Social Media is Important in Higher Education

VKATZ Social media in higher education

“The only “good learning” is that which is in advance of development” (Vygotsky, 1978, p89). According to Ansari et al. (2020), as technological advances increase to accommodate the existing environment, there has been a dramatic shift towards online learning in higher education. This transference has mobilized the way information is processed. Social media has become a significant component in the lives of individuals. Therefore, the integration of social networks into higher education is, naturally, the next step toward progression. Social media allows for increased access to institutions, a collaborative learning framework, and a platform for professional learners to reach their intended clients (Ansari et al., 2020).

The significance of social network platforms in higher education has become evident over the past two years as the world continues to battle the Covid 19 pandemic. The dramatic shift from face-to-face learning to online has made it possible for students to continue with their learning undisrupted (Tessa, 2020). This essay will argue that social media is essential in higher education. Even though opposing views see this integration as a hindrance, this essay will undoubtedly maintain that social media in higher education provides more benefits than burdens.

Social media is vital in higher education because it provides equal access to education, which allows for professional development. According to Cahn et al. (2013); Krutka et al. (2017); Trust et al. (2017) (as cited by Luo et al., 2020), with the incorporation of social media in higher education, many learners that were previously excluded from pursuing professional development as a result of restraints such as location or work commitments, can now benefit from a more mobilized solution. Additionally, due to its vast network, learners worldwide can share their knowledge without considering the distance (Luo et al., 2020). As a result, the collective knowledge brought into the community is so vast and rich that it can only prove to be beneficial for the learner (Luo et al., 2020). It is essential to point out that as opposed to the traditional classroom structure of learning, online education requires fewer resources and has fewer expenses making it more affordable. The result is that more people will have access due to affordability (Tesar 2020).

The second reason supporting the importance of social media in higher education is that it provides the learner with a collaborative, creative, and supportive framework. Such an atmosphere will provide a healthy and rewarding learning environment. Ansari and Khan (2020) conducted an empirical-based study with 360 students that looked at how they perceived the use of social media in collaborative learning. The results showed that there was better interaction between students, peers, and teachers due to the use of social media. It also revealed that students’ participation increased because of sharing knowledge online. This engagement led to better academic results. Additional to their findings was that there were signs of increased creativity amongst the students.

McLoughlin and Lee (2010, as cited in Tess, 2013) used Vygotsky’s (1978) Social Constructivism to explain the need for social media in higher education. Online learning encourages participation from learners; this creates a collaborative environment that fosters support amongst the community. Each learner is responsible for their learning progress. The combination of support and cooperation from peers and teachers will result in more robust academic achievements. Furthermore, on this point, according to Luo et al. (2020), Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory can explain development through learning on social media. The theory postulates that learners model their behaviors according to their observations. With social media, which is an interactive platform, learners can learn with and from each other, thereby providing a collaborative space.

Furthermore, finally, social media is essential in higher education because it can provide a framework for professional learners (medical students) to engage with potential clients, reach their desired audience, and share information with their peers (Harrison et al., 2014). According to Agazio and Buckley (2009); Green and Hope (2010); Schmitt and Lilly (2012), (as cited by Fenwick, 2016), professional presence on social media can reach clients or patients who may traditionally not have access to these professionals. These students can also create peer group communities with other students, both locally and internationally, to discuss challenges and conduct peer consultations. In this way, information can spread faster and more efficiently. Dodsworth et al. (2012, as cited by Fenwick, 2016) also support social media in higher education, reiterating that clients who live in remote areas can now benefit from these professionals due to social networks.

In Fenwick’s (2013) exploratory article, he found that professionals are using social networking sites, such as Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and YouTube, to name a few, to share information. When these platforms are utilized to disseminate information, professional students can build a community around themselves, significantly benefiting their future practice. As outlined above, the importance of social media in higher education is undeniable.

Although there is substantial evidence to prove that social media in higher education is imperative, there are opposing views that state that the presence of social media in higher education is not necessary and can be detrimental to the learner.

The first argument is that although social media widens accessibility for the students, the shift to online instruction will encounter resistance from the teachers’ perspective. According to Donelan (2015, as cited by Sá, 2020), resistance from the teaching faculty could result from not having the appropriate skills. It is crucial to remember that most senior faculty staff are elder and possibly technologically challenged. Because of this, social media in higher education will meet resistance. Although this may seem like a valid point, Manaca and Ranieri’s (2016, as cited by Sá, 2020) research stresses the importance of ensuring that staff is adequately trained to meet the digital requirements of the current times.

Moreover, Rowan – Kenyon and Martinez Alema’n (2016, as cited by Sá, 2020) state that because today’s learners are already engrossed in social media, having access to this in higher education will influence whether or not learners will enroll at an institution. Although institutions may never be ahead of social media developments, they must embrace the move as this is what today’s learners are looking for. For institutions to remain competitive, including e-learning in tertiary education is imperative (Sá, 2020).

Another opposing argument is that despite the collaborative nature of social media in higher education, it does not encourage debate, which is vital for learning (Tess, 2013). Learners feel pressure to put their work out there for fear of being judged (Sá, 2020). To refute this argument, Madge et al. (2009, as cited by Tess, 2013) conclude on the points above by saying that when social media is combined with academics, there should be a course that teaches learners how to navigate ethically.

Finally, another reason that opposes social media in higher education is that there may be a distortion of the professional identity with the personal identity. There is also the concern that confidential information could be exposed on their social platforms as well as bad behavior on the part of the learner, which could jeopardize their careers once they are qualified (Harrison et al., 2014). Although these may be viewed as valid points, MacDonald et al. (2010) say that social media is here to stay, and thus finding ways to control and regulate its use among medical students is essential. This, however, is the task of the educators and regulators. Harrison et al. (2014) suggest that professional courses be created to teach these learners what is and what is not appropriate for social media.

Misbehaviours of students on social media do not negate the fact that the social platforms have provided learners with endless opportunities for growth and development. As highlighted, these opposing arguments can be easily remedied with education.

The accessibility of social media in higher education is fundamental to the development of learners. It fosters advancements in career development, it rears a positive environment that is pro learning, and it can benefit the community at large because important information can be disseminated. It is, without a doubt, crucial in higher education; therefore, institutions need to ensure that they are equipped to meet this changing environment.




Ansari, J. A. N., & Khan, N. A. (2020). Exploring the role of social media in collaborative learning the new domain of learning. Smart Learning                                Environments, 7(1).

Fenwick, T. (2016). Social media, professionalism and higher education:  a sociomaterial consideration. Studies in Higher Education, 41(1), 664-677.

Gierth, L., & Bromme, R. (2020). Attacking science on social media: How user comments affect perceived trustworthiness and credibility. Public                                      Understanding of Science, 29(2), 230–247.

Harrison, B., Gill, J., & Jalali, A. (2014). Social Media Etiquette for the Modern Medical Student: A Narrative Review. International Journal of Medical Students2(2), 64–67.

Luo, T., Freeman, C., & Stefaniak, J. (2020). “Like, comment, and share”—   professional development through social media in higher education: A                           systematic review. Educational Technology Research & Development, 68(4),  1659–  1683.

MacDonald, J., Sohn, S., & Ellis, P. (2010). Privacy, professionalism and Facebook: a dilemma for young doctors. Medical education44(8), 805–813.

Mansfield, S., Morrion, S., Stephens, H., Bonning, M., Wang, S., Withers, J. (2011).  Social media and the medical profession. Medical Journal Australia, 194(12),               642-4.

Sá, M. J., Serpa, S., Ferreira, C. M., & Santos, A. I. (2020). Social Media Centrality in  Identity (Re)construction in Higher Education. Journal of Educational and Social Research10(1), 11.

Tess, P. A. (2013). The role of social media in higher education classes (real and virtual)–A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(5), A60- A68.

Tesar, M. (2020). Towards a Post-Covid-19 ‘New Normality?’: Physical and Social  Distancing, the Move to Online and Higher Education. Policy Futures in  Education, 18(5), 556–559.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological  Processes (Revised ed.). Harvard University Press

read more

Erik Erikson : Understanding stages of development

Erik Erikson

Erik Erikson (1902-1994)

“Children accruing ego identity gain real strength only from wholehearted and consistent recognition of real accomplishments, that is, an achievement that has meaning in their culture.” Erikson (1959, p. 95)

Erik Erikson was a pioneer when it came to understanding personality theory that encompassed the entire lifespan. Swartz et al., (2016)

As a child, Erikson experienced many childhood struggles due to the relationship between his Jewish mother and an unknown Danish father. When anti sematic beliefs were rife in Germany, Erikson found himself an outcast. Because of his appearance, he did not fit in. This could have led to a degree of an identity issue that would explain his lifestyle. Fleming (2004)

Although Freud influenced Erikson, they differed in that Erikson saw a need to expand further.

Erikson’s theory is based on eight stages of development instead of Freud’s five stages. The difference between the two is that Erikson saw development as something that occurs through the life span of an individual, whereas Freud stopped at adolescence. Erikson saw personality development as a consequence of social interactions, in contrast to Freud, who based development on the psychosexual process.

According to Erikson, the individual will encounter inevitable crises at each stage of development. The individual can resolve these conflicts and progress to the next stage. If the conflict goes unresolved, this could lead to personality problems in the child and later in adulthood. Fleming (2004).


How does Psychology help to understand people’s behavior

The task of life is to find personal identity, or as Erikson (1958) states, a quest for identity. A person will have a positive identity if that person has moved through each stage, ensuring the resolution of the crises. However, failure can lead to interpersonal conflict. Erikson (1968).

Social identity theory proposes that individuals define themselves according to their group. If the group provides stability, recognition, and growth, this leads to positive psychological effects; however, the opposite will result if the group does not provide for the needs of the individual. Haslam et al., (2009)

Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development

Erikson viewed development as occurring through eight stages that span an individual’s life. During each phase, the individual will experience a series of crises. If the individual overcomes these challenges, a strong foundation will be established to move on to the next milestone. However, if the needs are not met or progression is hindered, the individual will experience conflict that will manifest in childhood and adulthood. It is also important to note that reparative steps could be taken to address these issues resulting in personality changes. Fleming (2018).

Although there are eight stages for this essay and in line with the course, I will discuss the first three stages.

First Stage: Trust versus Mistrust

The first stage is Trust versus Mistrust. This occurs from birth to a year old. During this phase, the infant requires consistent love and attention from the caregiver. The infant learns to trust that the basic needs will be met through this. If the caregiver is neglectful, mistrust is instilled. The infant will either gain hope or weaken through withdrawal due to mistrust. Fleming (2018).

As stated by Jean Piaget, if a parent fails to provide the infant with primary care during the “sensory-motor” stage, the foundation of trust will not be present. As a result, this child may display signs of internal hopelessness as an adult. Erskine (2019).

Later in adult life, the individual might have difficulties trusting people, looking for the slightest inconsistency to prove their mistrust. On the other hand, if the infant’s needs are met at this developmental stage, that individual may see such inconsistencies as normal. Erskine (2015b).

Bowlby stressed the importance of early relationships with attachment figures. Infants use this as a gauge that provides them with an understanding of how acceptable or unacceptable they are to these figures. When an adult displays signs of insecure attachments, this could result from interference in bonding. Bowlby (1973).

Fraiberg’s research also showed that when infants experience disturbance in this stage, they create survival techniques such as freezing the body or turning their face away. To a mild extent, we may see this in adults, resulting from the relationship bond being broken. Fraiberg (1983).


Second Stage: Autonomy versus Shame

The second stage is Autonomy Versus Shame and occurs from one to three years of age. The toddler begins learning how to walk, talk, and control bowel movements at this juncture. A sense of autonomy begins because the toddler can now do things for herself/himself. However, parents may be impatient with the toddler. This leads to shame. If the toddler is met with patience and understanding, he/she will develop will; the antitheses is a compulsion. Fleming (2018).

In adulthood, the results could manifest as self-doubt. Erikson (1959).


Third Stage: Initiative versus Guilt

The third stage is Initiative Versus Guilt and occurs from three to six years. Erikson accepts Freud’s Oedipal factors; however, he expands by recognizing social factors. The child imitates the same-sex parent but then sees the parent as competition. The initiative is defined through imitation and exploring different capabilities. Fleming (2018).

According to Erskine (2019), this phase is characterized by the child engaging in imaginary play, and there is a sense of increased autonomy as the child self directs.

If the parents dampen the child’s process, guilt settles in. If the child is encouraged and the parent entertains the process, the child will find purpose. The opposite outcome will be inhibition.

As you can see, absence in development in each stage leads to disrupted personality behaviors that manifest in childhood and adulthood.


Psychology in the South African Context

It is important to note that unlike the western individualistic approach to understanding development, the Social ontogenetic approach purports that the self is realized in relation to the community. Nsamenang (2006).

According to Nsamanang (1992), the life cycle of African people can be seen in three phases, spiritual selfhood, social selfhood, and death. Development through each stage is defined according to a cultural perspective.

Social identity can either have a positive or negative effect on the individual and can explain behavior towards the social constructs. As Haslam et al., (2009) state, a group identifies themselves in relation to another group. They can be seen as either “superior” or “inferior.” If the group is seen as “inferior” or of low status, the individual may want to permeate to the “superior” group to avoid stigmatizing. If this move cannot be achieved, social creativity is adopted. This can be achieved through refusal to accept the inferiority of the group or to produce a social change that will improve the ingroup. Branscombe et al., (1999).

During Apartheid, black and white people were exposed to radically different living experiences. The black people were marginalized, they suffered poverty, the children were given poor education, and there was forced removal from their living spaces. Many family units were broken due to needing to find work outside of their designated living areas. This resulted in the socio-economic degradation of the black communities. Richter (1994).

Because the black people of South Africa had the struggle in common, they identified strongly with their social groups, strengthening their cultural identity. Stevens and Lockhat (1997).


In my opinion, psychology played an important role in South African history. Social change came in the form of political action which improved black people’s social status.


In my view, understanding personality and behavior requires a holistic view that includes all aspects that influence the individual. A one-sided bias would have an adverse result on the treatment plan.

I enjoyed studying Erik Erickson’s perspective on development because I believe that we evolve in our lives, circumstances may change, and reparations of past trauma occur. All of these changes affect our behavior and personality. To believe that we stop developing means that we stop growing, and that, in my view, is naïve.




Erskine, R. G. (2019). Child development in integrative psychotherapy: Erik

Erikson’s first three stages. International Journal of Integrative Psychotherapy, 10, 11-34.


Nsamenang, A. B. (2006). Human ontogenesis: An indigenous African view on

development and intelligence. International Journal of Psychology, 41(4), 293-297.


Fleming, J. S. (2004). Erikson’s psychosocial developmental stages.


Townsend, L., Mayekiso, T., & Ntshangase, S. (2016). Early and middle childhood.


In L. Swartz, C. de la Rey, N. Duncan, L. Townsend, & V. O’Neill (Eds.), Psychology: An

introduction (4th ed. Ch. 3). Oxford University Press Southern Africa.


Haslam, S.A., Jetten, J., Postmes, T., & Haslam, C. (2009). Social Identity, Health

and Well-being: An Emerging Agenda for Applied Psychology. Applied Psychology: An

 International  Review, 58(1), 1-23


Thom, D. P., & Coetzee, C. H. (2004). Identity development of South African adolescents in a democratic society. Society in Transition35(1), 183–193.

Erikson, E. H. (1959). Identity and the life cycle. Psychological Issues, 1, 18 -171

Erskine, R. G. (2015b). The script system: An unconscious organization of evidence. In R. G. Erskine (Ed.) Relational patterns, therapeutic presence: Concepts and practice of integrative psychotherapy. 73-89. London: Karnac Books


Fraiberg, S. (1983). Pathological defenses in infancy. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 51, 612-635.

Richter, L. (1994). Economic stress and the influence on the family and caretaking patterns. Dawes, D & Donald, D. (Eds). Childhood & Adversity. 28-50. David Philip Cape Town

Branscombe, N. R., Schmitt, M. T., & Harvey, R. D. (1999). Perceiving pervasive discrimination among African-Americans: Implications for group identification and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 135-149

Erikson, E. H. (1958). Young man Luther: A study in Psychoanalysis and history. New York, NY: Norton

Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York, NY: Norton

read more