When Our Changing Society Meets the Social Media Era

When Our Changing Society Meets the Social Media Era

Efi A. Nisiforou (Cyprus University of Technology, Cyprus) and Andrew Laghos (Cyprus University of Technology, Cyprus)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch082
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Abstract

The rapid growth and the popularity of Social Network Sites (SNSs) are increasingly attracting the attention of millions of students for many different purposes. The chapter reviews the background of the current social media research in relation to the international literature and tackles the most important findings. The practical part of the chapter outlines the results of a survey on social media services. The findings provide real research evidence on online social technology use amongst university students. The chapter has educational and theoretical significance and shapes future directions for research on this issue. A compendium of terms, definitions, and explanations of concepts is clearly explained.
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Introduction

The chapter focuses on the use of social media networks, which have become a critical part of our everyday lives. Social networking was chosen because of its unique affordances, which are further explained in a subsequent section. An overview and analysis of the existing online tools will be discussed, as well as the issues surrounding this topic.

In particular, the book chapter makes a description of the phenomenon and demonstrates findings of different studies investigating the topic from a variety of perspectives. The literature review presents studies that indicate the effect of online social networking and online communities on students’ lives. The objective of the chapter is to draw on the existing body of background literature on this domain and synthesize empirical evidence of how these existing online tools are being used by university students.

The research part of the chapter examines five main parameters concerning the frequency of visits, the most dominant sites used by students, the general usage of SNS, the role of social media in communication and the potential of using social services as educational tools. In order to get advantage of the use of social media for educational purposes, we must first understand students’ purposes for using these sites and then be able to introduce them into authentic learning contexts. The online social networking environments could be crucial in learning. When students realize the value in connecting with peers in the learning process, the better their learning would be. Numerous international studies still point out significant gender-based differences in students’ computer use at home and school (Vekiri & Chronaki, 2008) as well as in their views about gender, technology, and computer learning. Even though gender differences in many cases exist to a lesser extent they may differ by country or age. As suggested by Vekiri and Chronaki (2008), despite the existing debates on gender equality, computer use appears to be a heavily gendered space. The worldwide popularity of these sites shows that it is crucial to conduct case studies investigating students SNS usage. It is, therefore, indispensable to draw attention to and examine the purposes of social networks use by student populations retrieved from a variety of sociocultural backgrounds.

Social media services and Web 2.0 are the subject of everyday attention in the mass media. Social networking sites (SNS) are cited as creating more attractive learning environments as they are infiltrating the educational arena (Chen & Bryer, 2012). Growing literature tends to focus on specific phases of social networking in the educational field and specifically examine the relationship between social media usage and academic performance (Chen & Bryer, 2012). Greenhow (2011) investigated how users’ value social services for academic and non-academic uses. As Reynard (2008) mentioned, building on what is accepted by students as a familiar activity, we can encourage them to become engaged participants in their online connections.

Other characteristics of network diversity should be explored in addition to occupation, gender and ethnicity issues (Erickson, 2003). Due to the above statement, the research part of this chapter aimed to investigate and present higher education students usage of social media services and to examine their perceptions towards the educational value of these sites.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Higher Education: The stage of learning that follows beyond the secondary level that occurs at a university or college.

Gender Equality: Also known as gender equity, sex equality or equality of the genders, refers to the equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities of girls and boys and women and men. It does not mean that they will become the same.

Web 2.0: The transition from static Web pages to a more dynamic and organized Web with an emphasis on user collaboration, open sharing of information online, and social networking.

Online Communication: Refers to the several ways (such as e-mail, social networking sites, etc) in which individuals and computers can communicate with each other through a networked computer.

Educational Networking: The use of social networks for educational purposes or in educational environments.

Social Network Sites: Are part of the Web 2.0 and enables users to create communities and form relationships with other users of the same social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.

Web 1.0: Web 1.0 refers to the state of the World Wide Web, when a set of static Websites were used, providing no interactive content.

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