf

Institute of Dentistry, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

Department of Surgery, Ameer-Ud-Din Medical College, Lahore, Pakistan

Ajmal Farooq

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All authors contributed equally to the concept, design, data acquisition and conduction of the workshop. SG and AH performed result analysis. ND, JD, NA and SG wrote the main manuscript. All authors have revised and approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Salman Yousuf Guraya .

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The study was carried out after obtaining the necessary ethics approval from the Research and Ethics Committee of the University of Sharjah (REC-21–01-25–01). All the experiment protocol for involving human data was in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and was approved by the Research Ethics Committee, University of Sharjah. Informed consent was obtained from all subjects.

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Supplementary Information

Additional file 1: appendix i..

The SNSME questionnaire.  Appendix II. Pre and post workshop questionnaire. 

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Dash, N.R., Hasswan, A.A., Dias, J.M. et al. The educational use of social networking sites among medical and health sciences students: a cross campus interventional study. BMC Med Educ 22 , 525 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-022-03569-3

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-022-03569-3

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social networking sites thesis

Social Networking Sites Essay for Students and Children

500+ words essay on social networking sites.

Social networking sites are a great platform for people to connect with their loved ones. It helps in increasing communication and making connections with people all over the world. Although people believe that social networking sites are harmful, they are also very beneficial.

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Furthermore, we can classify social networking sites as per blogging, vlogging, podcasting and more. We use social networking sites for various uses. It helps us greatly; however, it also is very dangerous. We must monitor the use of social networking sites and limit their usage so it does not take over our lives.

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Social networking sites are everywhere now. In other words, they have taken over almost every sphere of life. They come with both, advantages as well as disadvantages. If we talk about the educational field, these sites enhance education by having an influence on the learners. They can explore various topics for their projects.

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On the other hand, the disadvantages of social networking sites are also very high. They give birth to cybercrimes like cyberbullying , sexual exploitation, money scams and more. It is very harmful to kids as people make them victims of pornography and more. It also gives easy access to the pedophiles of children’s information.

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Social networking sites have created a massive presence in today’s world. While there are many types of these sites, some are more famous than the others.

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Furthermore, Twitter is also a great social networking site. It is mostly used by celebrities. This site allows you to post short messages called tweets to share your thoughts. Twitter is a great platform to convey your message in limited words.

Moreover, we have LinkedIn. This is one of the most sought after sites which allow professionals to locate and hire employees. Subsequently, it is available in more than twenty languages to give a user-friendly interface.

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