This project is designed to help you critically assess social media and its relationship to your life as well as its role in society. The assignment has two parts: (1) an analysis of your social media use informed by three activities and (2) a formal paper based in part on this analysis as well as course readings.
Please note the analysis will require at least two days, so plan ahead! This is not a paper you will be able to write “at the last minute.” Instructions for the analysis and the paper are below.
Part 1. Analysis of Your Social Media Use—Three Activities
Below are three activities to help you analyze your social media use. The answers to the questions for each activity should be incorporated into your paper.
Activity #1: Skim the following articles (pdf files on Canvas):
“You’re Distracted. This Professor Can Help” by Marc Perry, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 2013
“Multicosts of Multitasking” by Drs. Kevin Madore and Anthony D. Wagoner, Dana Foundation: Cerebrum, April 5, 2019
These articles should help you think critically about your use of social media use and the impact of multitasking. The period of analysis for Activity 1 is the month of September 2020.
- Which platforms did you use? How often did you use them (several times a day, a few times a week, once a month)? How does your usage in Sept. 2020 compare to your usage 1-3 years ago?
- How intentionally do you use technology such as your phone, computer, tablet? Do you generally use them for specific tasks (versus habitually)? How much of your use is habitual vs. specific?
- How do you think your use of technology/social media affects your friendships? Your family relationships? Your performance as an employee and/or student? Your general mood? Any other aspects of your life?
Activity #2: Conduct observations of your typical email/social media use for two days.
On Day 1, spend at least four hours recording every time you check your email or other social media accounts (including texts). Include the time, how long you spent using it, and what you were doing on it.
On Day 2 (does not have to be the next day), repeat your minimum four-hour observations.
- Overall, about how much time did you spend with social media/email? What else were you doing when you checked it?
- How did email/social media impact the other activities you were involved in?
Activity #3: Actively avoid use of social media for 30 minutes.
Pick a time to take a break from all social media (schedule for a time when you are studying or eating, not when you are at work and not when anticipating any critical communications). The break should last at least 30 minutes and take place in a public or semi-public place (e.g., a park, a common area on campus—if you choose an indoor location, please wear a mask and observe social distancing!). You should have your laptop, tablet and/or mobile device with you.
For the first five minutes, sit quietly and simply try to relax. Do not look at the computer screen or any other devices. For the next 25 minutes or so, pick one or two tasks you need a computer to accomplish and focus on those tasks. Do not check social media (this includes text messages). Only check email if it is necessary to complete the chosen activity. You may place your phone on silent mode and restrict notifications on your laptop/tablet if that helps you finish this exercise.
When the 30 minutes is up, spend at least 10-15 minutes reflecting on and writing about your experience.
- Did you feel more or less mentally distracted?
- Was it harder or easier to focus on the tasks you had given yourself?
- Was this experience different from how you usually work?
Part 2. Paper Guidelines – see also General Writing Expectations
Write a 3-4-page paper (~800-1000 words) that analyzes your social media use based on the three activities above and insights from the readings in this course. To receive an A, your paper must:
- cite at least two class readings in addition to any assigned here (e.g., Pew fact sheet below)
- include a formal opening paragraph that contains a clear thesis (this thesis should link to your conclusion and be supported by evidence presented in the main body of your paper)
- discuss insights from the three activities (your answers to the questions following each should be helpful)—how did your perception of your social media use compare to your actual usage?
- compare your usage to the Pew Research Center Social Media Fact Sheet (Links to an external site.)—what do you think accounts for any similarities or differences between your use and that reflected by peers in the Pew fact sheet?
- comment on how everyday life has changed since the “Triple Revolution.” What problems and benefits does social media offer to individuals and society? How could sociologists help minimize these problems and/or maximize these benefits?
- include a formal conclusion (restates thesis, does not include new information)
- include a reference list
- use 12-point double-spaced Times Roman type
- use American Sociological Association style guide (6th) for in-body citations/reference list (APA is also acceptable, just be consistent and note which you are following when you submit the paper). Download this ASA cheat sheet.