Cover: Looking past the ‘social’ of media

Students of social media learn to build networks on social media so that they can become experts in their passions and understand deeply how social media function.

Social media apps Twitter and Facebook [Illustrative] (photo credit: REUTERS)
Social media apps Twitter and Facebook [Illustrative]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Many people feel a need to tell others to put their phones down and engage with the “real” world and perhaps learn something from the person opposite them. While spending time with people and not just phones is meritorious, many forget to look past the first word in “social media” and consider their educational purpose.
With billions of social media users, there is much that people can learn from each other. Twitter is intrinsically more intrusive than other social networks, with quick bursts of content and newsworthy items constantly tweeted by politicians, educators, journalists and many others. Yet it is not alone in sharing the latest stories.
Snapchat in 2015 added its Discover feature, whose articles from various sites will show up with just a swipe and a click. Important articles and content geared toward individual interests are shared on Facebook and Pinterest by other users and organizations.
Millions of Instagrammers have public accounts for their personal brands, including music, art and food. Many other social media sites, with new ones cropping up all the time, are flooded with educational and interest- based content.
So why do selfies and beach photos dominate informative stories? People often do not take that extra second to swipe right (and not on Tinder!) to see the Discover feature or to look up something interesting on a search engine.
Instead, they just use social media to kill time, without realizing their potential for sharing much knowledge. Perhaps this is because people are simply not informed of ways to use social media more constructively.
If we are driven to spend so much time on social media, we might as well make it purposeful. Such is the mantra of US educator Nate Green, who started his very own SocMedEd – a social media education blog – to teach his students how to properly use social media.
On, Green blogs about millennials’ usage of social media and how they can use it more effectively, with titles such as “The Perpetuation of the Screenhead” and “Facebook, Other Tech Giants Enter Education with ‘Personalized Learning.’”
He also created the website, where people can search ways to engage in “passion-based learning through social media.”  With lists of websites and social media accounts that cater to specific interests and departments, there is certainly something for everyone.
Of his inspiration behind creating the site, Green said, “I became a better teacher by using Twitter to figure out what other teachers were doing that I thought was unique and interesting and engaging… I was learning from the best and it was all because of this network that I built up.”
“How many professions can use social media to get better at what they do?” Green asked himself. “I think anyone can benefit from consuming the right informational content that can make them better at something that they care about.”
He teaches his students this principle in all of his classes. While some may not be interested in history or literature or whichever subject he is teaching, Green reasons that allowing students to explore educational and career-focused uses for social media is still beneficial.
“It will help them build networks even if their passions aren’t what I was slated to teach them,” he said.
Green will be teaching a Disruptive Innovation Through Social Media class in the fall, where students will explore how social media have changed industries they are interested in, such as health and finance. They will learn how to build their own digital portfolios, deepen their understandings of fields they are passionate about, and get ahead of the curves of these industries through social media.
In all of his classes, Green’s students learn to build networks on social media so that they can become experts in their passions and understand deeply how social media function. In the process, they also discover various social networks and sites that cater to an educational and career-oriented purpose.
One of Green’s personal favorites is TweetDeck. A special version of Twitter, it allows people to see a condensed screen of many articles, all placed into specific categories that can be arranged by hashtag, topic or another means.
He also recommends Mashable, a site that sorts articles into different channels such as video, entertainment and science. It allows people to search the latest news, all written and arranged in a slightly more informal and fun style that suits millennials.
He also shares with his students theSkimm, a website that contains all of the previous day’s news in a condensed brief that, as the name suggests, can be quickly skimmed. TheSkimm sends out emails to subscribers every weekday with its news brief, and subscription is free. It also has a SkimmBassador program for users who share theSkimm with others, allowing them to engage in fun competition to earn free “Skimm swag” and shouting them out for their birthdays.
These are only a few of the social media platforms geared toward education that also make learning enjoyable. People can “StumbleUpon” articles, microblog on Tumblr, vlog, peruse content on Vox, and learn through so many other social media sites. Of course, the classic Facebook or Twitter or Instagram usage can still be a part of a daily routine, but following some of the interest-based sites and accounts that Green charts on his website will make time spent on those networks more meaningful.