May 30, 2024

Can Gen Z use social media to learn?

Maria Mitko in Warsaw, Poland

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April 5, 2023. The LBJ Library hosted educators for a discussion with Emily Glankler, a teacher who has a podcast, YouTube channel and TikTok account called "Anti-Social Studies", where she teaches history and current events. The discussion referred to using social media as a learning tool in the classroom.

Picture by: Jay Godwin / LBJ Library | Flickr

While I find social media relaxing and fun, I believe it also offers more than just a way to pass the time.

It has an untapped potential as a valuable tool for learning and it’s time to recognise this, particularly in light of the high cost of college tuition fees.

Gen Z, who constitute one-third of the world’s population, can be described as digital natives. We have been exposed to the internet and surrounded by social networks and mobile phones from our youth.

Google was created in 1998, only three years after what is considered the beginning of Gen Z – defined as those born between 1996 and 2010. Facebook was founded in 2004, which also makes it present in Gen Z-ers lives from the very beginning.

We spend roughly 18 times more time on social media than people born in the 1940s to the mid 1960s.

While such platforms are often thought of as simply a waste of time and energy, I believe they can be used for much more than mindless scrolling through feeds – like learning, for example.

Platforms such as YouTube or even TikTok have many educational accounts and channels which are filled with useful information about any subject you can imagine.

For instance, take Crash Course: a free educational channel and website covering many topics by making video lectures on them in English. In addition to it being a type of lecture, the creators use accessible visual methods (cartoons) to help those interested in remembering the content.

TikTok uses short videos as a way to show content. On this platform, you can find hundreds of educational accounts starting from interesting historical facts, like the official History Channel account @history with over 1mn followers, to solving mathematical problems on accounts such as @alphaeducation.

When studying for a recent exam, where I had to memorise the Revolutionary War from US history, a series from Crash Course on this exact subject helped me grasp the general history as well as give many details and fun facts. Being a visual learner, the cartoons, which illustrated the concepts being talked about, really helped me to understand what was going on.

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Does Gen Z value higher education?

A visual style of learning is most common among school-aged children: 80–85%of them identify as visual learners. I find it extremely important to incorporate visual aids in classrooms as it is saidto improve learning.

Moreover, Gen Z students have been doubting and grappling with the increased cost of college education. Out of 1,343 jobseekers in the US from the classes of 2022 and 2023, an average 73%of respondents agreed their higher education experience was worth the cost. But there is a clear decline from 2022 to 2023 – as seen in a graph published by Handshake.

The question has shifted from whether a college education is worth it to whether Gen Z can afford it. Costs have been rising for years; In 2022, the average annual cost of tuition and fees in the US was $14,307, almost double the figure in 2000.

A 2023 poll found that only about 53% of college-bound Gen Z students think they will be able to afford post-secondary education.

I believe it is time for a change. College should be accessible to everyone and because it’s not, many have trouble finding a job without higher education.

If employers value skills over college names, they can open doors to diverse talents and more meaningful careers. Embracing social media as a learning tool levels the playing field, making job hunting and skill-building accessible to everyone.

Let’s focus on what people can do, not just where they studied, to create a fairer, more inclusive job market.

Is social media learning viable?

Social media is an unconventional route that might be useful, but of course it has its weaknesses. In our age of misinformation, blindly trusting in social media can be very harmful and lead to misconceptions. There’s a plethora of information available but as users we should be careful in deciding what is real and what isn’t.

The internet empowers self-study beyond classrooms. For instance, YouTube offers videos on virtually every topic, but navigating this requires skill to avoid getting overwhelmed.

For basic research and as an entry to certain topics, I would recommend setting clear goals for yourself, to know what you’re looking for, so that it’s easier to find. You will find thousands of answers to what you’re asking, which makes using a reliable source vital in the process of doing research or simply scouring the internet for fun.

A survey of more than 2,000 Gen Zers found that 43% preferred self-directed and independent learning, so mastering the art of not getting lost in the overload of information and figuring out what works for could be vital to improve your studying.

Ultimately, while social media is a great tool for learning, it lacks potential to overtake higher education and it shouldn’t have to. There is plenty of information available through social media, but it is ineffective for long-term learning.

The true problem lies within the college system, which has to change and make higher education accessible to everyone, including those unable to fund it.

Written by:


Maria Mitko

Women’s Desk editor

Warsaw, Poland

Born in 2007, Maria lives in Warsaw, Poland, where she attends Witkacy High School and prepares to study English Literature.

She volunteers at a public library where she organises a board game club. She loves listening to music, reading good books and watching movies. Maria’s favourite animals are dogs, of which she has two – Rudolf and Charlie.’

Edited by:


Christian Yeung

Society editor

Hong Kong | United States


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