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Social Media Savvy

The use of social media at Topeka High School

June 12, 2017

These days, it’s hard to find a high school student who doesn’t have a presence on social media. Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook- using social media is like second-nature. Unfortunately, this lack of physical communication can lead to huge personal disconnects, but do the good things outweigh the bad?

Positives of Social Media

No matter how often it leads to problems, social media is one of the few thing which always keeps people coming back.

“I think social media is interesting because it can kind of connect people, but I think social media can also be damaging because we now fight over the things that we share [on social media],” Dustin Rimmey, government teacher, said. “I think it’s definitely changed the nature of how we communicate both for better because I believe more communication, more speech is always good, but I think it can now be a distraction.”

For Rimmey, things can be a challenge as a teacher who’s connected to social media.

“As a teacher, using social media is hard,” Rimmey said. “I have a Facebook page, but my Facebook page is where I share more stuff that I don’t want open to students and things like that, so I’ll post political things on there. Twitter for me has a bit of a dual use. I’ll use Twitter to kind of tweet out little things here and there that are personal things, but stuff that I don’t mind students or other people seeing. I’ll use it in class sometimes. For an exit slip in AP Gov, we’ll have a ‘#RimmeyAPGov’ hashtag to answer a question and that shows up on a tweet box on my website.”

One of the things Rimmey does most on his Twitter is share articles.

“I think Twitter could be a good source for news,” Rimmey said. “During the Green Revolution in Iran, as they were trying to Democratize, people were tweeting, live streaming videos from public areas and those actions compelled the news media to cover them, so like, you saw people pleading with Al Jeezera’s camera saying ‘Don’t turn this off because if you turn off the coverage, they’ll kill us.’ It [social media] becomes a good tool for sharing news and information, but I don’t know how reliable the information is.”

While Rimmey uses his Twitter for both class and personal use, other staff members use social media for clubs they sponsor.

“When I took over Thespians, it was a little bit demoralizing when we would try to have regular meetings and there would just be a terrible drop off [in attendance] pretty quickly,” Derek Jensen, acting teacher and thespian troupe sponsor, said. “It’s one of those great things that you don’t have to be in constant face to face contact for something like that. You can get the word out about whatever events and things that are going on within our troupe and our theater department really quickly. It’s been easier, especially for us, we’re always so busy with rehearsals and don’t always have time to gather everybody to one place.”

Teachers may have a multitude of uses for social media, but one of the things students can do more freely on social media than teachers is self express.

“I think that social media is an art,” Grace Hatesohl, junior, said. “ I think that I use it as a means of, definitely self expression. It’s a medium to do that. There’s like the art of social media, of like, doing it right. You have to be funny, or you have to appeal to your demographic and it’s the same thought process that you have when you’re making physical art.”

“I think, speaking generally, it’s a pretty inclusive, diverse way of expressing yourself,” Benjy Zhang, senior, said. “I really enjoy seeing what other kids my age think and do.”

Ultimately, no matter how students use social media, it’s an experience which is unique for each person.

“I feel like we [Topeka High] ’re definitely not lacking [on social media]. Hatesohl said. “I think it’s a very unique presence and it’s not necessarily a bad one. And I think it should be embraced.”

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Negatives of Social Media

Even though social media is seen as an important way of communicating with one another, it’s also an easy distraction from things that are more important.

“When I’m trying to do homework or work on something school-related, social media can often distract me from what I need to do,” Fischer Carr, junior, said. “But at the same time, if i’m trying to organize an event among friends, social media is a great way to get the word out and to communicate”

Whether time on social media is spent looking at Snapchat, or Facebook, or Instagram, nearly a quarter of students said they spend at least 5 hours on social media every day. When put into perspective, this is almost one-third of the average teenager’s conscious day. So, how much of this actually time well spent?

“Inevitably, you’re going to run across things that waste your time,” Grace Hatesohl, junior, said. “and that’s literally impossible to stop because of the transmission of memes and memes as like a memetic idea.”

Distraction from tasks is not the only troubling thing about social media. When it comes to broadcasting ideas and opinions, the easy platform can get people in trouble. For example, if someone posts an opinion that contrasts the vast majority of their peers, it has the potential to negatively affect them in the real world.

“I think social media probably isn’t the best way to have an argument with someone or really try to say something that you believe in.” Benjy Zhang, senior, said. “I feel like saying it physically, vocalizing yourself in the real world is more important.”

Other than spreading potentially controversial opinions, social media has a tendency to let fake information go viral in less than an hour. In 2016, the U.S. Presidential Election had Americans more at odds with each other than they have been in a long time. Almost everyone was placed inside their own conservative or liberal bubble without much consideration for whether or not what they were hearing was true. This social phenomena brought about “fake news,” a term that is hard to escape.

“Just because a piece of information is on a meme, doesn’t mean that it’s completely true,” Derek Jensen, acting teacher and thespian troupe sponsor, said.  “Whoever wrote that meme has a slant and a bias that probably is obvious within the meme itself.”

Whether it’s bringing internet fame or causing friends to turn against each other, the rise of social media is causing people to communicate unlike they ever have before.

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