The Grammar Devolution: Why Social Media is a Threat to Education

By Andrew Randall on November 6, 2012

From spreading awareness about Kony 2012, to increasing the profit of businesses internationally, social media has changed the way human beings communicate with one another. The Internet has destroyed the barriers that prevented communication due to geography and thus we are able to communicate instantaneously through a 14-inch computer from the comfort of our home with someone thousands of miles away. This new social revolution has had immense benefits and created a new wave of networking and socialization. As a community, the Internet has its own unique culture and subcultures within it simultaneously allowing for participants to be involved with whomever they desire.

However, regardless of the astronomical amount of benefits that the Internet provides for those who use it, this fascinating entity has had a severe detrimental impact on education. Its incredible compatibility and the new user-friendly interfaces may be convenient, but they are perhaps acting as both a blessing and a curse. Social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are becoming increasingly more comfortable to use, and using them has become a common practice, especially in the United States. Unfortunately, the informality of these websites in terms of writing and communication has made it easy for students to forget the importance of proper grammar usage. What was once common knowledge and understanding of the English language has now become foreign. Students have now evolved into social media natives at the cost of understanding how to control the English language. Even Microsoft Word has made editing papers as simple as clicking a button on a mouse, allowing students to take grammar out of their minds and allow it to disappear into the digital abyss.

Social media is imperative in today’s society, and will undeniably be a major part of the global economy in the years to come. With that being said, it has become extremely distracting to students and by simply ignoring the effect that it has had on students and their formal writing, the benefits of the Internet will be outweighed. Social media and the Internet undoubtedly have vast benefits, but the common use of these resources is distracting student’s focus on education, and is thus deteriorating their ability to successfully control language and writing in the classroom.

According to William J. Bennett of CNN, the College Board found that just last year, “SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995.”[1] The article went on to state that much of the concern is due to the fact that the score deteriorated the most in the writing section, which is reflective of students’ abilities to control grammar, as well as understand vocabulary. Interestingly enough, the College Board claims that there is no reason to panic due to the fact that just last year they had a record high amount of test takers. This means that there was more diversity in the actual testing pool, which would be the reason for the discrepancy in the data. Regardless, many believe that as the spending on education increases in the United States, there should be a positive correlation in test scores. CNN’s William Bennett explains, “The 2011 budget for the Department of Education was estimated to top $70 billion, while overall spending on public elementary and secondary education was about $600 billion a year. By comparison, in 1972, before the Department of Education even existed, SAT critical reading scores for college-bound seniors were above 525, more than 20 points higher than they are today, while today’s math scores are only slightly better than in 1972.” [2] Bennett argues that, as the cost of educational spending increases in the United States, so should the scores.

Students face many distractions in life. Whether it be sports, family, bands, or student government,  the work does not stop. Even today, many professors do not understand the stress that comes with being a young adult due to the vast differences and social requirements that exist in today’s world. Teenagers and young adults alike are expected to be a part of their own communities within the school, and have expectations within those social groups that they are part of. The culture of cliques is undoubtedly more complex than many believe. Even in college, students still face the same, “drama” that they experienced in high school. Not only this, many college students have the greater distraction of going out on the weekends, a problem that is less relevant in high school. Going out on Thursday nights and the weekend is no longer a prerequisite to being, “cool” but rather a social standard. Furthermore, these expectations are unfortunately increasingly distracting with the new constant use of the social media website: Facebook. Instead of tuning into CNN, The New York Times, or Google News, many students find themselves refreshing a newsfeed that updates them on what is solely going on within their community of friends, and not the outside world, and it’s affecting their grades.

According to Aryn Karpinski, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in education at Ohio State University, “We can’t say that Facebook leads to lower grades and less studying – but we did find a relationship there.”[3] Karpinski and his team found that there was a, “disconnect between students’ claim that Facebook use doesn’t impact their studies, and our finding showing they had lower grades and spent less time studying.” In fact, the study showed that those who used Facebook regularly were subject to having GPAs that were at least .5 points lower than those who avoided refreshing their newfeed. Karpinski described in her research that there was no question between the significant link of lower grades and the use of Facebook. It is obvious that even if Facebook didn’t exist students would still procrastinate, but as Karpinski points out, “perhaps the lower GPAs could actually be because students are spending too much time socializing online.” This is concerning not only because students should be focusing on their studies more than the Internet, but also because at the primary education level, children simply are not understanding that what they write on Facebook is not the formal writing that they should use in the class room.

These social media websites will always exist, and will continue to thrive as the Internet becomes more and more accessible. In my eyes, it’s imperative that students learn how to manage their use of Facebook and these other social media sites while also doing homework.


[1] Bennett, William J., and The Opinions in This Commentary Are Solely Those of William J. Bennett. “Record-low SAT Scores a Wake-up Call – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/21/opinion/bennett-education/index.html>.

[2] Ibid

[3] “Study Finds Link Between Facebook Use, Lower Grades in College.” Study Finds Link Between Facebook Use, Lower Grades in College. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/facebookusers.htm>.

Raised in Essex, Massachusetts and have lived there for 19 years with my mother, father, and sister Emily. I enjoy reading, writing, music, lacrosse, and playing guitar. Currently a student at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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