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York College Students Discuss Social Media Landscape

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From students who have gained an influencer following to those who help small businesses reach an online audience, the continuing changes on platforms are important for them to follow.

Hannah Maute ’21 will scroll through her Instagram stories and see a friend post a smiling photo with a COVID-19 vaccine card. She’s instantly drawn to the happy expression of her friend, but she also notices the little button at the bottom of the story, prompting her to click for more information on COVID-19 and the vaccine.

That addition to social media posts across platforms is an interesting one to Maute. It’s part of a bigger push from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others to ensure accurate information is being shared on their channels.

“It’s certainly something that I think is important,” says Maute, a Marketing major at York College of Pennsylvania. “It raises the level of responsibility that we have to make sure we’re posting things that are truthful. There’s been a big shift in that conversation in the past year.”

Riding the changes

Maute is no stranger to having an influence on social media. Her YouTube channel, HannahElise, has 639,000 subscribers, and she has about 100,000 followers on Instagram. She started creating videos about college life when she was a first-year student at Temple University. She even announced her transfer to York College on her channel.

In the past three years, she’s worked with Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Best Buy, Hollister, and other brands to review products. It’s a full-time gig that requires an agent to manage her schedule and an attorney to review contracts.

She emphasizes being genuine and showing her true personality. And while her topics as a lifestyle YouTuber don’t usually touch on anything controversial, Maute has watched a variety of social media platforms become a place where free speech has become a debatable topic.

“I’ve been trying hard in the past year to make sure information on my platform is helpful and factual, so I’m not contributing to misinformation,” Maute says. “At the same time, I’m not a news outlet. I’m not somebody you should be going to as a reference for facts and information. But, having a platform has given me a greater sense of responsibility.”

Helping businesses

Nathan “Nate” Johnnie ’21 has enjoyed helping small businesses in York County by managing their social media accounts. The opportunity has been a nice side job and helps him gain valuable experience. As an Entrepreneurship and Innovation major at York College, he plans to go into sales as a career, but he’ll also keep his side hustle.

“It’s been pretty rewarding to help businesses find better ways to use their social media accounts,” Johnnie says. While he hasn’t run across many concerns from his business contacts on the topic of free speech on social media, he does see them using it as a place to create a sense of community.

He’ll be working with a ski and snowboard shop in the coming months to help them populate a Facebook group where members can ask advice and share best practices from the industry, while subtly promoting the brand.

“There have been a ton of changes on platforms happening all the time,” he says. “It’s important to stay on top of them and be aware of what’s going on, but each person uses social media a little differently. Not everyone is in tune to what we consider the ‘big topics.’ ”

Johnnie sees social media as a tool that businesses and individuals will continue to use for a long time. The platforms may change. New offers may become more appealing. Community guidelines may alter.

“It’s still a place to connect and engage with people,” he says. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”