Impacts of Facebook hedonic usage on students’ academic achievement : the role of culture and personality characteristics

University dissertation from Luleå : Luleå tekniska universitet

Abstract: The largest online social network in the world, Facebook continues to prompt debate about users’ behaviors. The effects of online activities on themselves and their interactions with others have been discussed extensively. In particular, students are a main class of Facebook users who spend long hours on the social network, which has worried parents and educational authorities about their academic performance. The students themselves argue that their presence on Facebook, as a leisure activity, does not hinder their academic efforts, though some evidence suggests that their grades decline after they join Facebook.To address these questions, I have designed five separate, complementary studies, supported by a conceptual research model derived from flow theory, capacity theory, and the “very rich” model of information system usage. These studies measure actual and perceived impacts and compare them, both in a single cultural context and across widely divergent cultures. Specifically, the first study assessed actual impacts in Tunisia; the second measured the perceived impacts in Sweden. In a third study, I analyzed differences between perceived and actual impacts among undergraduate students from the United States. Finally, I performed two comparative studies to investigate the role of culture in moderating perceptions of the effect of time spent and cognitive immersion on Facebook (Sweden and the United States) and then regulating the actual effect of such usage (Tunisia and the United States), in consideration of the level of conscientiousness and extroversion of students from each country.The results show that students’ presence on and cognitive absorption in Facebook does not immediately threaten their academic performance. Their cultural background affects perceptions and thus behaviors. Personality characteristics, such as personality traits, trust in people, self-regulation, and multitasking skills, also significantly moderate the effects. A student’s interest in school and his performance goal orientation represent strong determinants of academic achievement. Finally, satisfaction with life is a key difference between cultures; it reflects various aspects of a person’s life. Thus, it was perceived differently between Swedes and U.S. students; it emerges as a key concept to consider in analyzing the effects of a leisure activity, such as Facebook, on individuals and their performance.

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