Every morning, professor of communication design Ahmed Abdullah Al Fadaam wakes up and says a prayer. On Tuesday, Feb. 2, he prayed for the end of social media. 

“I said, ‘Please make someone shut down the internet,’’’ Fadaam said. “That’s killing us, basically. When it all started, we were all excited because it was a good source for information. Now, it’s becoming a good source for distraction. And God knows where this is going.”

Fadaam attributes the bias presented on social media as a contributing factor to the increased divide in the world. He said that students often come across and buy into information that contradicts what is discussed in class, threatening their knowledge. 

“This is helping build convictions that are sometimes related to misinformation,” Fadaam said. “People will start to believe that it’s the truth simply because so many posts are repeating it. Compared to something you’re projecting said once in class, how can this be true?”

Now a staple in today’s society, social media has grown from merely being a source of entertainment. With a presence in political and professional realms, it yields a great influence. As it expands into educational environments, social media presents drawbacks and benefits to be navigated by faculty and students alike. 

For professor of religious studies Brian Pennington, the pressure is on faculty to instill a positive view of social media into the minds of students because it allows for rapid communication and access to ideas — a feature he believes supports collaboration and exposure. 

“Students are able to engage with one another and scholars in ways that weren’t possible before,” Pennington said. “It helps students to see how topics that we’re dealing with in the classroom are current and relevant right now.”

Freshman business major Nathaniel Lerman said he does not use social media often, but when he does, he uses apps such as Snapchat and Instagram to connect with his peers. However, Lerman has observed other students engaging in social media usage during class, which disrupts his own learning. 

“It’s definitely a distraction to see others on their phones during a lecture,” Lerman said.

Fadaam said that students’ misuse of the technology, such as texting and scrolling during a lecture, has created learning drawbacks. Although he realizes many students today use technology to take notes and connect, Fadaam said there are others who take advantage of this privilege from online shopping to posting on social media during lectures. 

Fadaam said the internet has made academic research considerably effortless, eliminating the need to scour through books at the library — a convenience that jeopardizes students’ work ethic. He said that productivity and integrity has diminished in recent years as students can easily find answers to assignments and exams online. 

“They’re not putting enough effort into looking for information. It’s already there in front of them, ready to be used,” Fadaam said. 

While the ability to have such a variety of information at one’s fingertips can be an advantage, it can also be dangerous. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have faced issues of containing false or biased news, spreading prejudice and false intelligence. A 2016 study about fake news by the Pew Research Center found that 23% of Americans admit to spreading misinformation on social media — whether it’s intentional or not. The ability to filter and identify reliable sources can contribute to accumulation of knowledge.

“It can be a detriment to critical thinking because social media discourse tends to be instantly polarizing,” Pennington said. “Social media does not often do a good job of developing complexities around issues.”

The distracting tendencies of social media have led Pennington to reject incorporating it into his teaching style, but he does acknowledge that it is possible and important to address it. Journalism instructor Susan Ladd said she’s taken it upon herself to fulfill such an essential task. 

“It’s something we need to take seriously and actually teach students how to use it correctly,” Ladd said.

Both Ladd and Fadaam said they have incorporated positive examples of social media use into lectures. The objective is to make clear how its capacity exceeds entertainment. Social media presents students with a variety of opportunities to network with individuals on a global level. Fadaam believes it holds great potential for broadening the minds and capabilities of individuals, but it’s their responsibility to make positive use of the platform. 

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Fadaam said. “You can use it for good, you can use it for bad. So we are trying hard as teachers to use this sword for good and bring to the attention of our students that this is what [they] should do.” 

As the director of Elon’s center for the study of religion, culture and society, Pennington neglects social media use outside of a professional setting, but some educators have found themselves turning to social applications for more information. Fadaam said he frequents news accounts on TikTok and Ladd said she often uses Twitter and Facebook to access recent reports. 

Despite its limitations, Ladd sees social media as a potential tool to advance one’s knowledge and career. Ladd, a former journalist, said social media is simply a part of life. Prior to retirement, she incorporated social media into her own career. As a professor today, she prepares her students through assigning tasks that parallel those she encountered, such as live tweeting events. She said multimedia coverage is expanding in professional prevalence. 

“By the time I left the business, I had a Facebook page, a blog, a professional Twitter account — all of which were used for my job as a journalist,” Ladd said. “Monitoring social media is part of the job now.”

Ladd has noticed the emergence of social media in various occupations. She said the multiple platforms have proven advantageous, specifically in searching for jobs and internships as students are able to build upon their public portfolios. 

“A lot of students are already becoming entrepreneurs on social media,” Ladd said. “That’s amazing. People who are actually doing creative work are using social media to be their own PR people and promote their product or whatever it is they’re doing.” 

Lerman uses applications such as LinkedIn to showcase his abilities to potential employers. He said he believes the ability to connect professionally is important as students advance their careers. 

“You can have essentially all of your business online for employers or other people to see and notice,” Lerman said. “If you stick out they’re able to connect with you.”

Ladd said social networks are the future of society, constantly evolving and growing in popularity. Educators are having to adapt to its presence in the classroom and inform students about its importance to their futures. There are both beneficial and destructive consequences of social media — and the power, she said, lies in the hands of the user. 

“It can be a distraction, but it can also be a tool,” Ladd said. “A very powerful tool.”