Follow the leader: how interschool social media gap affects leadership communications

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Follow the leader: how interschool social media gap affects leadership communications

Jessica Xing

Story by Hannan Waliullah and Jessica Xing 

Facebook is the new Myspace.

“New” in the sense that for the younger generation, it is heading towards its grave. With the abundance of social media platforms these days — Vine, Instagram, Twitter, Musical.ly, Snapchat — each platform is streamlined and has a specific purpose.

For years now, Facebook has been held as the golden standard for social media; with multiple features such as groups, private messaging and events, Facebook’s intuitive interface has managed to upstage older models such as Myspace and force other social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat to find their own niche.

But Facebook usage is now declining. Many organizations and news outlets, including Forbes, Princeton and Fortune, have published articles about how Facebook’s “winning streak” can’t last forever. And with last year’s study from The Information revealing that there’s been a sharp 21 percent decline in “original sharing” with users, less people are posting personal updates through Facebook. Facebook is facing competition from different social media platforms rising to prominence — Instagram especially. The younger generation is looking towards other social media platforms — ones that are newer, ones that their parents don’t use.

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INSTEAD OF USING FACEBOOK’S multi-purpose interface, freshmen are opting for Instagram’s simplicity. According to a survey taken by 157 underclassmen, 58 percent use Instagram as their primary form of social media. But for juniors and seniors, Facebook is still easily the primary form of social media, with 66 percent of 99 respondents saying that they actively use a Facebook account.

The shift away from Facebook has posed problems for the freshman leadership team.  While in past years the other class officer teams have used Facebook as their main form of communication, according to 2020 class representative Dan Sachs, the freshman class cannot rely on Facebook because not many students in their class have one.

For the younger generation, Facebook has a clear negative sentiment: it was the social media meant for the elderly. Sachs finds that Instagram has a more streamlined, focused approach, which appealed to the freshmen.

“It was like ‘ew, Facebook. Old people. Clutter. Too many things going on’,”Sachs said. “Instagram has a very simple design — it’s meant for pictures.”

For a class of over 500 students, the Class of 2020’s Facebook group only has around 170 members, which falls short in comparison to the Class of 2017 and 2018, which both have over 470 Facebook members.

Because of the higher activity levels on Instagram, the freshman representatives turned to Instagram for promotion; their Instagram page has over 300 followers. Despite class officers’ attempts to shift over to Facebook, most of the posts are from the class officers themselves or a few other active members.

And it’s not that freshmen don’t use social media. They just don’t use Facebook. While Instagram has fewer features, according to freshman Chris Cellini, less interface means more accessibility.

According to Chris, while it might have not been a conscious effort to move towards Instagram, when he made a social media account, Instagram was the clear choice. Everyone had one and everyone used it more.

It was like ‘ew, Facebook. Old people. Clutter. Too many things going on. Instagram has a very simple design — it’s meant for pictures. freshman dan sachs

But with his sister, senior Lauren Cellini, most people had a Facebook, and everyone used it more.

“I use Facebook a lot more,” Lauren said. “[Chris] doesn’t use Messenger at all. But that’s the only way I’ll talk to people really. Even if I have their numbers I’ll message them over texting them.”

WHILE THE CLASS OF 2020 has an Instagram page, the freshman leadership team couldn’t rely on everyone in their grade having one. School Loop email has been an effective way for all class representative officers to communicate with their peers. The freshmen class sends blast emails for events like homecoming, rally cheers and school-wide events.

According to sophomore class representatives Anisha Sinha and Derek Zheng, the sophomore leadership class sent blast School Loop emails  to bring more attention to their Facebook page.

“What you grow up used to is based on the trends in middle school, because that’s when you are legally allowed to make a social media account,” Sinha said. “So for [Class of 2019], it was a transition between Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — everything was going on when we were in middle school.”

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-2-51-48-pmDespite being the first class to use Instagram as its primary mode of communication, the class of 2020 wasn’t the first class facing the dilemma of whether or not to adapt. With the bombardment of social media sites, the Class of 2019 found themselves split between different sites. According to Sinha and Zheng, switching from Instagram to Facebook required a lot of experimenting to find what worked.

Sinha found that Facebook wasn’t needed in middle school because there was no need for Facebook class groups, academically or socially. Once entering high school, students felt the need to connect with peers for school help or for class news, which contributed to more people making Facebook accounts.

For 2017, Facebook was the most prevalent social media platform in middle school. According to the survey, 33 percent of 48 seniors had a Facebook before the beginning of their freshman year. According to class of 2017 Treasurer Christine Chu, the original class representatives were able to make a class page before freshman year because of the prevalence of Facebook.

“Facebook is the best way to connect,” Chu said. “It’s been a staple; it’s been around for a while, we know exactly how to work the site. A majority of our class uses Facebook, so that’s our primary form of promotion.”

The attempted Class of 2017 Instagram did not work out so well.

“Instagram is a platform is for your own artistic personality,” Chu said. “The pictures you post [are] supposed to be what you like and what you like is ‘aesthetically pleasing,’ not for promotion or ads — it’s for the individual.”

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People at MVHS, Sinha found, were more connected through Facebook. Most seniors, juniors, and sophomores at the time were using it, and Facebook groups were also more effective for school work. Groups for schoolwork, an accessible messaging service and the ability to communicate with classmates made Facebook especially useful for creating a better academic community.

“We used to use School Loop emails to tell people to follow 2019’s Instagram, but after a while we started to direct people to our class Facebook page,” Zheng said. “[The Facebook page] was a suggestion the other classes made for us. Back then we were just experimenting and just trying to start off.”

What you grow up used to is based on the trends in middle school, because that’s when you are legally allowed to make a social media account. So for [Class of 2019], it was a transition between Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — everything was going on when we were in middle school. sophomore Anisha sinha 

The class of 2019 now fully utilizes its Facebook page, posting twice everyday and using Facebook and School Loop to send out feedback forms to understand how the sophomore class office can improve, what they should do next semester and more.

“Facebook has really transformed our class,” Sinha said. “People keep posting statuses and making albums;screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-2-52-03-pm more people are starting to move over.”

SO FAR, THE CLASS OFFICERS have been using Instagram to broadcast big events. By using pictures and captions, the officers have been able to notify classmates about Homecoming workdays, dress-up days, donation drives and more.

“Instagram is what we have been using,” Sachs said. “Facebook has been unnecessary until now. It wasn’t a decision; it’s just none of our friends our age have a Facebook.”

However, the use of Instagram has its downsides. Since Instagram doesn’t allow links in its photo cations, links to forms must be added onto the page’s biography.

“Homecoming meeting today from 12-4 p.m. Direct message us for the location,” reads the caption for an Instagram post of a picture saying “Help Wanted.” When class officers don’t want to release a person’s address, they would privately message (or direct message) their peers with the location.

The freshmen still want to experiment with Instagram, but according to Sachs, the class officers are also trying to make the subtle push towards Facebook.

“I’m trying to get people to slowly work towards getting Facebook,” Sachs said. “We don’t like Facebook, but since the upperclassmen and other classes are dependent on Facebook, it’s necessary and it’s easier for us to assimilate [in]to MVHS.”

Trying to shift every class towards Facebook in the future will be a process made more difficult every year. Future classes may have to completely transition towards a different social media entirely. But, according to Sachs, his plan for the current freshman class is to communicate more through Facebook, yet still use what they have with Instagram.

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“Thinking into the  Class of 2021, what are they going to do? Are they going to be forced to also do Facebook?” Sachs said. “I think Facebook is made for connecting stuff like that and not using it would be irresponsible.”

But on the topic of Instagram, he continued, “We use Instagram as a communication tool. Other classes have an Instagram, it’s just not as active. For them it’s ‘let’s post pictures of the things that we do’ not ‘hey let’s communicate with our class.'”