Influence of Social Networking Sites on Civic Participation in Higher Education Context

Influence of Social Networking Sites on Civic Participation in Higher Education Context

Seyedali Ahrari (UPM, Malaysia), Zeinab Zaremohzzabieh (IPSAS, Malaysia) and Bahaman Abu Samah (IPSAS, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7669-3.ch055


This book chapter introduces the debate on youth civic participation specifically looking at the benefits in the higher educational context. This chapter promotes the recent level and character of using the social networking sites and their possibility to admit for the growth of higher education towards student civic participation. The chapter also reviews the recent studies on the civic uses of the social networking sites and argues the learning methods and consequences that could be practiced by learners and instructors when using the social networking sites for civic participation. Hence, the Bandura's social cognitive theory and cognitive engagement theory will be applied to create the framework for exploring the influence of civic efficacy and knowledge, access to civic information on the social networking sites, and civic interest on the association between the social networking sites and youth civic participation. It helps in recognizing the motivation that inspires the youth online civic participation actions in the higher educational settings.
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For more than two decades now, the innovation of the public sector towards the goal of improving service, in terms of quality and efficiency, has been towards the political scheme, and the central role is played by social networking sites (SNSs). Until now, in the 21st century, there is a worldwide interest in the concept of eDemocracy that, in short, consists mainly of the idea that enhanced cooperation between the government and citizens, through SNSs, can lead to improved citizen participation in the policy-making process in democratic societies. SNSs foster the improvement and maintain an accurate relationship-based approach as well as provide social experiences (Dunne, Lawlor, & Rowley, 2010). SNSs have also captured the interests of millions of young individuals around the world (Huang, Wang, & Yuan, 2014).

Among those surveyed in higher education institutes, SNSs’ use is almost worldwide. For instance, Facebook as an SNS has become a vital tool for nearly all higher institution students’ everyday lives, while a large quantity of undergraduates seem to get advantages from the usage of SNSs by sharing information for academic objectives, finding acquaintances and other actions. The research findings of previous study even displayed that university students are addicted to Facebook and other SNSs (Zaremohzzabieh et al., 2014). In another survey from six universities in Lyceum of the Philippines – Laguna found that SNSs are making a great outcome nearly in every aspect of students’ lives and have become the latest online avenue for students’ academic performances (Morallo, 2014).

On the other hand, research on youth attitudes reveals that, compared to prior generations, today’s youth are less interested in civic issues, less likely to express trust in their fellow citizens, and less inclined to perceive citizenship as duties involving them (such as voting or donating money), and not simply their rights (Vromen, Xenos, & Loader, 2015). In response to these declines in youth civic participation, there has been a new development of civic participation among youth (Van Wyngarden, 2012; Waller, 2013) particularly with the proliferation of SNSs; the pattern for civic participation has vastly changed. In addition, SNSs bring into effect multiple social interactions and develop communication, cognitive and civic competencies of youth, particularly university students (Christofides, Muise, & Desmarais, 2012). Studies have suggested that the many ways in which the students use SNSs: to support their goals, organize and mobilize others online, form digital links between coordinated offline civic activities and their professions. For instance, previous study tried to discover youth civic engagement among the students of the Institute of Technology Blanchard town. The quantitative results showed that the students preferred to engage in civic activities online within social media. Some of the students used social media to post comments about social and political issues and also to share politically motivated videos or campaigns (McCormack, Carthy, & Doran, 2015). Furthermore, the findings of another study displayed that the undergraduate students of the University of Nigeria Nsukka use SNSs for multipurpose and SNSs regularly favor them. The study revealed that UNN undergraduate students use SNSs for discussing serious national issues such as politics (Eke Miss, Obiora, & Odoh Miss, 2014). These findings are inspiring as they display that university students do have brainstorming activities on civic and political issues via SNSs. As stated by Howard and Hussain (2011), the SNSs are also becoming the key factor for citizenship education and civic participation. Vitak et al. (2011) suggested that there is a significant relationship between the intensity of using Facebook for political awareness purposes and civic participation among university and college students. Yet civic participation of the students should also include informed involvement in SNSs issues.

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