Can You Get an Education From Social Media?

Have you ever wondered if it was possible to obtain a significant education from the social media platform, Twitter? Twitter is often seen as just a way for people to meet new people, keep in touch with friends and family, and communicate even from long distances. Twitter also is commonly seen as being addictive, especially among the youth, causing procrastination, and a significant amount of wasted time.

This topic is important because by showing that Twitter may have educational qualities, the perception of its purpose and potential may change, highlighting that spending time on Twitter may offer benefits other than simply social interaction. It might also encourage the younger generations to take a larger interest in learning through a platform they are already familiar with. I decided to explore this topic through the results of my observational study on Twitter regarding the popularity of educational user profiles in contrast to other user profiles oriented more towards pop-culture, and with several peer-reviewed journals. While supporting the idea that education can be gained through Twitter, my theory is that profiles oriented towards pop-culture will be more popular than educational profiles primarily because their figures are more often promoted and marketed through the media.

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The question of whether Twitter can be a viable venue of education has already been contemplated by several others in the past. Some are adamant in their beliefs that Twitter is simply for social use and otherwise a waste of time, while others remain hopeful that the social media platform has more promising potential. It has been studied that Twitter may be helpful for improving interactions between teachers and students, though it has not been conclusively established that Twitter can help with learning performance, and several challenges are present for such a goal, such as being limited to only very few characters per post to communicate information, and in order to convey a long string of information at once, one must continuously make different posts until the thought is finished (Tang & Hew, 2017). However, this is not to say that beneficial education can still not be promoted through the social media platform; only first some challenges must be overridden in order to bring out the potential of larger-scale education from Twitter.

Social Media Education

In an international study between the United States and Spain examining the potential of educating from Twitter gathered a number of teachers from both countries to use Twitter as part of their course work. Most of the participants could recognize the educational potential of the social media platform, however, how they perceived Twitter and how they used it differed according to which country they were from. The participants from the USA used Twitter more frequently and in turn had more overall positive perceptions of its ability to education. In contrast, while the Spanish participants saw the value of Twitter and its ability to share information, the USA participants especially highlighted the socially interactive and collaborative uses (Tur, Martin, & Carpenter, 2017).

In another study, the authors Ayse Taskiran, Eylem Koral Gumusoglu, and Belgin Aydin explain that “There is no doubt that anything experienced in social life directly affects learners’ educational experiences” (2018). The authors also explain how Twitter is becoming more and more popular in promoting educational areas, and that Twitter as a social platform can enhance participation of those who are learning English as a foreign language. In a study about the language learning process, a number of participants used Twitter as an extra-curricular activity for 4 weeks, and eventually the participants were given a questionnaire to evaluate Twitter and the language learning process. The Turkish participants reported generally positive perceptions of Twitter and believed that Twitter helped with their language learning experience. 

social media
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In my own study, I attempted to determine how ordinary Twitter users would be able to naturally gain some kind of beneficial education through Twitter based on the popularity and intractability of educational user profiles in contrast to other kinds of user profiles which are more oriented away from the educational sphere. The number of tweets, retweets, and followers a user makes are included in its measure of popularity and intractability, as well as the number of likes, retweets, and comments a user’s own posts receives. The measures of popularity and intractability are important because in order to have any kind of learning experience from Twitter, the knowledge must be easy to find, it must be plentiful, and people must be able to interact with it. The analysis of the different user profiles first begins with the profiles which are educational in nature.

The Details

The Smithsonian user profile has about 2.75 million followers and 18.8 thousand tweets. While these numbers are quite large, most of the Smithsonian’s posts receives around 10 to 100 likes, 10 to 100 retweets, and 0 to 10 comments. All of this user’s posts have some kind of educational value, such as a link to an educational article holding more information about a particular topic. The Smithsonian also occasionally retweets posts that are educational or support education. The user profile of National Geographic has a much larger follower count of around 22.7 million, along with 42.6 tweets. Most of its tweets have around 100 to 1000 likes, 50 to 500 retweets, and 5 to 50 comments, and its posts mainly focus on nature.

The National Geographic seems to rarely, if ever, retweet other posts, and all though the number of profiles this user followers is a meager 37, it has liked over 5000 posts. The National Gallery has significantly smaller data, with around 909 thousand followers and 20.9 thousand tweets. Most of its posts have around 10 to 150 likes, 5 to 30 retweets, and 0 to 5 comments, with its posts surrounding the topic of art and artists. It does not seem to retweet other posts often. In contrast to an educational organization, the profile of the knowledgeable individual, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is quite popular with 12.5 million followers and over 5000 tweets. Most of his posts have received around 10,000 to 500,000 likes, 10,000 to 500,000 retweets, and 500 to 2000 comments, making his popularity generally greater than that of the organizations discussed previously.

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Separating from the educational sphere of twitter, I have examined the popularity and intractability of users of the pop-culture sphere in order to highlight what much of the Twitter-using population is interested in. Miley Cyrus’s Twitter profile 40.7 million followers and 9416 tweets. The majority of her posts have around 5000 to 50,000 likes, 5000 to 10,000 retweets, and 50 to 200 comments. Kim Kardashian’s profile has a remarkable 59.6 million followers and 26.6 thousand tweets, with each of her posts getting about 1000 to 100,000 likes, 50 to 4000 retweets, and 20 to 300 comments. Selina Gomez also has an impressive follower count of 56.4 million with only 4341 tweets. Each of her tweets gain around 20,000 to 150,000 likes, 10,000 to 30,000 retweets, and 300 to 4000 comments. These three users also tend to retweet other’s posts more frequently than the educational users.

Overall, it seems that pop-culture figures have a much larger popularity factor in comparison to educational figures on social media. Pop-culture figures generally not only have larger follower counts but also more likes, retweets, and comments on their posts. While some pop-culture celebrities might have their virtues, they typically do not offer any beneficial education to the Twitter platform. I have concluded that, since educational organizations and individuals are not spread through the media as commonly as celebrities as I expected from my theory, in order for ordinary Twitter users to gain beneficial knowledge from Twitter, they must have an initial interest in seeking out these educational profiles in order to learn from them. 

Works Cited

Tang, Y. y., & Hew, K. k. (2017). Using Twitter for education: Beneficial or simply a waste of time?. Computers & Education, 10697-118. Retrieved April 13, 2018.

TASKIRAN, A. a., GUMUSOGLU, E. e., & AYDIN, B. b. (2018). FOSTERING FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING WITH TWITTER: REFLECTIONS FROM ENGLISH LEARNERS. Turkish Online Journal Of Distance Education (TOJDE), 19(1), 100-116. Retrieved April 13, 2018.

Tur, G., Marín, V. I., & Carpenter, J. (2017). Using Twitter in Higher Education in Spain and the USA. Comunicar, 25(51), 19-27. doi:10.3916/C51-2017-02. Retrieved April 13, 2018.

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One Comment

  1. This is a very interesting topic. As bloggers and content writers, we often struggle to find balance between what we want and what the audience wants. Likes and popularity become irrelevant when it comes to gaining education from Twitter.

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