SN in Mauritius
Summary of Findings
This small study's aim was to shed light on the use of social networking sites by students of the secondary and tertiary sector.
Although the sampling technique was convenience sampling and thus the results cannot be extrapolated to the whole student communities, this study which was exploratory in nature does give rise to some interesting findings. 134 students participated in this study; 49% of this sample was in the 13-20 year old category and 49% was above 20 with 2% unspecified. Hence the sample did cover equally under 20s and over 20s. Similarly both genders were represented more or less equally (males 53% and females 46%). It is of note that 57% of the sample lived in rural areas whilst 41% of subjects were urban residents.This reflects the population of Mauritius where 43% of the population approximately live in urban areas and 57% approximately in rural areas.Thus we could infer that the sample does cover all elements of the student population to a large extent. However the tertiary sector was slightly overrepresented in the sample with 59% of respondents as compared to 40% from the secondary sector.
67% of respondents claimed that they were familiar with computers and internet whilst 24% claimed to be expert. This is good news for our educational sector which aims to be progressive and where there have been large investments in the IT sector.The internet was used for four main purposes: educational (30%), entertainment (28%), social networking (22%) and websurfing (20%).
76% of the sample were familiar with the term social networking with the majority (66%) claiming to be very interested in social networking although 15% were not interested in this at all. Of those not using social networking sites, the majority (75%)could not explain why this was so and 11% said that they were not interested in these sites.The most popular social networking site used was overwhelmingly Facebook (57%). Other sites included YouTube (17%), Hi5(9%) and MySpace (3%).
83% of the sample had created a profile online as opposed to 15% who had not done so, with 53% having a restricted access and 46% having an open access. 61% of the respondents visit their social networking site daily. The overwhelming majority of respondents in our study use the social networking site for staying in touch with their friends or for making new friends. Only 14% of our sample used social networking for flirting. The majority of Mauritian students stayed in touch by posting messages or sending private messages.
49% of our sample thought that there was a potential danger in using social networking sites with lack of privacy and misuse of information being foremost amongst their fears. This is interesting as 46 % of the sample still maintain open access despite these fears. The majority of our respondents felt that social networking had made a positive contribution in their lives by allowing them to stay in touch with their friends and family, meet and make new friends and tracing lost contacts. There were some interesting contributions which social networking had made which included: learning foreign cultures and traditions, easy fast communication, sharing of ideas and entertainment.
In summary it appeared that the majority of our sample were familiar with social networking and used Facebook regularly for friendship and social purposes. Although 49% did have some concerns regarding potential dangers, 83% had an online profile and only 53% had a restricted access.
PROS AND CONS OF SOCIAL NETWORKING
Referring to the value of social networking tools like Facebook, YouTube and so forth in Mauritius it can be honestly said that there are various things that the people like about social networking. First and foremost, it is a major plus for it allows the people to reconnect with the lost contacts. In brief, it has made it easier for the people to keep in touch with each other especially for those who have a very hectic and busy life. It is an advantage especially for those who love the idea of socialising with known as well as unknown people worldwide and of different backgrounds. It has promoted the sharing of advice and ideas from online friends that is, it allows for immediate reaction and response to ideas and issues. One example could be that the classmates or friends can discuss a school activity or assignment or project work or even conduct surveys, which saves both time and effort. Not to forget, despite we share some superficial aspects of life yet it also provides a way for sharing serious aspects of life too which can be both helpful and enjoyable. Last but not the least majority has said that they can reach others through messages by posting them. So, in short, it means that we can have news and give our support or offer our prayer that crosses the globe.
However, besides its pros we cannot forego its drawbacks. For instance, posting messages can be both pleasant but irritating to the users, especially if the user receives loads of messages thus it is most inconvenient to spend so much time to answer these messages (some of which may merely be just comments rather than part of a conversation). Some reasons are that they are perhaps too busy to do so and some interactions may be superficial thus there can be no limitations. In addition to it, responding to all messages can be very tedious. Some send incessant messages to promote their products, or inviting the people to join a certain event when actually it is impossible to do so or to join their “cause” and so on which can the persons feel boring.
Moreover, as mentioned earlier there is greater risk of identity theft and/or fraud. Some people may even try to do some illegal activities by making use of the users’ biographical or personal information. In one of the articles of a Mauritian newspaper, it was reported that there are many cases whereby the users can become easy prey -especially the younger ones or the naive, unsuspecting students- of criminals, predators and perverts. These people may stalk or harass the users online.
In a nutshell, it is crucial or imperative for the student population to know the pros and cons of social networking sites so that they can use them wisely by taking the necessary precautions otherwise the consequences may prove to be dangerous or can mar their life. In addition, they must think twice about the kind of people they trust while sharing some of their biographical or personal information. Of course, to what extent social networking sites are a potential danger to the users will remain controversial but, if the users are careful enough these powerful networking tools can make their life.
Pertaining to the analysis carried out, it can be deduced that social networking plays a major role in the life of the Mauritian student population. It is to be noted that majority of them belong to a population below the age of 20 and they are mostly from the rural areas and the tertiary sector while we have a higher percentage rate of the male population who are involved in social networking compared to the female population. It is imminent that many users have created an account a profile in one or more than one social networking sites for they find a great interest in these sites among which Facebook seems to be more popular or widely used.
Furthermore, while majority of the Mauritian student population uses the social networking sites to keep in touch with other people by either posting messages to the person’s page or sending private messages to them, yet some have joined the social networking site merely to follow the trend. There is a scanty number of students who have not joined any social networking sites as they are not interested, or they do not have internet access or they are unaware about these sites.
Despite many have stipulated that social networking has contributed immensely in the life of majority of them like paving the way for easier communication to people worldwide, learning of new cultures or foreign languages, getting in touch with lost contacts, and so on yet, many are aware of the potential threats. Some of which are misuse of pictures, identity theft and/or fraud, being easily harassed by someone online, or vulgar or harmful comments may be posted or sent by strangers especially if the profile does not have any restricted access.