By: Paulina Prazmo
“Tweet me!” “Add me on Facebook!” or “Follow me on tumblr!” are phrases you might have heard many times, and probably said yourselves to your friends. Many of us are guilty of checking Twitter as soon as we wake up, or being constantly distracted by Facebook when we’re supposed to be writing an essay. Yet there we are, time after time, checking our timelines even though nothing has changed in the past two minutes since checking it last.
Are we constantly plugged in? Wired? Or is it simply the act of staying informed, connected and up-to-date? From being able to communicate with group members on upcoming projects to following a professor on Twitter, social media intermingling with education is something to be thought about.
Dr. Philip Savage, a professor of the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia here at Mac, is one of the Profs you can see ‘Tweeting’ away. His recent practice focus group was on students and their radio use. The leading question was “what is the first thing you wake up to?” He assumed it would be a clock-radio, but the most common answer was “I wake up and check my phone for Facebook updates, Tweets, Instagram etc…” What Dr. Savage concluded was that the majority of students are connected from the moment we wake up. Is social media playing a positive or negative role in our lives? Dr. Savage explained, “Social media extends us in different ways through time and space. It has this incredible power to extend us broadly and quickly. It cannot be said if it is a good or bad thing, but a new way of situating ourselves.”
At Lyons New Media, the media specialist Chris McAllister thinks our affinity for social media is both a good and bad thing. He said the pros are that social media “has allowed individuals to interact with others very rapidly.” Negatively, “social media also has the potential to isolate and attack the vulnerable, as in the case of bullying, on a much larger scale than before.”
Speaking as a student to another student, we find ourselves in situations where we’re attached to checking these social media outlets. Whether it’s Twitter or Tumblr, these might be the reason why you procrastinated starting that assignment that’s now due tomorrow. Gosh darn those precious tweets that your favourite celebrity is tweeting, or curse those pictures that your friend finally posted from that crazy party last night on Facebook. Social media might be what students are blaming these days.
Savage explains the difference between good and bad social media, and said, “There’s a whole tradition of saying that new technology is not very good. It’s almost as if saying that the electric light bulb was a terrible thing for education, because people stay up at night reading, studying, or talking when they should be resting.” As a matter of fact, these social media channels could prove to be an aid in helping the modern university student. From creating Facebook groups for the upcoming group project to reading helpful and intellectual tweets from your professor. Nonetheless, Dr. Savage does warn about becoming a ‘slave’ to the social media around instead of using it as a wide range to connect with different people. “If you have to be literally always on, that might not be a great thing. Social media is there to make new connections to different people with new ideas. Some of it is good and some bad, it’s more of a discipline that people are still trying to work out,” explained Savage.
In addition to involving social media with education, it cannot be forgotten that these channels are everywhere outside of the McMaster community as well. People want to be informed and know what the latest is happening. “I can’t imagine who wasn’t a little interested in what was happening in the Twitterverse on Hurricane Sandy, or Frankenstorm, as it moved through different people. [The] smartest people I know are tweeting and passing things on and commenting. What an incredible action. I spent the presidential election making these connections with other peoples reaction to what was going on, on Twitter,” stated Savage. And McAllister had some of his own visions to how social media can impact the world: “I’d love to see social media being used to interact with people outside of the McMaster campus in our community. Imagine inquiry or engineering students investigating real issues or tackling real challenges posed by the community we live in. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to use social media, but I like the idea of experimenting with new forms of communication, rather than shoehorning in old methods.”
To be able to take part in these amazing social mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Pintrest, is something that every student is entitled to and given the advantage. In spite of the negative connotations that these common channels receive, it is up to us whether we simply make use of tweeting, posting and updating in a way that would show benefit to the original intentions and at the same time creating new ways of connecting, sharing and creating. Whether we use social media to distract ourselves from the busy student life or to expand our knowledge and show involvement, it is something that is further growing and expanding. The ability to let it help us or hinder us in our education lies solely, like smartphones, in our hands.