UMD Students and Social Media

Two students seated
November 15, 2016

UMD student surveys not far from national trends.

Savannah Nelson went to a summer camp in central Minnesota when she was 11 years old. She canoed, hiked, and roasted marshmallows with other girls. She stayed up into the night on the bottom bunk in her cabin and talked to the other girls about, well … girl things. And she made a friend named Melissa. Their promise to be pen pals lasted for a little while.

Fast forward six years. Savannah was at her house in the country, browsing her Facebook page when she saw a friend request. It was Melissa!  “Now we’re able to keep up on each other’s lives,” says Savannah.

Willy student

“It’s just fun to see stupid stuff online. I can’t put a finger on why it’s entertaining, but it just really helps pass the time.” -Willy Sanavongsay

Multiply that interaction times the 26.6 percent of UMD students on Facebook and you’ve got a lot of connections. The 26.6 percent number comes from Statista Research & Analysis, a market research firm. Their February 2016 data shows that the second highest group of Facebook users is between 18-24 years old, just behind the highest group, 24-34 year olds with 33.2 percent users. 

National Data/UMD Data

Social media use is a moving target, and there’s a lot of research taking place.

UMD Survey #1: In the fall 2016, student interns in UMD’s University Marketing and Public Relations department invited UMD students to fill out a paper form on social media usage. The group is too small to be statistically significant, and yet it is informative. 

student maggie

“I use facebook the most by far, it’s been around the longest and I have the most friends on it” -Maggie Zheng

In that study, Facebook took the highest useage spot among 92% of UMD students. Snapchat followed closely behind with 89%, while 78% of students use Instagram and 69% of students use Twitter.

UMD student Maggie Zheng uses Facebook most but she says, "I like Snapchat because it is an easy way to capture moments and send them to friends." She also uses Instagram. "I love browsing through other people's feeds and getting inspiration from their photos," she says.

UMD Survey #2: UMD's Social Media Strategies class designed and conducted a survey on UMD’s social media usage. They created a Google Form survey that was taken by 376 students.

Of that group, 81% of students got their news from Facebook while only 22% said they got their news from newspapers. The class is sharing their survey results with the UMD Statesman newspaper as a way to help the Statesman to figure out its direction. 
student Travis

“I only read the newspaper when I go home, otherwise I get all my news from Facebook” -Travis Kemp

National Surveys

UMD results are not far from national results. Each survey takes a different approach, but taken together, they point to significant growth in social media use in the country and at UMD.

“Social media and online content surrounds UMD students in 2016,” says Assistant Professor Jennifer Moore, who teaches the Social Media Strategies class. “For better or for worse, it’s the reality that we’re in right now.”

A Social Media Usage study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2015 backs up UMD's work. It found that over 75% of all Internet users use social media. The number rose from just 10% in 2005.

What's Next?

Social media trends come and go. For example, Vine the six-second video app, was a hot trend for a while and then interest plummeted. Facebook however, is still holding out, even 12 years after its original release date.

The appeal of social media is universal. It travels to every corner of the world, it's on day and night, and it operates in real time. For Savannah, the best part is connecting with friends, like a friend from camp who reached out to her after many years.

Photo above: Corrin Thell and Amanda Kedrowski.