Going into my first Social Media and Digital Business class, I had no idea what to expect. I had been trying to get into this class for two years; I had heard nothing but acclaim for the class and BCpeps indicated that Gerald Kane was a professor you would be lucky to have. However, I still had some strong, negative pre-conceived notions regarding what a class centered around social media would be like. I naively thought there wasn’t much more I could learn, after all I am a millennial who uses Facebook and Snapchat. On the other hand, the mix of undergraduate and MBA students was slightly daunting. I imagined the class would center around niche corporate initiatives to increase brand awareness through social media. Ultimately, I thought the focus of this class would be very narrow. How wrong I was.
I’m glad I didn’t learn some contrived social media awareness formula, or something narrow or fleeting. I am glad for the fact that this class focused on big ideas and big issues. I’m glad this class focused on the present and was able to pivot each week to what was currently occurring in the world. I am glad for the professor who taught us and the sense of community this class had, in and out of the classroom.
Social Media and Digital Business shattered my expectations and turned out to be one of the most rewarding classes I have taken at Boston College. This class involved a particular level of involvement and engagement that I had not experienced with any other class. Despite the heavy workload, I never felt overwhelmed. Having given up Twitter years ago, I scoffed at the notion of Twitter being useful coming into the semester. Now I can’t go a few hours without checking it. The more I tweeted, blogged and read, the more I felt connected to my classmates and the world around me. Twitter is not just a platform for peer to peer connection, but also for institutional connection. If I can take away just one thing from this class, it would be my new formed habit of staying informed.
But of course that’s not the only thing I took away from this class. We discovered that the digital business Snapchat was rebranding itself into a “camera company”, while the camera company GoPro was rebranding into a “digital business.” I also came to understand how the economy is changing on a fundamental level. Companies like Uber and Airbnb are growing at a remarkable rate, and researchers are finally understanding the optimal way to get people to share their services.
Social Media and Digital Business also shed light on the negative aspects of social media. The filter bubble that formed on Facebook tied users together with similar views into close knit communities. While the scale of impact the filter bubble had on this election cycle is unknown, it certainly had an effect. Additionally, the thing I remember most clearly from this class was the story of Justine Sacco. The anonymous mob mentality of social media enables users to completely destroy someone’s life, whether or not that person truly “deserves” it.
Social media also has the power to lift an undeserving, random individual to the height of stardom, as we saw in the case of Ken Bone. How things go viral online is still a mystery, as we examined through the Chris Brown wedding dance video. Companies that try to make their products or services go viral through force are often met with abysmal results.
Finally, I saw through my classmates that social media can be a force for positive change. So many of you wrote blogs raising awareness for an organization that sought to make an impact. Whether is was increasing diversity, destigmatizing sensitive issues or helping those in need, I saw your blogs as attempts to make changes and spread a positive message. It showed me the best of what social media has to offer.
So thank you to all my classmates and to Professor Kane for a fantastic semester and a awesome experience.