Gordon in the News: last updated 10/27/2009

New Study By Gordon Professors Released at National Conference of Religion News Writers

September 10, 2009

Jo Kadlecek
Office of College Communications
[email protected]

WENHAM, MA--When they’re not sending text messages or tweets, today’s Christian college students are spending time on Facebook. A lot of it. One in every three says he’s spending 1-2 hours a day on the site; twelve percent report using it 2-4 hours each day and 2.8 percent report usage at 4-7 hours a day. That’s in addition to other forms of social media and electronic usage such as video games, blogs, e-mail and Internet browsing.

The data comes from a new and unprecedented study by two Gordon College faculty members, Bryan C. Auday, professor of psychology, and Sybil Coleman, professor of social work. Released at the 60th anniversary conference for the Religion Newswriters Association in Minneapolis, Sept. 10, 2009, the study--“Pulling Off the Mask: The Impact of Social Networking Activities on Evangelical Christian College Students . . . A Self-Reported Study”--is the only one of its kind to target and give voice specifically to evangelical Christian college students. It explores the specific trends, behaviors and attitudes Christian students perceive of themselves regarding social media usage.

“We’d received enough anecdotal evidence from college students to raise some red flags about these issues,” said Coleman. “But we felt it was crucial to gather scientific data from students about both the benefits and concerns (of usage) if we were going to get a clearer picture about how we could best respond.”

The study was conducted in April 2009 entirely online and surveyed 1,342 students between 18 and 27 years of age on four evangelical Christian college campuses with an equal class representation. Seventy percent of all participants were women.

Questions included the amount of time participants engage in a specific electronic activity during an average day; the primary reason for using a specific site; the impact (both positive and negative) of usage on personal life and relationships; the ability or inability to stop usage, and the possible conflict of usage with personal Christian values.

“It isn’t yet clear whether over-zealous use of computer-based activities will be formally accepted in the U.S. as a distinctive, unique form of addiction,” said Auday. “What is clear from our study is that a surprisingly high percentage of Christian students who frequently engage in electronic activities report several troubling negative consequences. But ironically they also mention many positive outcomes related to the time that is spent on Facebook or text messaging their friends.”

Over half  (54 percent) reported that they were “neglecting important areas of their life” due to spending too much time on these sites. And when asked if one were to define addiction as “any behavior you cannot stop, regardless of the consequences,” 12.7 percent affirmed that they believe they are addicted to some form of electronic activity. Another 8.7 percent report that they are unsure. For small campuses, that translates into large numbers. And 21 percent felt that their level of engagement with electronic activities at times caused a conflict with their Christian values.

The students’ voices--and solutions--themselves add perspective to the study.  Some described regular fasts from Facebook, avoiding places with Internet access, deleting their Facebook accounts altogether, or imposing self-limits.  

“During the critical years of young adulthood, Christian college students need to be mindful that academic and social development are important, yet incomplete in terms of nurturing the whole person. The spiritual condition also needs attention,” said Coleman. “Since the evidence from this study raises several concerns for their time management skills, possible neglect of important areas in their lives and their psychological and spiritual health, the next question needs to be, how can we help? ”

Download the study: Pulling Off the Mask: The Impact of Social Networking on Christian College Students

For more information or to arrange an interview with the professors, please contact Jo Kadlecek, Office of College Communication, 978.867.4752 or [email protected].


Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston’s North Shore. The College offers majors in 37 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation’s top Christian colleges.


Sybil Coleman portrait
Bryan Auday