In my casual surveys of architecture students from first year to final, I’ve been surprised to discover how few engage professionally with social media. While Facebook is ubiquitous and many have Instagram accounts jammed full of selfies, there is little interest to extend this activity into the professional sphere.
Architects, however, love social media. We’re suckers for it.
Most practitioners I know are active Twitter and Instagram users at the very least. My own professional network is smeared liberally across both the physical and digital realms. We enrich existing connections and make new ones. We share news, discuss current issues, and report on work in progress. Instagram is even gaining traction as a place to advertise job openings.
Given the prevalence of social media activity amongst professionals, why aren’t students better engaged? Sensis data reveals that Australians aged between 18 and 29 use social media sites than any other age bracket. They are also the country’s most active users of Facebook (97%), Instagram (54%) and Snapchat (38%). So more pertinently, why aren’t architecture students leading the way?
My suspicion is there are two main reasons keeping students offline professionally.
First is disinterest in the world beyond university, or perhaps a wilful dissociation from it. Tertiary studies demand an extraordinary focus, for which the messiness of practice can be an unwanted distraction.
Second is skepticism about the value of social media for architecture. Twitter, for example, is only good for telling the world what you had for breakfast. Instagram is the playground of Taylor Swift and Victoria’s Secret models. And blogs are those self-indulgent rants of conspiracy theorists and Star Wars geeks. Certainly, my casual surveys confirmed both, with many students just shrugging off social media as outside their field of interest.
Well, all this is a missed opportunity. Consider the numbers for a moment: 68% of Australians use social media, and 49% do so everyday. It’s a surging wave of technology use against which we can either fight (and lose), or from which we can gain strength. Besides, I consider social media to be a great development for architecture. It has extended the reach of our work to a broader audience, and enhanced the communication channels within the profession. Students can and should be a part of it – the earlier the uptake of any new technology, the more likely our profession is to carve benefits from it.
Over coming days, I will publish a series of eight articles providing insight into the characteristics of the major social media outlets. I’ll discuss how I engage with them, and how they might be of interest to students of architecture.
An archive of the series can be accessed here.
- Sensis Social Media Report; Sensis; Melbourne; May 2015; p. 14
- Ibid., p. 19
- Up from 62% total and 30% everyday in 2011. Ibid., p. 13