Brie Larson, the star of Captain Marvel, is one of Hollywood’s rising stars and a strong supporter of the Time’s Up movement, which focuses on gender inequity and harassment of women in the workplace. With more than 4 million followers on Instagram, she easily qualifies as a social media influencer.
Being an influencer is not limited to celebrities. These days, using social media, everyone has the potential to be an influencer, and we train students to tap the potential of social media. Many of our students use their training to obtain internships and employment opportunities.
Influencers can use their identity to make a difference and many millennials are adept at using social media as a vehicle for social change. Over the years, I have followed the story of Malala Yousafzai, who became an influencer at a very young age. After surviving gunshots from a Taliban extremist who opposed her position that girls have the right to attend school, Malala used her experience to crusade for the rights of young women in oppressive cultures. For her work, she was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of seventeen.
Closer to home, the #GoTeal campaign launched by our students in the aftermath of the Nassar scandal, is a good example of an influential social media campaign. The #GoTeal campaign was a poignant and powerful response to support the survivors, and we were inspired by our students who undertook this project with a sense of mission.
Some of the students involved in the #GoTeal campaign will graduate this year, leaving behind a legacy of values and decency that will be an inspiration for future generations. Their work reminds us that small acts of courage and creativity can have a big ripple effect.
When Malala wrote her first blog, neither she nor her parents could have imagined that she would become the voice of a generation. But it did happen. Similarly, although Brie has just achieved international fame, nobody knew just how much she would use her celebrity to influence positive change.
Many young individuals use their celebrity status to promote a cause through their social media channels. Kat Von D, a former tattoo artist who launched a line of vegan beauty products, is an influencer with more than 5 million followers on Instagram. There is Bindi Irwin, daughter of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Guy, who died a tragic and untimely death. At age 20, Bindi has more than 2 million followers on Instagram who are fans of her wildlife conservation message. Her optimistic message “Believe in your strength to change the world …” is simple, powerful and apropos as we prepare for graduation.
Graduates of our college, too, have gone on to become influencers. Tyler Oakley, who graduated from our college, has more than 7 million followers on YouTube and is a strong influencer of LGBTQ causes. Jemele Hill, with more than a million followers on Twitter, is an adroit user of social media to establish her identity as a strong voice on race, politics and sports.
These influencers, some of them teenagers, dared to dream and challenge conventional norms. They capitalized on the power of social media to become influencers. We wish all our graduates good luck in their journey that awaits them in the real world. I hope each would become an influencer who will make this world a better place through the power of communication.