The Perception And Usage Of Twitter Among Students (A Case Study Of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti)
1.1 Background of the Study
The invention of the internet brought a new dimension to the media landscape. It marked the beginning of technological transformation and socialization with a higher desire for information about everything. This slowly developed into social media, which essentially is information about people.
The internet has taken the process of information dissemination to a higher platform thereby going beyond being a mere medium of socialization or information seeking and has become something much more. With this development, users are driving content (Dominick et al.,2013) in ways never seen before. This has led to the transformation in not just one medium; there is more to come as new trends emerge continually.
Shapiro cited in Croteau and Hoynes, (2003) argues that the emergence of new, digital technologies signals a potentially radical shift of who is in control of information, experience and Covenant Journal of Communication.
Social Network usage by students is so rampant recently because of easy access to devices such as smart phones, iphones, black berry, tablets, ipad and laptops which are connected to the internet (Griffiths, 2011). Addiction to the usage of social network has extremely increased in recent times. The perils of its effects on the academic performance of the over-involved students are disturbing. Academic performance which is depicted by the grades of students (Jenkins, 2006), is a great concern to Benue State University, Makurdi. Students that spend excessive time on social networks become dependent on it and it is believed that their academic performance diminishes proportionately. It is perceived that school grades will suffer when spending too much time on social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and My space as valuable study time is lost (Sherry et al., 2008).
These therefore necessitate the study of the effects of social network usage on university students’ academic performance. The social network overuse certainly has some negative impact that may counterbalance the potential benefits and poses grave consequences to the academic performance of its victims. Students spend quality time to comment, update, read and share posts on social networks. Turkle et al., (2007), justifies that a statistically significant negative relationship exist between time spent by students on social networks and their academic performance.
According to Adelabu, (2011), The high rate of social networking sites, and the impact they have on young people‘s lives, offers striking testimony to the global impact of today‘s Internet. Some treat this new medium as a danger, and others treat it as the road to utopia.
On the internet, people engage in a variety of activities some of which may be potentially addictive kuss and Griffiths, (2011). The mass appeal of social networks on the internet could be a cause for concern, particularly when attending to the gradually increasing amount of time youths spend online. Social networking sites are virtual communities where users can create individual public profiles, interact with real life friends and meet other people based on shared interests. They allow individuals to Neuman & Robinson, (2001), construct a public or semi public profile within a bounded system, Zhang, (2008) articulate a list of other users with whom they have a connection and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (Hoynes et al., 2003).
Social networking sites offer individuals the possibilities of networking and sharing media content, therefore embracing the main web 2.0 attributes against the framework of their respective structural characteristics (Jenkins, 2006). The internet has an indescribable power to influence, connect and mobilize youths. Some youths have lost their control over social media usage and begun having problems with their functionality in social, vocational and personal circles as the internet has taken over total control of their lives.
Idakwo, (2011), posit that school work and social interaction have been affected at the advent of these social media. Undergraduates spend more time on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks through smartphones that are now in abundance among these youths. Many youths cannot go for two-three hours without checking and updating their profiles on these social networks even at the detriment of other activities such as educational and career pursuit. MorahanMartin and Schumacher (2000) explain internet addiction as the excessive use of the internet and the failure to control this usage which seriously harms a person’s life (Dominick et al., 2013).
The high rate of social networking sites, and the impact they have on young people‘s lives, offers striking testimony to the global impact of today‘s Internet. Some treat this new medium as a danger, and others treat it as the road to utopia. The truth is somewhere in between. In view of the seeming students activeness on Facebook, Blackberry Messenger, WhatsApp etc, it became imperative to understand what Twitter was used for and the dynamics of such usage. In addition, the research was borne out of an observation from audience participation in some programmes on the which indicates that only a fraction of the students use Twitter compared to responses generated from using other platforms. This study will therefore aimed at determining the usage of twitter among student (A case study of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Over the years, social networking sites have metamorphosed from few-user-based sites into phenomena that have become niches for billions of users. The growth and popularity of social networking sites have generated concerns among school authorities, communication experts and socio-psychological researchers about the benefit and potential risks facing undergraduates, as they engage in online social networking to cater for their social and information needs rather than oral or face-to-face communication. Throwing further light on the risk of social networking sites on oral communication among their users, Sherry, (2012), the founder and director of the MIT initiative on technology and self, asserted that the convenience the social networking sites give users to communicate with one another can damage their interpersonal communication.
Also, social networking sites make the users see one another as “objects” to be accessed and only for the parts that the users find useful, comforting amusing. What is more, addiction to social networking sites can establish feelings of loneliness and increase feelings of insensitivity to disconnection, according to John J. Cacioppo, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago (Cacioppo, 2009). Hence, there is the need to fashion out some means of selecting and using the right social networking site responsibly. This study is concerned with the trend of use of the twitter, what benefits students derive from using twitter, the dangers associated with it and ways to avert such dangers (Moeller et al., 2010).
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of the study is to find out the perception and usage of twitter by undergraduate students of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti.
The specific purposes of the study are as follow:
- To examine the perception and usage of Twitter by the undergraduate students of Afe Babalola University.
- To examine the purpose of the usage of twitter by undergraduates students of Afe Babalola University.
- To determine benefits of using twitter.
- To identify the dangers associated with social network sites.
- To proffer strategies of ameliorating the dangers of using Twitter.
1.4 Research Questions
This paper shall be guided by the following questions:
- Why do students use Twitter?
- How do student’s accesses twitter?
- What is the most engaging activity of students on Twitter?
- To what extent do the undergraduate students of Afe Babalola University uses twitter?
- What are the purposes for using twitter by these students?
1.5 Significance of the Study
It is expected that the output of this research will benefit students and the administration of University of —– as this will show the level of the students’ usage of Twitter. This shall help them to understand how best to sustain the students attention on using social networking sites. Also this work will be of immense benefit to the field of Library and information sciences as it will be on addition to existing literature. And shall also add to the available academic literatures on social networking. Also the findings could be used by academic advisers and counselors proffer professional advice to the university authorities on how to regulate the social network usage among undergraduate students in Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti. Again, the findings of this study would provide facts that will enable the ministry of communication technology to know what arises from students’ use of the social networking sites. This will help the ministry, to know how to control social network usage upon successful completion of this research; it shall be very relevant to various people, across Nigeria
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study is limited to the perception and usage of twitter among student of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti. Geographical scope: it covers the perception and usage of twitter by the undergraduate students of Afe Babalola University, benefits of using twitter, purposes of using twitter and dangers involved in the use Twitter (Boyd et al., 2007).
5.0 Discussion of Findings, Conclusion and Recommendations
5.1 Discussion of Findings
Social media have changed the face of human relations and the conventional human interaction in its variegated forms drastically. This new media have also redefined our value systems more narrowly and dangerously. Twitter is rising in popularity and is projected to be one of the leading rallying points on social media. Findings from the research shows that the students of the University of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti use Twitter for informational, academic and social purposes.
Responses show that the students used Twitter as an alternate research medium for academic works, forming and maintaining social relationships with friends and admired personalities. This supports Oyero‘s (2013), and Otunla‘s (2013) positions that majority of tertiary students use social networks as their primary sources of news information in this decade.
Results also show that more than half of the sampled population accessed the platform through mobile phones than computers and other hand-held devices. This is in agreement with the world statistics, which favours mobile phone users as posited by Moore, (2013). It can also be adduced to the simplistic nature of the mobile version of the platform, which is much easier to access to a younger, and internet savvy community, as the result showed. With respect to research question one, i.e. why do they use Twitter? It was revealed that one of the purposes the students of Afe Babalola University use Twitter is to form and maintain social relationships with fellow students (within and outside their school) as reflected in their ability to share private information and experiences. This agrees with the findings of Ezeah and Obiorah, (2013), and Haridakis and Hanson, (2009), that Nigerian students use social media for social interaction and other leisure entertainment. These findings confirm the rationale for the application of Uses and Gratifications theory of the media as the theoretical anchor for this study. Similarly, the study revealed that the students use Twitter because it serves as an alternative channel for academic research and news content.
This further justifies the application of Uses and Gratification theory to this study, as the finding also support that of Ezeah and Obiorah (2013), that social media platforms like Twitter give the students room for getting essential information and education. The study further revealed that undergraduate students are more active on Twitter and access to the platform is greatly enhanced by the availability of mobile phones and other handheld devices.
This is relative to the conclusions of Onyeka and Bulus, (2013), that adolescents and young adults are the heaviest computer and Internet users, primarily using it for completing school assignments, e-mail and/or instant messaging. It was also argued that social networking sites are the latest online communication tool that allows users to create a public or private profile to interact with people in their networks (Boyd and Ellison, 2007). Kadala (2011) added that an average Nigerian youth spend about 6-7 hours daily on the Internet, and some spend all night, surfing (tweeting and updating profiles on different social networks), and this is made easier and more convenient with the mobile phones and other handheld devices. Generally, results showed a balance in usage pattern as the platform is well deployed to gratify news, academic and social needs. This is an indication that as more features are developed, Twitter will get more relevant in years to come among students and will provide stiff rivalry to other social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and 2go.
The various social networking sites are perhaps the most visible face to social media today. This partly accounts for their growing popularity as a youth media. What distinguishes social networking sites from other types of social media is that in some manner they allow users to show the connections they have, or they allow others to see their social networks. The ability to share the map of one’s social network, and allow others to tap into that map by contacting other people in the network, has become an incredibly powerful tool (Pavlik and McIntosh, 2011). Twitter, like other social networking sites developed within the past few years, provides a variety of communication and sharing tools, and encourages users to develop applications that make the site even more useful to users. By this, you can subscribe, share, friend, or follow as many feeds as you would like, students post tweets, retweet favourite tweets by followers, those followed, and monitor activities of tweeps.
Understanding the driving forces of this micro blogging site helps in gaining a better picture of why social media are transforming not just media habits but today‘s world. This study showed an average of 2 years of participation by respondents which is a proof that the site is gaining acceptance. On the whole, a few of the respondents attributed their inactiveness on Twitter to poor internet connections which affects all access means, character limitation especially where a favourite tweet is to be ‗quoted‘ or retweeted. Thus, it can therefore be concluded that Twitter has taken the process of information gathering and sharing, socialization and learning by the students to a higher platform thereby making the site more than a mere interactive social networking site.
Based on the findings of this study, the followings are recommended;
- That the word limit should be increased by the developers of the site to a minimum of 150 words as this would guarantee better participation and use.
- There should be a regulatory mechanism by Nigerian Communications Commission to checkmate the activities of celebrities and users who share unverified information.
- The site owners should find a way to block tweets and other activities that do not conform to consented user agreement during registration.
- In addition, users should endeavour to verify messages or tweets and sources before sharing with others.
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