I had just posted about my school’s Awards Night on Instagram. Notifications of likes/comments were flooding my phone’s lock screen and instant gratification was flooding my mind’s reward centre. The picture I chose was a classic; a joyous grin, awards in hand, and a school blazer weighed down by metallic school badges.
I felt proud of my achievements, namely achieving runner up to dux, an accolade I never dreamt of reaching. Being at an academically selective school I had long ago accepted that this level of achievement was not meant for someone as ordinary as myself.
But, as is so prominently emphasised here at A Team, I learnt firsthand that with the right mindset and support, anyone, no matter their predisposition, can reach the top of their field.
This is a core belief that became and still is the driving force in my own schooling and it was this belief that my latest Instagram post was professing. The comments on my post were highlighting how inspiring and motivating the photo was.
This realisation that my quick snap and simple caption can impact someone else’s education really showed me the power of social media in our ever-changing modern society. If my own epiphany isn’t enough to convince you of its positive influence, I think it is important to point out one particular comment on this same post.
The comment reads “Congratulations, legitimately an inspiration” and it is 56 weeks old. A few weeks ago, I was invited back to my high school to present the award of proxime accessit to the boy behind this same comment.
Social media is seen in many different lights. It’s funny how it is used as both the home of cruel online ‘trolling’ and as a springboard for careers and business development.
It has revolutionised the way companies engage in marketing and it has introduced a myriad of job titles (e.g. Youtuber); we would never have imagined existing 20 years ago. However, social media has also been associated with a range of mental health issues, especially in teens.
While its easy for parents and students alike to dwell on the dangers of social media, the best way to accept it as part of our 21st century world is to embrace its positives and manipulate its technology in a way that allows us to focus on these benefits.
As aforementioned, social media has immense potential to improve one’s schooling. The following outlines some tips on how to use social media as a tool for such a purpose:
Use it for academic support
One of the most obvious ways to harness the powers of social media is to take advantage of the connectivity it provides. If you’re stuck on an impossible maths question you have to finish by tomorrow, why not message a friend who you know could do the question in their sleep?
If they are a good friend, they will be happy to help and If not they well simply feel too awkward to ignore you: it’s a win-win!
Alternatively, you could consider starting a Facebook group for your cohort or class. Lots of schools have this in place.
Through my senior schooling, my year group help page was always buzzing with interactions surrounding muddy points in all subjects. Around exam time it was always filled with supportive messages and of course online humour to alleviate stress.
These kinds of support groups can even extend over a broader scale. This is particularly relevant given the transition to the ATAR system that Queensland is undergoing.
The subject content and assessment is set to be way more streamlined across the state and so you can engage in online forums with students all over QLD who will be doing the same work as you.
If two heads are better than one, imagine the way issues/queries could be tackled with the heads of all senior QLD students.
Use it for inspiration and motivation
It is really quite incredible to consider what a powerful influence people have on each other.
Therefore, social media, being at an online meeting place of people interacting with each other via digital media, is a fundamental source of influence on those living in the 21st century.
When translated into the context of schooling, by following the right people, social media can be used to find inspiration and motivation when it is lacking. This can range from Instagram pages that share the most beautiful biology notes to individuals that have done something you really admire.
The personal social media accounts of others can help you to establish your own career goals and more importantly, figure out how to achieve them.
You could follow a community doctor/lawyer/engineer/journalist /teacher/chef and examine a day in their life to see if a certain shoe fits. Role-models are acknowledged as being important factors in youth success (Price-Mitchell, 2014) and I believe that social media really helps facilitate their influence.
Use it as a study reward
When starting a study session, ideally you should put your phone on aeroplane/do-not-disturb mode. As you’re busy making notes, completing questions, notifications will be piling up.
While studying, your knowledge of this piling can be used as motivation to keep studying.
The longer you study, the more notifications that will build up. Then, when you decide to take a break, you have the reward of checking all of the notifications and you will feel proud of having endured an undisturbed, productive period of study.
Use it to remain balanced
Social media is, at its name would suggest, primarily social. Indeed, there is research to suggest that social media can promote well-being if you engage in “sincere connections” (Millet et al., 2016) such as the ones outlined above.
You should use these social connections to complement your schooling experience, by remaining balanced.
Good grades can get you very far but so can genuine connections with others. As important as it is to take time to perfect your algebra skills, it is equally as important to learn to communicate with others, resolve conflict, and work collaboratively.
These are vital skills for any modern workplace and social media helps to develop them directly, for example it can be a way to organise outings with friends or mentors. Remaining balanced and leading a social life is crucial to schooling.
I could argue that anyone who looks back on their time at school remembers a small portion of what was written on whiteboards, in textbooks and on tests, but it’s the memories they shared with others that are the most fondly cherished.
Social media can really help to enhance such connections during your school life.
Ultimately, social media is a tool like any other and simply needs to be used correctly in order to exert its positive effects. There are thousands of analogies I could draw upon here to illustrate my point, but oddly, one that comes to mind immediately is that of a kitchen knife: you couldn’t imagine cooking without it but there is no denying its inherent dangers.
It is like everything in life, the golden rule is to use it in moderation and this will render social media a source of assistance, inspiration, drive and balance.
Humans are social creatures and no man is an island. We are lucky that in today’s world social media is really helping to embed this central truth into modern schooling.