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Recently, Lisa Nielsen, the director of digital literacy and citizenship at the New York City Department of Education, has been advocating the implementation of social media as a tool for children in America to use in school. Other advocates of social media go even farther as to say that schools should be offering courses teaching children the best ways to use social media.

classroom computer

Image Courtesy of Flickr User mikecogh

The inevitable fact is that social media has penetrated many aspects of culture in the 21st century is a large reason why people think it is important for the younger generation to become savvy with that technology. We have seen social media used in national uprisings, political campaigns, social movements, data collection and even capturing criminals. It is clear that being able to properly utilize social media can cause massive movements in political, business and personal atmospheres. Erick Qualman, an international keynote speaker on digital leadership, states that “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media. The questions is how well we do it.” I can absolutely see social media being a crucial skill in the near future when businesses and political organizations ask their employees to utilize their online social capital in order to promote a product or campaign. This kind of behavior is already being implemented on various levels and will only continue to become more prevalent in the professional culture of the next generation.

A business school in Europe has already adopted a course titled “Advertising and Social Media Strategies.” The focus of such a course is how social media is able to bridge the gap between customers and the company.The class uses social media sites such as Moodle and Twitter in order to create social media strategies for major corporations such as Coca Cola and PepsiCo. The professor also uses a variety of other tools such as blogs and wikis in order to foster communication between his students. This course is taught primarily in a virtual manner and the actual class only meets once every two weeks.

I think that the idea of teaching courses about how to properly utilize social media is interesting, but I do not necessarily agree with it. After an initial observation of how people around me “successfully” use social media to receive large amounts of social capital (ex. Facebook likes), I saw that they were first successful in creating offline relationships with people and then translated those relationships into online social capital. In the same vein, I think that the offline reputation of companies and political personalities have to make a significant impact in the offline world before they have a chance of creating a successful online reputation.

I would also like to note that many of the people who are advocating the implementation of social media classes are part of an older generation. The current population of teenage to mid-20 year olds are well-versed in the language of social media in that they understand the nuances of interacting with others on the online platform very well. This generation has grown up with these technologies and have already mastered many of the soft skills of communicating across Facebook and Twitter. I feel as if courses of these kind should not be directed toward the younger generations but rather for the older people who may not be as engaged in these new social innovations.

In conclusion, I think that the concept of teaching people to use social media is interesting, but I believe that the target group for such courses should not be children, but rather for people around 40 years and older. That is where social media is still not a pervasive element and where people are not as likely to understand unspoken rules of social media and the subtle ways to receive large amounts of online social capital.

Featured Image Courtesy of Flickr User The Advocacy Project

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