Social media responsibility workshop for students

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The Centre for Digital Humanities recognizes how social media can be used against an individual. It held a Creating Responsible Social Media Content workshop on November 20 in order to address this growing concern.

“The goal of our workshop was to get students to start thinking about how to use social media responsibly. With so many platforms available and to have it so accessible, it’s easy for us to post about anything and everything without thinking about the ethics or potential implications of what we post,” said Ellen Mary Thornton, a fifth year student with an internship under the IASC 3P95 course.

Thornton presented the workshop with Alison Innes, who is the social media coordinator for the Faculty of Humanities. The two designed the session to address concerns for students interested in social media, whether for future careers or for personal use.

“Whether students are looking to manage a brand or company’s social media accounts professionally, or they’re just looking after their own personal accounts, we wanted to show that there’s value in thinking about how we represent ourselves online through social media, through factors like thinking about the kinds of content we post, and the audience we are targeting and engaging with,” said Thornton.

The workshop began with learning about how many people regularly use social media by showing how big the platforms really are. Facebook, for example, has over two billion monthly active users. The discussion then switched to the types of content that people post on their social media accounts and the goals accomplished by doing so. The presenters encouraged participants to question why it was necessary to post specific content and how posting could be better managed.

The final part of the workshop saw participants and presenters go over case studies of recent scandals seen in social media; such as the Plane Bae saga, in which two airplane passengers were photographed without consent, documenting perceived romantic interactions and opening them up to viral internet fame — and all the damages it can cause — and the Chipotle manager who went viral for denying customers service until they had paid. The discussion focused on understanding what went wrong with these posts and the ethical questions and debates they inspired.

Social media is very present in today’s society, especially for youth. Growing up with social media is something new and it can be hard for the older generation to understand. Youth face a real challenge with social media today, especially if they don’t know how to remain responsible with the content they post.

“As someone who grew up with social media constantly being available, I feel like instead of asking whether something should be shared online or not, I’ve been more concerned about where to post content,” said Thornton. “Is the picture good enough for Instagram? Is it funny enough for Twitter? Do I want my parents to see it on Facebook?”

Thornton highlighted the ease with which individuals can reflect on the consequences and ethics of each social media post, both personally and professionally.

“Throughout my internship with [Innes] at the centre for Digital Humanities I’ve learned not only how to use social media in a professional setting and representing an institution like the Faculty of Humanities, but how these strategies can be used for my own personal accounts,” said Thornton. “In the amount of time it takes to figure out how to choose what platform to post something on, we can all think about the potential consequences of posting such content: does this actually need to be posted? Do I need to be the one posting it? Will it offend someone?”

Also present at the workshop was Justin Howe, Project Coordinator at the Centre for Digital Humanities. Howe attends the workshops held for students to bring together real-world experiences and course content, as well as to provide himself opportunities to learn.

“I participate both to offer support to our guest speakers and to help connect the presenters content and experience to case examples, course themes and critical messages,” said Howe. “It’s honestly a privilege to be able to act as a bridge in this way between students and talented professionals, such as [Innes], from many related fields.  Despite being a professional in this field myself, I learn something new and shaping from these workshops on a regular basis, which I hope speaks to the relevance and quality of the content.”

For more information on the Centre for Digital Humanities and upcoming events or workshops go to https://brocku.ca/humanities/digital-humanities/programs/iasc/.

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