In May of 2009, First Monday, a peer-reviewed journal of Internet-related research, published a study that examined the relationship between Facebook use and student’s GPA score. The study was conducted in response to a “media sensation” concerning an unpublished study that found Facebook use might be related to lower GPA scores in college.
The study was conducted by Josh Pasek, Eian More, and Eszter Hargittai. As they explain,
The report quickly became a media sensation and was picked up by hundreds of news outlets in a matter of days. However, the results were based on correlational data in a draft manuscript that had not been published, or even considered for publication.
The study that cause this media flurry was conducted by Aryn C. Karpinski, a doctoral student at The Ohio State University.
Pasek, More, and Hargittai believed that Karpinski’s study contained methodological errors and conducted a new study to “set the record straight.” Among the methodological errors, Pasek, More, and Hargittai criticized Karpinski for using a questionable sample and having only one controlled variable. They also criticized the media for sensationalizing a study that itself did not report a large effect.
After analyzing three sets of data obtained from questionnaires given to students at the University of Illinois in Chicago and students surveyed via telephone, they found that,
Two of our analyses suggest that Facebook users were no more or less likely to get good grades than non–users. The third study found evidence that Facebook use was slightly more common among individuals with higher grades. Indeed, our findings are in direct contradiction to those presented in the original FG study as well as the flurry of sensational media that ensued.
Karpinski responsed to this study, claiming that her study was a small exploratory experiment that the media had blown out of proportion. As she says,
“I wanted to have a dialogue with others who are examining similar phenomena. However, the media completely sensationalized it, although Pasek and colleagues (2009) implied that I abetted the media frenzy by only offering ‘minor caveats'”
She also notes that Pasek, More, and Hargittai’s study has its own methodological flaws and concludes her response by saying that, “Neither my study nor their study sets any record straight.”
Pasek, J. More, E. & Hargittai, E. (2009). Facebook and academic performance: Reconciling a media sensation with data. First Monday, Vol 14, N0 5. Full text: http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2498/2181
Karpinski, A.C. (2009). A response to reconciling a media sensation with data. First Monday, Vol 14, No 5. Full text: http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2503/2183