Social media skills and image-building should be taught in college

By Li Luyuyang, Columnist

Before the internet and social media, most people cared little about what strangers thought of them. The majority of us only turned our heads toward celebrities and politicians. However, the rise of social media changed this notion; as social media further empowered public opinion and gave it more freedom to judge, ordinary people started to use that in their favor.

People now have a way to express and communicate to the world instantly. But just like communicating in person, presenting yourself on social media can be a difficult task. While there are already classes teaching students to communicate traditionally, like public speaking, students also need to learn how to speak on the internet — only this time, it’s with a keyboard.

Social media enables you to express yourself more efficiently, makes your communication more effective to others and helps you build your brand to the public eye.

You might think: “Why do I need someone to tell me how to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? My 5-year-old sister knows how to do that.” Yet the truth is, many people don’t know how to take advantage of these platforms.

Many people post things subjectively, with poor consideration of their image and brand. In real life, no one would do such a thing; people usually try their best to consider their actions in a real-world public context and are well adapted to handle those considerations after years of experience.

However, social media is comparatively new to us, yet it’s evolving much faster than traditional communication. Each time Facebook or Snapchat changes its rules or adds a feature, it modifies the way social media communicates. It is hard for students to keep track of these changes and communicate effectively via media. Therefore, offering courses that let public relations specialists teach them is important.

In addition, learning how to manage social media helps students gain success. The most significant aspect is leadership education. Gaining leadership qualities is essential to modern higher education, as it teaches you how to manage your image in public and how to build your personal brand. Employers are expecting people to show this when hiring. Some might even look at the candidate’s social media accounts to figure out what kind person they are. And sometimes, that visit will constitute their final decision. Teaching students how to brand themselves is necessary to their success.

Most students are approachable, have brilliant ideas and are people of character, but they need to learn how to show that to the online world. That’s why social media classes should be offered in college — or in other words, PR courses for everyone.

Social media is a powerful vehicle of self-expression and communication; having this ability brings people closer to success, and offering classes for students to master this tool is an indispensable step to help them make the most out of themselves.

Li is a freshman in LAS.

[email protected]