Study Finds Social Media Overload Affects Academic Performance in Students

Dr Eoin Whelan, Senior Lecturer in Business Information Systems, J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics, NUI Galway. Photo: Eoin Whelan
Sep 17 2019 Posted: 13:17 IST

A study carried out by the J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics at NUI Galway has examined the problem of social media overload, which is the feeling of being overwhelmed and exhausted by the amount of communication and information demands a person is exposed to through social media channels, that may require energy and cognitive processing beyond their capabilities. The research specifically focused on identifying the causes of social media overload amongst third level students, and how it affects their academic performance.

The use of social media is pervasive across the globe with Facebook alone having 2.7 billion monthly users (Statista, 2019). While social media undoubtedly provides many advantages to users, researchers are now more closely scrutinising the problematic effects of platforms such as Facebook. 

The research found that social media overload is triggered by a fear of missing out, or FoMO. In terms of consequences, it found that third level students who report higher levels of social media overload perform less well academically. The study also examined why this relationship between social media overload and poor academic performance exists. The data suggests that being constantly overloaded by social media diminishes a person’s self-control. It takes self-control to study every evening, put the effort into submitting high quality assignments, or partake in extracurricular activities. Engaging in social media diminishes self-control (for example, attempting to partake in multiple WhatsApp group conversations simultaneously), the result being that the activities which enhance academic performance are less likely to be conducted. 

Lead author of the study, Dr Eoin Whelan, Senior Lecturer in Business Information Systems, J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics at NUI Galway, said: “Social media overload is becoming an ever increasing problem in modern society, so it is important to understand its causes and consequences. Our study finds that people who have a high fear of missing out, or FoMO in modern parlance, are more likely to suffer social media overload. They will also perform less well academically as being constantly bombarded by social media depletes the self-control needed to study diligently and develop one’s career. The insights from our study can be used to develop targeted cognitive and technological interventions to mitigate social media overload, for example through self-control training, and the development of emotion sensing technology which adapts automatically when a user is becoming overloaded.”  

To read the full study in the journal Computers and Education, visit:

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