The Power of Social Media

I think it’s safe to say that most people around us frequent at least one social media platform on a regular, if not daily, basis. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, WordPress or even Snapchat, the prevalence of social media in our daily lives is indisputable.

Now, social networking gets a lot of criticism surrounding how it is negatively impacting our generation and undermining all the conventional/tradition aspects of communication and language. The social media bubble which encloses us all is slowly creeping into children lower and lower down the age spectrum: children at the age of six or seven being provided with mobile phones and learning “text talk” before they can read a children’s novel. I recently heard about a 12 year-old girl who didn’t understand why the hash tag symbol (#) was invented before Twitter was…

Then comes the argument over privacy. With the safety of communication methods constantly questioned in the press: the phone-hacking scandal, controversy surrounding potential government surveillance via social media or the questionable problem of photo copyright ownership once a photo is uploaded to the internet. Companies such as Snapchat have faced huge criticism under the allegations that they allegedly store the photos which their application-users have sent. On top of that, recent surveys have shown that Facebook has been cited in as many as one third of divorce cases in the UK; worryingly it is very easy to imagine the variety of Facebook-related reasons why this statistic is probably reasonably accurate.

As a 20 year-old student I have multiple social media applications installed on my phone which I can access when I’m away from my laptop. I will freely admit that I probably somewhat fulfill that stereotype of a typical young person who’s mobile phone appears to be a natural extension of their hand. However, the eye-opening experience of university has, for me, revealed the power of social media far beyond the petty lives of young teenage arguments and instagram-filter selfies.

Over the past year and a half I have witness the impact of social media on university campaigns as organisation platforms for students to discuss and co-ordinate information and action for causes they believe in. For more university specific campaigns we have recently witnessed the Union Officer elections for the next academic year which involved a week of campaigning where social media platforms were vital to spreading candidate manifestos and rallying support. On a national university scale, UEA is one of many universities throughout the country campaigning to stop the government privatisation of student loans. Their use of media outlets – Facebook, Twitter and petition website (change.org), has rallied hundreds of UEA students not only to protest but providing everyone with the knowledge and understanding of what the government is proposing: https://www.facebook.com/DefendEducationUEA

On a much bigger scale, most people across the UK have heard of the viral Facebook action of recent weeks in aid of Cancer Research UK: the #nomakeup selfie. This internet phenomenon raised over £2 million for the charity; can we really fault social media when it provokes such mass action and is utilised successfully for such a worthy cause?
http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/mar/21/no-makeup-selfie-campaign-facebook

The world is moving into the online sphere with the emphasis on magazines, books, documents, emails, applications and so much more all moving from paper to online. It is an undeniable shift which must be acknowledged, accepted and utilised to it’s maximum potential. With evidence of the proven power of social networking, is it any surprise that as a student, I am turning to these social media outlets in order to create support or let my voice be heard on topics I’m passionate about? Is it any wonder I’m hoping it’s creative power will attract the attention of employers for prospective work experience? With the prospect of thousands of CVs to troll through, is the future of job application turning towards the power of Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr? I don’t know. But the resonance that social media platforms can create is enough evidence for me, which is why I’ve taken up the initiative. If something is so powerful as to get people noticed, why should I not utilise that power and that creativity to exhibit myself to all the possibilities that it has to offer?

Helena Bradbury

Sources:
http://www.theguardian.com/media/socialnetworking
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/facebook-divorce-linked-i_n_3399727.html
http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/defend-education-uea

Reading: more than just a hobby

Probably one of the moments I recall being proudest in my life is still when I was six years-old in Primary School and I completed my first real ‘chapter book’, as novels were called in Primary school. 

 
Believe it or not, that first novel was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I was rewarded for my efforts with 10 gold stars as the first child in my year to complete a novel. From that point onward I loved reading and it still continues to shape my future fate; my education and hopefully my career.
 
I studied English Literature all the way through secondary school; studied English Literature for A-level and there came my second proudest literature-related moment of my life. An A* at A-level with only 2 marks dropped overall and an acceptance to the English Literature degree of my dreams at the University of East Anglia. 
 
Reading books to publishing books…
I am now a second year undergraduate with aspirations to gain work experience and conquer the competitive world of publishing. What compels me towards the editorial sector of publishing is the possibility that I could have the same impact on a young person, by cultivating and nurturing their love of reading as a result of books that I have influenced the publication of. The thought of playing my part in the publication of the next bestseller or a book that could one day form part of the literary canon is exciting and compelling. My love for books covers many centuries and genres, from the works of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontes, Gaskell, Eliot and Woolf, to Carter, McEwan, Blackman and Rowling. Works which span from the Regency through to the contemporary and demonstrate the resilience and power of literature to echo through the centuries. This is the power of the publishing press which allowed my love of reading to be born and encouraged. A process that I would love to be a continuing part of, just with a view from a different step on the ladder.
 
All that from a book? Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
 
It is all part of my dream to read classic literature that has persevered time and become established in the literary canon. It is my dream to be introduced to all the lesser know but equally as brilliant texts as well as the academic and critical reading which surrounds so many of our greatest works of literature.
 
Although there is the pressure of reading three novels a week as well as the critical writing surrounding it, it also makes me look forward to the holidays when I can select the books I want to read and to read them at my own leisure.
 
The beautiful books published in the Penguin Classics range cover a fair part of my reading list both for my degree and for leisure. Although I study a fair few of the texts on there already, doing a literature degree makes me want to read as many classics as possible that I may not come across in my course. 
 
And this is their classics site, which is where I lust over ever hardback edition:
http://www.penguinclassics.co.uk/

Following publishers on Twitter is also a great way to keep up to date with new publications, popular publications or news and new editions of the classics. There is never a shortage of new and exciting reads which I hear about through publishing twitter feeds, all of which I add to my ever increasing reading list!
 
I took some fantastic modules this year, ‘Austen and the Bronte’s’ being my absolute favourite:
Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion
Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Admittedly, I had already read all of these except two but two of my favourite authors encapsulated in one module, could it be any more perfect?
 
My other modules include, ’18th-century Writing,’ ’19th-century Writing,’ ‘Critical Theory and Practice,’ ‘Modernism’ and Three Women Writers.’
This wide variety of literary periods has opened by eyes to a huge range of literature some of which I wasn’t even aware existed or how it existed within the historical context.
 
My particular interest in gender has bloomed into an academic focus which informed my module choices both this year and for next year. My desire to understand gender politics, sexuality, femininity and all the discourse surrounding the topic has led me to enrol on a dissertation module for next year.
 
Dissertation. Dissertation. Dissertation.
 
The word strikes fear into the hearts of most. Including mine.
But my free choice of topic and the prospect of researching and constructing my argument around gender and feminist theory has actually led me to feel excited about the prospect and the future career it will be preparing me for.

And I really can’t wait to take up the challenge.

Helena Bradbury.