Students reveal major social media trends to foster connections during chaos
By: Raine Wilson (’21) and Divya Sureshkannan (’22)
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of social connection for students of all ages. As students, trust us… we know!
Laughing over lunch, competing as teammates, singing at the top of our lungs, catching a movie, talking about our relationships, and playing games for hours on end all sit among the endless ways we rely on social connections to live life to the fullest. Shared experiences forge lifelong friendships and create fond memories that we’ll cherish forever.
Unfortunately, those social connections essential to happiness for so many of us are one of the casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s undoubtedly posed challenges to everyone in 2020, regardless of age. Fewer social gatherings mean more time spent isolated and left to worry about a suddenly uncertain future.
Most schools have shifted online, depriving us of many essential aspects of our everyday life. These days, of course, we’re not interacting with other students in class, asking teachers questions in person, or hanging out with our friends, all of which significantly impact our academics and health. Our entire life experience has shifted.
Thankfully, social media can help us create connections among this chaos, and here’s why…
With much more time on our hands, students have turned to social media platforms as a way of connecting with our peers and community. We’re doing so in ways that directly relate to The Social Institute’s Seven Social Standards.
TikTok and Instagram challenges
One of TSI’s standards, Play to Your Core, has been especially prevalent this year. The standard encourages students to navigate social media in ways that reflect their values, interests, and character. A recent trend that exemplifies playing to your core is the increase of TikTok and Instagram challenges. For example, different versions of bingo circulate Instagram to connect people based on culture, interests, and academics, among other things.
Of course, it’s not limited to just bingo on Instagram. TikTok became huge when it became the hub for dance challenges to catchy songs. These challenges facilitate a sense of belonging and community, as we learn to navigate how to keep ourselves socially connected during this pandemic.
Social media also provides an opportunity for students to support their peers. The Social Institute’s standard Cyberback eloquently speaks to this phenomenon and is all about having each other’s backs online. #ChallengeAcceped embodies this value.
#ChallengeAccepted is a social media trend based on Women’s Empowerment in which women are tagged and encouraged to post a black and white photo of themselves. So far, users have posted over 3 million photos with the hashtags #ChallengeAccepted or #WomenSupportingWomen. The trend allows women to encourage one another from across the globe. Considering many students cannot support one another in their school hallways or shared areas on campus, social media provides a platform for many supportive and encouraging interactions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased social media usage across the board, with people latching onto technology more than ever. Students, teachers, and parents spend far more time at home and online, which speaks directly to another one of the TSI standards. Strike a Balance helps us utilize social media positively by balancing time on devices, recognizing the science behind screen time, and examining how technology shapes our school’s culture. A current trend pushed by TikTok is titled WhatMattersMost.
This challenge encourages users to share a brief reflection of what they are grateful for. In doing so, TikTok has helped its users Strike a Balance between what matters most in life and their favorite viral videos.
These three trends are only a fraction of the many ways students are turning to social media to cope during this unprecedented time. As this pandemic continues, new trends will emerge, and we, as students, will continue to engage as a helpful way to socially connect in a world of social distancing.
Raine Wilson (’21) and Divya Sureshkannan (’22) are current college students and members of The Social Institute’s Fall 2020 Internship Program. If you know students who are interested in helping others navigate social media positively, encourage them to apply to join our Spring 2021 Internship Program (for college students) or our Student Ambassador Program (for middle school, high school, and college students). TSI is proud to be student-led and lock arms with students across the world.