The Pros & Cons of Social Media Use on Campus: Adapting to Today’s Student Needs

Instagram. TikTok. YouTube. Snapchat. Social media use is high among college students. It is an unavoidable fact of campus life. (And a great way to reach the students of today.) Updating your policies, practices, and interactions with students on social media is vital to connect with and serve students now. Every effort you can make to improve students experience can help you to navigate the coming enrollment challenges. Campuses must stay current and vital to continue attracting the dwindling pool of college enrollees, and social media can be an important part of the student experience.

No matter your opinion on social media, a better understanding of how students use social media can help higher ed staff shape the climate on campus. There is little that colleges can do to tamp down social media usage, but that are positive aspects of this medium that you can leverage. Because social media plays a role in the psychological, social, and academic lives of students and staff, it is worth the effort to emphasize the pros and minimize the cons of social media use on campus.

The Pros

The social aspect is the main point of social media for students, and we can’t ignore how important it is for college students to feel a sense of belonging. Students can communicate with each other through social media. For many, it is a lifeline to their new and old friends and can help them have a sense of community. Being part of the campus’s social fabric through social media participation is one way this can happen.

Despite social media’s reputation as harmful to mental health, there are some ways that it can be helpful in this area. Campus surveillance of social media trends correlates to the actual mental health needs of campus populations, meaning that leaders can use social media to predict and monitor mental health campuswide. Students can use social media to reach out when they have problems with their mental health, which can provide support in a familiar way. Plus, social media allows continued communication even when a student is ill, and connecting with others at school is especially important.

Social media can be an important way for college staff to communicate with students. Announcements of events, security alerts, reminders of deadlines for registration, and more can be part of your school’s official use of social media. Your official presence on social media is one way to put time-sensitive information where students will see it, build campus community in a fun way, and incorporate a vital aspect of life for students into their college experience.

Some instructors use social media in the classroom. It can be a way to leverage the eyeballs on personal devices during class and bring students’ attention back to the subject they are studying. Outright bans on device use during classes can make a professor seem old-school and out-of-touch, so it can be useful to find a way to incorporate social media in the classroom. Students may also be able to do some types of research through social media and discover ideas that can broaden their perspective.

The Cons

Sixty-four percent of Americans say that social media has a mostly negative impact on the country. As students themselves note, social media use can impair social interaction in person, distracting young people from the physical interactions available to them in college.

Studies have found that social media can harm mental health, though results from some studies are mixed. Increases in anxiety and poor self-image can occur for some students, and the debate about the negative consequences of social media use is prominent in the media.

Campus leaders must mitigate the possible negative consequences of social media use through robust safety plans, student education, IT support, and a strong culture of caring for each student. Bullying can become a problem, making it very difficult for campus leaders to police outside platform use. Though it can be an added burden, colleges need to factor in the effects of social media on individual students and the community to provide the support and interventions that can diminish or prevent problems caused by social media use.

The Upshot

Though social media use can have downsides for student populations, there are ways for colleges to use the power of connection that social media promises to improve aspects of campus life. Social media can be a regular communication channel with students, inspiring participation and helping to forge strong relationships between members of your academic community.

Find out how to use social media to communicate with prospective students. We can help you design strategies that will integrate your admissions marketing into a campus communication strategy that will improve student experience and loyalty. Contact us to get more information on social media marketing.


If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving education marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

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