Greedy Goblin

Monday, May 4, 2009

Socials, games and grades

I've just read a scientific article that says: Facebook using college students have worse grades than non-users. Not surprisingly they claim they don't study less.

Surprisingly, despite the huge efforts to denounce computer games, no evidence was found that games cause bad grades. I assume games take much more time than Facebook, but that's only my guess (I don't even use Facebook or anything like that and have no idea how could anyone spend more than 10 mins/day there without being killed by boredom).

So we have a time-consuming activity that does not decrease grades and a less time consuming that does. Strange isn't it? Want something stranger? Students who do part-time work next to collage don't have worse grades than average, although work is not only time-consuming but also makes you tired and suck all your energy (I assume part time jobs available to students are not too creative).

I don't think it has anything to do with time. Unless you spend unhealthy time with your leisure activity, it shall not affect your work/study. After all we are not robots and unable to grind anything for 16 hours a day.

I think the results are caused by being social. The (more) social people value human relations like friendship and love over real things like study and work. While they spend no less time next to their textbooks, they simply don't care. After all "a2 + b2 = c2" or "U = R*I" are so meaningless and irrelevant compared to "what Irene will say when she sees my new hairstyle" or "making good impression on Mary on our first date".

I would love to see a study that compares the grades of WoW players who spend approximately equal time playing. The first group do PvE/PvP, the second group just chat, or "hang out with some friends". I have a guess which group would have better grades. Even better: compare the income of 30+ years old WoW PvE/PvP-ers to 30+ years old "my real life schedule does not let me get out of the fire" people.

There are lot of studies going around about games. I hope this idea gets to one of the researchers.

PS: some clarification. I don't claim that using Facebook makes you dumb. I claim that people who chooses to use Facebook intensively are "very socials" and don't care about real world things that much. Removing Facebook would only hide the symptom, not the reason.


Anonymous said...

Dear god... So true : (

Anonymous said...

"my real life schedule does not let me get out of the fire" people

Nice one :)

Anonymous said...

The business of focusing on 'hard' stuff such as U=RxI is very exclusive.

There are many people (imo) who can do it, but only the best of the best get a chance to actually focus on it, because there are only a few needed to focus on such stuff.

Once U=RxI is mastered by few the effects can be enjoyed by all at a fraction of the initial costs. We don't all have to learn physics, some just buy light bulbs and pay the bills.

Even if you want to learn physics and find a new energy generating principle, you will most likely not be grade-A gray matter and will be rejected for that task.

Hence, you will focus on hand-holding and basket weaving. Not because you couldn't do any more than that, because you can't do the other stuff at the highest possible level.

In other words, all people who are not super-bright end up M&S irl at least, because they are not needed in any other role. There is no evidence they couldn't do better intellectually.

In Tobold's example: maybe academic rewards are such that if you know you can't graduate as a valedictorian is doesn't make much of a difference if you end up 2nd or if you focus on Facebook et al.

Okrane S. said...

The best connection I find between effectiveness, or the lack of, and being social is the fact that PVE/PVP players have, most likely, a goal oriented attitude towards the game which clearly draws from their real life character. Therefore, they understand there are things to obtain and dedicate their time doing it.

On the other hand, the social, i.e. the slackers, i.e. M&S, usually dedicate their lives to slacking as well, thus not concerning themselves too much about obtaining things, in life or in game.
Hence a difference in status.

However, efficiency in school or elsewhere, is directly related to time spent on the matter as well as the intelligence of the person doing it. The case presented clearly shows bad time management, and it is wrong to state that it is strictly related to their life attitude (social or not).

Time consuming activities, consume time :) Time that could be spent educating oneself, working harder etc.

So, as WoW is a time consuming game and both PVE and PVP need a good amount of time investment either way both types of players will have the same problem eventually. Given an equal amount of time spent playing one can wonder: in the moments spent outside the game, who daydreams more about it: the PVE/PVP players or the Social M&S?

Pangoria Fallstar said...

I always thought that people were smarter on average than dumb. But then after playing WoW, I started to wonder. After reading Gevlon, I started to realize, and after seeing it IN ACTION IRL, I have come to the conclusion, people who are idiots and M&S in WoW are the same IRL.

I'm not saying that all socials are M&S, or that if you make less than 30k a year you're M&S, I'm saying that those who ARE M&S are M&S all the time, and has nothing to do with the greater internet dickwad theory (which states that anonymity causes people to act in a different manner i.e. dickwad).

But quite honestly, those who learn quickly, can adapt, and have even passable intelligence will get out of the fire.

It's not a question of dumb and smart, it's a question of dumb and average. Sadly, the dumb people ARE the average.... take that as you will.

Hirvox said...

"what Irene will say when she sees my new hairstyle" could easily be replaced with "to kill boss X" and the statement would be equally valid. It's not necessarily about being social, it's about priorities. And coming with the "correct" list of priorities is quite hard. Even Maslow's hierarchy of needs is deeply flawed.

Anonymous said...

I guess what Gevlon means is that, "what you do" on leisure time will not affect how you do in work/study.
But "who you are".
Learning physics etc is just an example he gives for studies, so Mr. Anonymous missed a point there.

the "Facebook people" in the report, may co-relate to those people who love to social. While they consider more on how other think other than doing the "actual work". The mind-set determine how they are doing in studies.
(foucs on facebook is a result of who they are, but not the reason why they had poor results.)
Facebook is not the reason, but a co-related behavior of that group of people. (e.g. in Amazon, people bought this may also interested in that)

Correct me if I am wrong

Syrien said...

To be fair, the article I suppose you are referring to has been met with fairly good counter-arguments, see . This does not necessarily go against your general observation about that what you do with your time matters as much as how much time you spend, but worth noticing if you want to know more about Facebook users. gives a good summary for those wanting the short version.

Geoffrey said...

I just came to respond to this: "Unless you spend unhealthy time with your leisure activity, it shall not affect your work/study."

Just because you have not found a scientific study about WoW playing and grades, don't assume that WoW has no effect on grades.

Some people can balance things, and some can't. So many college kids have flunked out because of WoW or other games. You can read their personal testimonies on many places, such as

I am not preaching quitting or anything like that to people that have it together. I am just saying there are plenty of people who cannot resist the crack.

Anonymous said...

Careful though... There is an old adage like "It's not what you know, but who you know," and, as far as I'm concerned, there is definitely some truth there.

At university, studying mathematics, hard science, or engineering textbooks is all fine and well, but when "graduates" who studied marketing, mass communication and physical education stumble out of university and into high paying jobs provided by the fathers of their fraternity/drinking buddies, the M&S strategy seems more effective.

Trava said...

I think this is yet another case of correlation is not causation.

I have a tendency to ignore anything like this, unless I can go back and read the actual published study, which didn't seemed to be linked in the article.

Gevlon said...

@Syrien: every research has a counter-research (just think about the tobacco-researches). I am unable to decide which research is correct, I'm sure that enough media attention was drawed to the topic to alert someone capable to do a comprehensive original research.

@Geoffrey: of course there are idiots unable to control their time. They can go crazy with ANY activity, including Facebook and WoW. The research was about "normal" people who did not lost contact with the world.

Jeff said...

As usual Gelvon you miss the point. Socials make the world work. There is an old law school/medical school joke. What do you call the person who graduates in the top third of their class? Judge/Researcher, in the second third? Prosecuting Atty/Doctor, the bottom third? Partner/Rich. Social = Successful in the way our society is structured. If you cannot form and maintain social relationships you cannot succeed in the real world. Your assumption is that Facebook is simply social, not dysfunctional social.

Anonymous said...

@jeff, i heard a somewhat similar joke:
what do you call the person who placed last in their graduating medical school class?


There is a relationship between effort/reward that needs to be taken into account. If I have to put in X amount of work to get Y result, if i put in 2X work, i usually end up with 1.5Y result.
At some point, it becomes not worth it.

Geoffrey said...

As someone who went to law school and who knows many lawyers, I can tell you that the guys who finished in the top third are plenty rich too.

Anonymous said...

One of the more interesting things in all of the social sciences (in addition to the hard sciences) is seperating correlation from causation. Weird how things completely unrelated can vary with each other. (The classic correlation/causastion dichotomy is that higher ice cream sales correlates positively with crime. Bizzare but true.)

Syrien said...

@Gevlon Very right that there's often research pointing to different conclusions. In the case of the article you're referring the writer herself actually in the following debate points out that what she wrote at first was exploratory (this researcher also thinks more research is needed to say we have certain knowledge about the issue). Again this does not mean it should not be discussed and tested up against our real life experiences, only that those who find it interesting might want to read more from both sides at this time.

Anonymous said...

See Paul Graham's essay Why Nerds are Unpopular.

Sydera said...

In my observation (as a college prof), any student who flunks my class "because of WoW" or "because of Facebook" would have flunked it anyway for some other excuse.

I've had people claim all sorts of reasons why they can't come to class. The truth is, if you failed a college course, you made a series of choices that led to that event, and many of them were conscious ones. I've had a student fail because he "couldn't wake up" for an 11:45 A.M. class. Don't tell me that wasn't the result of the conscious decision he made to party all night every night! It's damn hard to fail my class. I'd say it's literally impossible to get less than a 70% in my classes if you come to all course sessions and complete all assignments. Even the tests build in enough "free points" so that any student should get over 50%, even if they haven't studied. And I teach at an elite liberal arts college!

Stripes said...

I don't think facebook users don't have time to study because they are busy updating their status on facebook. I think they don't have time to study because facebook tells them where all the cool parties are, and they go.

Of corse that is total guess work.

As for having a part time job while trying to study, well I did that, so I think I can generate less then a total guess. In my case I was lucky enough to have a programming job, then a sysadmin/programming job while I was at university. It took a lot of my time, and it it was fun, and it was a learning experience, but it didn't pay much. Not compared with what a "after I graduate" job would. However I had to work to pay for tuition, food, car maintenance, and books. If I didn't study, I would have to work _longer_ to pay for more of those things.

So I made sure i didn't screw up my studying so I could graduate. (which I never did since I took a job paying 3x the normal pay of a new graduate, figuring I wouldn't find something that good by the time I graduated)

I would guess other folks that work at the same time they attend collage or university make sure they study because they are wasting their own money, not mommy or daddy's money, not the tax payers money, but their money.