by June Ahn (find this post and others on my blog http://ahnjune.com)
I'm still in the process of finishing up my dissertation, but I'm finding some amazing findings as I go along. Here's one tidbit.
In my study, I built a social network site using Elgg for 2 urban school districts. Classrooms were randomly assigned to use the Elgg site, and I examined whether it improved students' feelings of connectedness with others (the idea is called social capital). I expected that using a social network site in school would improve students' social capital. I also surveyed the students to see if they were members of Facebook (only), MySpace (only), or both FB and MS. I wanted to see if membership in these already existing networks were differently related to social capital. The results for online social capital, or how connected you are with people in your online interactions, were astounding.
The chart below compares the effect of using the school-based site, Facebook, MySpace, and or both FB & MS. The units are in standard deviation changes. So imagine that the student who uses no social network sites has the average level of social capital. The chart below shows that compared to this average student, using a school-imposed social network resulted in about a negative 0.05 standard deviation effect in social capital. Students who used the school-SNS had less online social capital (albeit the effect is very very small).
What is most interesting is the relationship between Facebook, MySpace, and using both on social capital. Students who use MySpace scored about 0.37 standard deviations higher in social capital. Facebook using students scored about 0.56 higher!! And most astounding, students who were members of both online communities scored approximately 0.75 standard deviations higher in social capital.
These effect sizes are pretty large, and suggests that students use MySpace and Facebook to develop positive relationships with others.
Perhaps schools should consider leveraging these already existing youth networks than imposing their own?!?!