Abstract

In response to a high dropout rate and low graduation rate among first-generation college students (FGCS), higher education institutions are turning to social media (SM) as the medium to provide resource and enhance digital inclusion for this population. Because little is known about how SM facilitates digital inclusion, we conduct a case study to investigate how SM usage impacts FGCS. We employ the technology affordance lens to uncover the affordances of the SM and the outcomes experienced by the users. Analyzing qualitative data of 73 FGCS from an economically-diverse urban university in the U.S., our study revealed that SM use by FGCS led to the benefits of maintaining and strengthening the family bonding relationship over the temporal and physical barriers; enhancing psychological well-being (e.g., feeling less stressful); and gaining access to more informational resources. In particular, four major themes from social media usage were identified: (1) personal empowerment; (2) a portfolio of affordances; (3) psychological well-being, and (4) complexities of affordances. Our results provide insights into understanding how SM affect college experience outcomes as well as the affordances provided to FGCS by the SM tool that may lead to academic success.

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