The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Local to Global: Research On Social Networking Among Social Work/Health Science Students

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 10:00 AM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon E, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Neely Mahapatra, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Mona Schatz, DSW, Full Professor, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Background/Purpose: Social network sites (SNSs) help users establish social capital among users with similar interests and find content and knowledge that has been contributed or recommended by other users (Mislove, et al., 2007). Popular SNSs such as Facebook and LinkedIn have become part of the social culture (Bauman & Tatum, 2009). Problem Statement: Previous studies (Morosanu, et al., 2010) indicate student users of SNSs strengthen their existing offline connections and perceive online “friends” (i.e., university contacts, roommates, family, friends, and work colleagues) as actual and substantial sources of social support. Other studies on the effects of SNSs on personal well-being show mixed results—either negative (Rohall, et al., 2002) or positive relationship (Kraut, et al, 2002). Kim, et al., (2009) indicated that excessive forms of SNS usage have negative effects such as depression and loneliness on psychological well-being, while lonely individuals may interact with others and express themselves better online than they do offline.  Locating research on the use of social network sites among social work students and other health science professionals was not found. Study Objective: Using a population of undergraduate and graduate students, obtain information about their use of SNSs and obtain information about the relationship between the use of SNSs, the students’ perceived social support, and their perceived general well-being. Hypotheses: H1. Students with a high level of perceived social support are less likely to use SNSs than students with a low level of perceived social support. H2. Students with a high level of general well-being are less likely to use SNSs than students with a low level of general well-being. Methods:  An online survey instrument was constructed. Questions assessed the usage of SNSs. Two major survey components were able to provide a composite score for the two variables: social support and general well-being. The study participants (N=179) included undergraduate and graduate students. The researchers carried out inferential statistical analyses, including calculation of correlation coefficients, and simple descriptive analyses such as the calculation of means and percentages, using Predictive Analytics Software -19. Results: Health science students from six academic units participated.  Use of SNSs by respondents was as follows: Facebook, 98.3% of participants; other sites used included Twitter, 28.5% and LinkedIn, 7.3%. Bivariate relationships indicated that the respondent’s usage of Social Network Sites was related to perceived social support (online) (r=.22, p<.001) and their general well-being. (r=.25, p<.001). Based on the findings as cited, both hypotheses were found to be false.  In fact, students with high social supports and high general well-being also were highest in their use of social network sites. Conclusions and Implications: This study provides insight into the usage of SNSs by social workers among other health science professionals while in their academic experience. These students indicate that they gain strong social support from their use of social networks and those who use social network sites have a strong sense of well-being.  This should inform university educators of the value of social network experiences locally and globally, possibly building on this student experience.