(opinions) social media students

As much of society has seemingly come to a screeching halt amid the pandemic, for digital creators, the world is still at their fingertips. Many of our own students have been cultivating an online presence for years by delivering carefully crafted content for their devoted followers through social media. Now more than ever, seeing how these personalities have utilized the internet to share their stories, let their creativity roam and form a community within their social media pages illuminates how being online goes beyond mindless scrolling.

One of these creators is Virginia Tech’s very own Kendyl Florence, a rising senior majoring in marketing management. Though she originally began on Instagram, Florence has expanded her reach to YouTube, where she shares her videos chronicling her lifestyle as a college student.

“One year in high school, I think sophomore or junior year, a ton of my friends had to make a fashion Instagram account for a class (that I wasn't in), and I thought it was the perfect time for me to start my Instagram without it seeming like a big deal. I've created content on that platform relatively consistently for five years now,” Florence said. “As for YouTube, I always said I would start my channel in college, but it took until sophomore year for me to get the courage up to actually do it. I was feeling a little creatively deprived at Tech and wanted another outlet to create and share. I was also getting a lot of questions about fashion and health and wellness, so I thought it would be a fun way to expand on the content I was already creating on Instagram.”

Amid the notes and essays that pile up as a university student, producing digital media provides a means to let out one’s artistry and connect with others with an appreciation for creativity.

“I really, really, really want to create content with value, and try to have a ‘value-add’ to every video and post, whether it's specific information or an overall feeling of inspiration. I want people to see my content and, hopefully, get inspired to do whatever they want to do without being disheartened by an unattainable lifestyle or image that a lot of YouTubers or influencers show,” Florence said. “I think it's important for people to see people ‘like them’ on their screens and I would love nothing more to be that relatable friend or sister type of content for my audience.”

Going beyond the page, being an online creator provides real-world experiences that you would not find in a typical textbook. For Florence, her work often relates to her studies in marketing and has led to unique opportunities.

“A few months ago, I contacted probably a million different companies about donating towards a massive sustainability giveaway I hosted, and just seeing what I, as a small YouTuber, could do was really inspiring,” Florence said. “I also benefit from all of the industry knowledge I seek out and acquire, which is a great point of differentiation for me as a marketing student. Most marketing educations focus on the client side of influencer interactions, if they teach it at all, so I feel like I can provide valuable information and perspectives on the agent side as well.”

Despite common misconceptions, the work of digital content creators is not solely aesthetics but serves a greater purpose in connecting the world and creating communities for people to share their stories. 

“I find the influencers I am most drawn to have used their platform and influence to do greater good in the world and establish themselves as business and thought leaders,” Florence said. “And if anyone reading this has always wanted to create content, do it. There is no time like the present and everyone has to start somewhere. The truth is, every post or video is a chance for improvement, but you have to start creating in order to grow.”

While many people feel confined in their homes now as they wait for the pandemic to come to an end, digital content can be a world of its own. Whether it’s creating your own media or finding a new creator to follow, there are endless discoveries to be made about oneself and the world around us.

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