Austin Brown

MLO IV – Applying to the Real World

I have learned a lot over the last four years. Two of these years have been dedicated to

learning about the social sciences, and in particular, sociology. In the end, it all culminates in a

final capstone project. This project involves doing research, either conducting an original study

or delving into existing scholarly works, and analyzing it with theory in order to produce a

finding towards a problem. My capstone focuses on social media and how it affects student’s

study quality. I hypothesized, based off of personal observation, that social media negatively

impacts the focus and attention needed by students to benefit from studying. While researching

this question and trying to better understand the problem I was able to apply social science

practices.

Because of sociology, I was able to have a broader understanding of social media’s

effects and what causes people to need to check it constantly. I knew the social ramifications

caused by the need to have the next great thing. People need to have things and they need the

best things and they compete with each other, often subconsciously, in achieving these things.

This problem is exemplified in the social media game. In the case of my capstone, students are

constantly needing to get the next like or the longest comment. There is an intrinsic desire inside

most of my generation, we need to be connected to others, and not only connected but constantly

involved. This need is one of the key dimensions affecting why social media use during studying

is even a possible issue.

Another dimension that clearly affects my capstone is the historical one. Because social

media use, as we know it today, is relatively recent there are not a lot of existing studies on its
affects. It is still a new phenomenon that needs deeper examination. This lack of studies caused

me a few issues. The biggest one was getting a legitimate number of sources to use to build my

argument. Luckily, I could use some older sources that explained the basic concepts and then

support it with the current data I could find. Unfortunately, I was not able to conduct the meta-

analysis examination I was trying to get accomplished. This method requires a number of studies

done by other people, and I simply could not find a significant number of existing studies. All

problems were averted however, because I switched to focusing on an expanded literature review

in place of the meta-analysis. My capstone still has findings based off credible sources, and that

is what matters.

Along with how I got my data comes what theory I looked at my sources through. For

this, I used Zajonc’s distraction-conflict theory. The idea behind Zajonc’s theory is that when

people are focusing on a task and another person is present an immediate distraction is formed. It

is then up to the person focusing on the goal whether or not they become distracted and lose

productivity. When Zajonc was writing about this theory he did not know about social media

communication, therefore his theory is specifically about in person communication. However, I

argue in my capstone that the two, communication over social media and in person, are

interchangeable. Especially with today’s standard of social media communication options. With

video chat like Skype and FaceTime, photo sharing on Instagram and Snapchat, and instant text

messaging through Facebook and even email, people have so many options for how they want to

communicate. And, no matter what method they choose, the technology today allows it to feel

and as if both parties are in the same room. The ability to feel like you’re in the same room

allows Zajonc’s theory to apply to even electronic communication. With his theory, I argue that
social media creates a distraction during study times because it invites another party into the mix,

and it is up to the student whether the distraction is averted or succumbed to.

Social and Behavioral Sciences are very into a multi-disciplinary approach to solving

problems and handling situations. This is proven in how the major is set up at CSUMB with the

requirement to take a certain number of units in different major courses. For example, I have

taken a CHHS leadership class and a human development class. The reason for this requirement

is because many aspects of SBS work lend themselves to other disciplines. Instead of thinking

they are the best and can handle everything on their own, social scientists are generally pretty

good about reaching out for experts in different fields to work together in order to come up with

solutions to problems. This method would be very helpful in my own capstone. If I worked with

computer scientists to learn more about how programs are designed to be catchy and addictive I

would have a better grasp on the problem itself. Also, I could work with cultural anthropologists

to learn about how distractions like technology are culturally relevant or how similar types of

distractions existed in other cultures. There are many disciplines that would be able to help me

analyze social media’s distraction capabilities and that would have an invested interest in

learning alongside me.

The capstone project at CSUMB is the final step to earning a bachelor’s degree. It is

meant to combine skills learned from all four, about, years and put it all into one big assignment.

The SBS capstone does not stray from this model. It required that I pick a topic to study. It has

required that I analyze the social and historical relevance of the project. It required me to learn

and apply social theories to help answer the question, and it required me to do some research.

Finally, it made me think about other disciplines that could help me with it or at least would be
interested in my answers. My capstone is a good example of the abilities that I have developed,

the same abilities I will be using in the work force.