That disconnect between perception and reality does not necessarily mean that Facebook leads to less studying and worse grades -- the grades association could be caused by something else. However, it does raise more questions about how students spend their time outside class on activities such as Facebook, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities.
"I'm just saying that there's some kind of relationship there, and there's many third variables that need to be studied," said Aryn Karpinski, an education researcher at Ohio State University.
Her study found that Facebook user GPAs were in the 3.0 to 3.5 range on average, compared to 3.5 to 4.0 for non-users. Facebook users also studied anywhere from one to five hours per week, compared to non-users who studied 11 to 15 or more hours per week.
However, Karpinski emphasized that correlation does not equal causation, meaning Facebook use might not be the culprit behind lower GPAs or less study time.
For instance, students who spend more time enjoying themselves rather than studying might tend to latch onto the nearest distraction, such as Facebook. Or students who use the social networking site might also spend more time on other non-studying activities such as sports or music.
The study did show that students who work more hours at jobs spend less time on Facebook, while students involved in more extracurricular activities were also more likely to use Facebook.
I really hate these "trend" things when there's a new social phenomenon. It's always at the beginning of the lifecycle of whatever the latest thing is, involves smaller populations, the assumptions of older people about what is right and good, are never really instructive or indicative of anything important, and pop up every generation (or more frequently). So...whatever.
In related news, I wonder what Keira Knightley's GPA is and whether 'dehumanizing' means what she thinks it means. If I could, I'd send her a sandwich in Facebook...
PS--I'll note that some of my best students are on Facebook. Since the plural of 'anecdote' is 'data'...