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College of Information and Communications

International forum explores the eclectic role social media plays in the lives of Gen Z

Top photo: Dean Tom Reichert, Kenneth Moton, Annie Wu Henry, V Spehar, Ross Mac, Shoshana Weissmann, Sarah Schauer, Randy Covington and Kaitlyn Park

Influencers, Ideas and Uncertainty: How Gen Z Lives Social Media — a forum sponsored by the College of Information and Communications and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) — brought students, influencers and academics from around the globe together to discuss the impacts of social media on the lives of young people. The forum consisted of three panel discussions focusing on the voices of youth, influencer culture and social media as a tool for social change.

Among the thought-provoking topics discussed during the forum were:

  • Social media’s benefits for marginalized communities.
  • The influencer economy.
  • Safety and privacy issues on social media.

University of South Carolina assistant professor Jabari Evans spoke about the crossover between hip-hop culture and social media usage among Black youth, who take technological innovations and make them a tool to share their voice. 

“My work very specifically looks at how Black youth, who are very much power users of the internet, power users of social media, are seeking to become powerful users of social media,” says Evans.

Power dynamics was a recurring theme throughout the forum. Whether it’s influencing people’s spending habits or informing them of impending attacks during a war, social media has a tangible impact on the lives of young people in the physical world.

One of the forum’s most salient moments took place in the third session. Alexandra Kuziva with United 24 Media joined the forum live from Kiev, Ukraine. As she was discussing how social media helps keep citizens safe during battles, a blackout disrupted her commentary. She rejoined the conversation from a dark room.

“As we have the alarm right now, sometimes we have the blackouts unplanned, because, like, our government shuts down, shuts down the electricity preventatively,” said Kuziva. “Because when the rocket bombs the working electricity, it’s worse to reconnect it.”

As of the forum’s end, Kuziva was safe. Her situation underscored the significance of social media in conflict zones.  

To learn more about the topics discussed during the panels, watch the forum recording on the CIC YouTube channel.

The Panels

Voices of Youth

Featuring USC students and young adults from all across the world, including:

Influencers and Content Creators

Social Media and Social Change

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.