Living in the age of the internet and social media has brought many conveniences. The ability to transcend geographical communication barriers, benefit from access to sources of instant information and updates, and easier ways to purchase goods are just a few of them.
International students in particular are much more advantaged than ever. Using social media provides ways for students to keep up to date with their respective universities and find out all there is to know about campus life. Most universities go one step further by having separate social channels for their departments, allowing students to follow the latest published research, student opportunities, and more.
However, with every advantage comes a disadvantage. Using social media as your sole source of information can be dangerous, as its algorithms often work to keep users in a bubble. Social media business models work to discover a user’s interestswhich they then use to present information that will hold the viewer’s attention for long periods of time.
This means that more controversial comments or posts may be more likely to circulate on your social feeds simply because other users with similar interests to yours may have interacted with them, and not because they are authentic and reliable sources of information.
On the other hand, knowledge acquired on social media can also be considered as more believable. Since everyone on social media has their own “voice,” they are more likely to share their unfiltered views on a variety of issues and topics.
So what does this have to do with international students?
Universities and social networks
There’s no denying that social media was, and continues to be, an integral part of Gen Z. Universities understand this, and that’s why most of them have an active social media presence. As mentioned earlier, this is great when trying to find out more about what a university offers its students.
However, the reality is that universities operate by attracting students, and their marketing strategies will no doubt reflect this. There are countless websites and online articles centered around teach universities what they should publishnews and updates to scholarship opportunities and giveaways.
If you are a prospective student, you are more than likely to find this useful. Yet, it’s not always the best way to discover authentic information about what it’s like to study and live on campus. Universities will want to make themselves as attractive as possible to you, so they are likely to leave out negative reviews or information.
Fortunately, there is also the other side of the coin: that of students using social media to share their university experiences.
Using Social Media as an International Student
The use of social media has changed the way international students choose their future universities, especially when an institution is located in a country that is geographically inaccessible to them. A Times Higher Education study revealed that up to 83% of students use social media to make a decision about which university they would like to attend.
The reason is simple: using social media allows prospective students to get an unofficial student perspective on what it’s like to attend college, including all of its pros and cons.
The students use a variety of different channels to do this. Facebook is the most popular tool, followed closely by Twitter. Other sites like WhatUni, UniStats and the Student room, and many others provide users with first-hand information about the college experience of students and alumni. Through this, incoming students can get a sense of what it’s like to live on campus, gauge a college’s sense of community, and what they can expect from their social life.
Here prospective students can also learn about common issues in a certain university. Rankings and accolades aside, it’s important for students to know the level of support they can expect to receive throughout their education, from wellness services to career guidance. This way, students can know exactly what they are getting into and what they would like to avoid.
Posting negative content about universities
@charlieputh #stitch with @axelwebber ♬ original sound – Charlie Puth
We’ve already talked about how sharing student experiences can be a great way to decide whether or not you want to attend college. However, with the use of social media, it is always crucial to remember that what you post can and will have the potential to easily influence other social media users, sometimes in more negative ways.
Take TikTok star Axel Webber. He had gained popularity online for sharing his experiences on living in New York on a “tiny budget”. Additionally, he rose to fame by sharing his dream of becoming an actor and the steps he was taking to achieve it.
One of them was an application to the Julliard School, a prestigious musical institution in the city. Webber documented his audition process at his 2.6 million subscribers and posted regular updates on the status of his candidacy. Yet despite his efforts, he received a rejection letter from his university – which he read aloud to his invested audience.
He received an overwhelming wave of support from TikTok viewers. Even singer and producer Charlie Puth sent him his own videoreassuring Webber and other rejects that he too had failed to get into Julliard and that attending a prestigious university did not define his career.
While that’s certainly reassuring for aspiring actors and musicians who’ve faced similar bouts of rejection, it gave way to another problem. Webber fans have since flooded Julliard’s social media, expressing their anger that he was not accepted into the program. Besides that, they left more than a thousand one-star reviews for the university on Googlewhich skewed the school’s search results.
Of course, Juilliard’s reputation speaks for itself, which makes this episode of negative content unlikely to have a major impact on the school’s long-term admissions. Nonetheless, this is an important reminder of the responsibility each of us has for posting negative content about universities online.
That doesn’t mean you should stop posting about negative student experiences, far from it. If you believe that other students should be informed of certain apprehensions or disadvantages related to attending your university, you have the right to share them.
On the contrary, you must approach it with sensitivity and careful thought. Make sure the information you choose to share is accurate and genuine, and not intentionally designed to mislead students.