The world can hear you: social media’s growing impact

By Kayla Reeves

A story that started with a Baylor student’s Facebook post has sparked discussion about how college students and professors are realizing the power of social media both in and out of the classroom.

Wildwood, Mo., freshman Alex Eklund is one example of how websites like YouTube and Facebook can carry a message to hundreds of people in a matter of hours.

After watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on Nov. 29, Eklund posted a Facebook status stating he would “rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model.” This post sparked the creation of a video in which Eklund reads from the Bible and speaks candidly about the significance of inner beauty.

Eklund’s friend Jake Cockerill, a freshman from North Kingstown, R.I., filmed the video. Cockerill agreed with Eklund about the content of his video.

“The message needed to be spread,” Cockerill said.

The video, which went viral almost instantly, now has more than 200,000 views on YouTube. The video’s message then prompted the creation of a Facebook page that now has more than 13,000 fans and an official website to promote the idea.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the video to take off like this, but God’s plans are so high above me, and he used it for his purpose,” Eklund said. “I’m just a vessel, and I have Jesus and Mark Zuckerberg to thank.”

“It’s incredible,” Cockerill said of their success. “People in Sri Lanka have seen our video.”

Baylor itself has a history of using social media to reach out. In January 2011, ranked @BaylorProud the No. 5 most influential college Twitter account based on its number of followers, the number of people who retweeted posts and the influence of people who keep up Baylor’s Twitter activity.

Kevin Tankersley, journalism lecturer, public relations and new media, is responsible for updating the department’s Facebook page. He said sites like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to reach college students because many young people already use these services.

The journalism, public relations and new media department, like many others on campus, uses Facebook to broadcast job opportunities, spotlight students and alumni who have made major accomplishments and alert students to upcoming events.

Tankersley said despite its benefits, social media can also be harmful. Students must be careful about the content they post on the site.

“Everything is archived somewhere, and somebody knows how to get it,” he said. But when used correctly, Tankersley said social media can be a wonderful resource for students to find out what is happening on campus and in the world.

Other professors are using social media as part of their curriculum.

Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media, requires her students to keep a blog for class. Students must write at least five blog posts per semester, and she encourages them to keep two versions — one personal and one professional.

“It is very important for students to have a presence in the blogosphere, especially journalism students,” she said. “It shows your real writing style because it hasn’t been through several editors.”

Moody-Ramirez said she believes that professors will be more likely to include practices like blogging in their future classes because it “balances old traditions with new media.”