Social media lifeline for international students

Writer’s note: Published on Meld Magazine earlier this week! Special thanks to those who have filled the original survey and given me great quotes :)

SOCIAL media is for most international students as important as breakfast is for the body. For some, it’s oxygen. 

“I check my Blackberry every morning and the last thing I check is, well, my Blackberry too. I should really change. “ ST ♂

International students spend a third of their waking up time on social media, with more than half making surfing the net a priority in their lives.

The survey was conducted on a sample of 21 Melbourne-based international students aged between 18 and 25-years-old.

Around 60 per cent of students said going on Facebook or Twitter is the first thing they do after waking, and the last activity before bedtime.

International students spend an average of three to four hours per day online, with males and females equally hooked on social media, and the biggest motivation being the need to “be in touch” with the world.

Only one out of 21 international students surveyed didn’t own a smartphone.

Nearly 30 per cent of the students surveyed said they receive complaints about their social media habits, and around 16 per cent of them said they can’t go a day without checking Facebook or Twitter.

“I reckon the only things preventing me from becoming fully addicted are a) my lack of a smartphone prevents me from constantly checking up on social media; and b) all the constant updating gets quite overwhelming after a while, so I stop and take time to process the deluge.” RY ♀

“[Social media] has its pros and cons. It’s a great way to share resources and meet like-minded people. But it may cause unnecessary distractions or divided attention, for example by checking your Facebook or Twitter every opportunity you get.” JT ♂

But while all the students surveyed said they use social media to keep in touch with friends, the majority regard social media as a “double-edged sword”.

Some students cite feelings of irritation when real time interactions give way to social media engagement at social gatherings.

One student said nothing could beat face-to-face meetings ultimately, and wished people would make more of an effort to “put down their smartphones and engage the person sitting in front of them”.

“People need to connect more often, not through the cyber world, but in the real world. It’s sad that technology can ruin people’s relationships. I think too many people try so hard to be famous in the cyber world that they forget how to really ‘connect’ to others,” the student said.

“I think social media is a wonderful tool for connection and networking, but it’s a double-edged sword, because like all powerful tools it can easily be misused to disastrous consequences.” RY ♀

“I miss the good old days where people meet and chat with a real conversation instead of talking about other’s statuses on Facebook or Twitter. That’s just wrong.” CNM ♀

Half of the students surveyed said they rely on social media for their source of news, and more than 80 per cent said they have Facebook “open” while surfing the net.

The survey also showed while most people said they can live a day without social media, many indicated it would usually not be out of choice, but because they are “on holiday”, or have “no connection”.

Two of the students surveyed said the deprivation from Facebook or Twitter for a day would significantly alter their mood.

But it’s not an admission students are proud to acknowledge, like one of the students surveyed, who said that while she had not received complaints from family or friends about her social media habits, she was “disappointed to have spent so much time” online.

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