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Due to technological advancements in our current society, social media is rapidly being interwoven into every aspect of daily life, including that of education. In today’s age, students and educators alike are discovering the unlimited opportunities that social media offers to enhance the learning process. As evidence to this statement, a survey conducted by Social Learning Infographics (2013) revealed that 96% of students use social media and approximately 60% are utilizing their social network platforms for educational purposes. However, according to Jarrah et al. (2019), many researchers are still in debate regarding whether social media impacts students positively or negatively, specifically when it comes to learning English language. There are several advantages and disadvantages of the role of social media in learning English. However, the crucial role of social media in learning English brings far more benefits compared to drawbacks which include providing a platform for self-learning, increasing motivation to learn English and developing language skills.
First of all, the role of social media in learning English is that it acts as a platform for self-orientated English language learning. According to Faryadi (2017), individuals learn better when they are allowed to investigate and learn from their own trial and error rather than simply being guided through every single lesson. As an example, students are able to practice English in real time through socializing with a global online audience spanning across multiple topics such as religion, politics and health as well as other areas of individual passion and interest (Dhanya, 2016). By allowing students to explore informal communication in English without the supervision of their teachers, they are able to strengthen their critical thinking and speaking skills in English. This trains students to think outside of the box and allows them to develop their own opinions about varieties of complex topics that are not taught within the classroom. Furthermore, shy students are given larger opportunities to develop better comprehension and learn at their own pace (Khan et al., 2016). According to Faryadi (2017), the traditional classroom teaching method turns students into passive receptors of information rather than actively involving them in the learning process. This is especially accurate as modern-day classrooms still have around 30 students and one teacher or lecturer per classroom, which reduces the effectiveness of lessons. By learning English on their own through their own social media networks, they are able to participate in educational Facebook groups as well as discussions if they do not understand a topic or have any trouble with their homework and assignments (Dhanya, 2016). Therefore, English language students can learn Englissh through social media as it is suitable for self-orientated learning.
However, social media is proven to be too distracting in the effort of learning English. Mukhtar et al. (2019) states that students might waste their time socializing online instead of studying. For instance, some students use their devices to communicate and play games with other people, rather than completing their class work. This is proven in a survey conducted by Ainuddin Muradi and Hajar Hasanzada (2020) where 24% of learners agreed that they use social networks for fun and not for educational purposes. Excessive social media usage to socialize and consume different types of entertainment will lessen the time they have for studying which then affects their academic performance. Other than that, social media also has a lot of interesting content that can drag students away from their original purpose of visiting the site (Dhanya, 2016). They might find content that is relevant to their studies but then get sidetracked as they click onto other intriguing content that is unrelated and unnecessary such as clickable and pop-up advertisements. Students end up wasting their time reading and focusing on materials that are pointless to them and their learning process. It is clear that in the struggle of learning English language, social media can be quite distracting to students.
Other than that, social media also acts as a strong motivator for learners of the English language. Dhanya (2016) states that the high-quality digital layout and visual nature of social media makes learning content more fun and enjoyable for students. Student’s attitudes towards learning changed positively when they used social media such as Facebook and there was a 30% increase in the students’ academic achievements (Faryadi, 2019). Some examples of interactive and visual content on social media include polls, quizzes, videos and infographics. Ainuddin Muradi and Hajar Hasanzada (2020) also revealed in their research that 60% of 80 respondents agreed using social media increased their motivation to communicate more using English language. Furthermore, the anonymity provided by social media increases student’s involvement in learning English language. For instance, it helps students, especially those who are afraid to speak up when facing other people, to become more confident to engage with other students in activities such as group discussions. Putri (2018) supports this claim by stating that learners will become more comfortable to be creative when using social media like Facebook during learning sessions. Based on a research by Wil et al. (2019), 67.5% of the respondents agreed that using social media enhances their participation in English writing activities. Therefore, social media can spark motivation in the hearts of English language students.
Nevertheless, social media can also demotivate students in learning English language. Many teenagers use social media daily and some of them might have ill-intentions toward other users (Dhanya, 2016). According to Djuraskovik (2020), 25% of teenagers are cyberbullied for their academic achievements and the most common form of cyberbullying are hateful comments. They find it easy to cyberbully and make fun of other people because they are able to post comments anonymously and they feel safe hiding behind their computer screens. Grammar Nazis are one of the examples of people who cyberbully others. They freely patrol social media platforms, insulting and ridiculing people with incorrect grammar, spelling or punctuation. This in turn causes anxiety and stress, prompting people to lose confidence in expressing themselves and therefore giving up on learning the language. Besides that, excessive usage of social media can lead to depression and sleep deprivation. Spending too much time browsing and scrolling social media, especially in bed, causes people to have difficulty falling asleep. Lack of sleep will not only cause lethargy, but also worsen their mental health which might cause other mental health issues such as depressive thoughts and anxiety (Hogenboom, 2018). Students that are suffering from lack of sleep or depression have zero motivation to study and instead of trying harder, they tend to give up more easily. In short, social media is also capable of causing demotivation among students who learn English.
Lastly, social media improves English language fluency through the development of vocabulary and writing skills (Al-Jarrah et al., 2019). Several social media platforms provide students with groups to share language and grammar advice in order to improve their English vocabulary skills. Not only are students able to join and participate in discussions and activities conducted by these groups, but whatever questions and confusion they have can be answered by professionals. Students can also rely on platforms like Youtube to help improve their English pronunciation. A survey by Khan et al. (2016) showed that 58.6% of students believe that social media provides more opportunities for students in developing their English vocabulary. Another way that helps students improve as well as develop their English vocabulary and writing skills is by writing blogs. Blogs are a great platform where students can express their feelings, creativity and even utilize the information they have learnt through writing (Mukhtar et al., 2019). Writing one or two blogs might not have a significant impact on their language skills but writing them regularly and making it a habit will surely help them to become better English writers. Other than writing blogs, posting on Twitter also enhances students’ writing skills. This is because the 140-characters limit on Twitter teaches students on how to write more clearly and briefly without adding unnecessary information (Mukhtar et al., 2019). Therefore, the language skills of an English language student can be significantly improved with the proper usage of social media.
Despite many positive roles of social media in learning English, it can also cause a negative effect such as promoting the usage of incorrect grammar, abbreviations and informal slang in English communication. The ultimate cause of incorrect English grammar and spelling are caused by the unreliability of sources permeating the web. In this day and age, absolutely anyone with a stable internet connection and a functioning gadget at their disposal are able to create their own Youtube channels, blogs and Wiki pages about any topic or issue (Dhanya, 2016). The credibility of such social media content is questionable, and since people rarely double check the validity of the sources, they absorb the errors and incorporate them into their own daily speech and interactions. This incorrect grammar and spelling usage will cause people to have hard time to communicate clearly and even lead to other major problems such as misunderstanding towards one another. Other than that, the usage of informal slangs and abbreviations are also an issue when it comes to learning English through social media. This is due to the fact that slang is not suitable for academic purposes. Students tend to use informal language such as abbreviations and acronyms when posting on social media and this can influence their formal writing. Hashim et al. (2018) revealed in his research that only 38.5% of students never used shortened words on social media and majority students used acronyms either regularly or occasionally. Using these informal vocabularies and phrases are not only unacceptable for formal and professional settings, but they can also cause your work to be rejected or disapproved by your professors or higher authorities. To sum up, social media has the ability to encourage incorrect grammar, abbreviations and informal slang to English language students.
In conclusion, it is crystal clear that using social media in learning English language is essential for reasons such as it supplies students with an excellent platform for self-orientated learning, it enhances learners’ motivation and it improves language fluency such as vocabulary development and writing skills. Although social media has a lot of positive impacts on English education among students, social media is also capable of hindering English learning without proper guidance and resources. Usage of social media without proper restriction or control will only bring about more harm than good such as it can distract students from learning, makes students feel demotivated and encourages the usage of informal language. Therefore, with the positive impacts social media has, it should be incorporated as an alternative tool alongside traditional classroom teaching methods. Instructors should also be prompted to thoroughly utilize the platform for learning in order to improve the English education quality among their students as well as redirecting and guiding them so that they do not misuse social media and only use reliable resources. Students, educators and even parents should play their own roles to make sure that social media can be safely used to help students to learn better.
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