Somewhere, someplace… there’s an essay due. And there’s a student (maybe even you!) who is staring at a blank page. Even after all the in-class lessons and maybe even tutoring for writing, the time has come… but the words won’t spring forward. Maybe the essay is due soon, and you need a solution. Maybe you’ve even made an outline and have plenty of research notes, but aren’t sure what to do next.
“Why does this have to be so hard?” You think as you bring up your Facebook or Instagram app and comment on a friend’s post. “Why can’t it be as easy as my social media feed?”
It can be. Whether we’ve noticed it or not, millions of students across the world are writing, each and every day. They’re posting their reviews of their favorite movies, adding their opinions in the comment sections of blogs, even sharing ideas that interest them deeply! Why, it’s a writing revolution!
So if writing on social media comes so naturally, why does our essay have to be so difficult? Is there anything we can learn from all the writing taking place on social media that can make it easier?
Yes! Let’s take a look at some writing strategies borrowed right from the writing habits you use every single day.
1. Consider Your Audience – It’s all about captivating them
It’s probably pretty obvious whenever you post to social media: you’re considering how your friends and family will interpret what you’ve said. But it goes much further than that: you want to capture your audience’s attention, not bore them to tears. The same goes for your essay audience. In many cases, your audience is the same friends and acquaintances (plus your teacher!) that you interact with on social media. What would interest them about your topic? What would convince them about your argument?
2. Build Your Network – Think of citations like a friends list
Whenever you tag a friend in a photo or give them a shout out on a comment, what are you really doing? Drawing attention to how awesome they are and giving them a little credit. Citations and quotations are exactly the same. By including quotes from other authors, you’re showing how your ideas, reasoning, and even your values are supported by people you respect (and who are respected by others). You even give credit by “tagging” the author so your audience can connect with them if they want! Citing your sources is a way to show how vast your intellectual network is. Don’t be afraid to show it off.
3. Share Something You Find Interesting – Connect the dots between facts & ideas
You don’t just post or share anything on your social media network; you share what you find interesting or are passionate about. Once you’ve thought about what will captivate your audience, share with them what you find most fascinating about your subject or topic. Is it weird that the character in the book you’ve read was driven by their past? Have you considered how your topic might impact the world for people your age? This is your chance to tell your readers, more formally, what you think. Connect those dots!
4. Apply Those Filters – Put ideas through a new lens to show multiple perspectives
Just like vintage filters make images look like they’re from another era or a vignette might focus in on one part of a photo, multiple perspectives give you the opportunity to play with ideas exactly like photos. In previous essays, your teacher may even have asked you to respond to possible criticism of your main writing points. Basically, you were considering multiple perspectives on the same topic and highlighting just how different the same topic can be to different people. Well, a neat trick is to use this technique all the time, the same way you would use multiple photo filters on Instagram to make a beautiful collage of images. Analyze your points from different perspectives to fully illuminate it.
5. Add Your Hashtags – Organizing the points you’re making… #awesome
While you can’t use hashtags in your essay (I know, I know!), that doesn’t mean that your main points don’t act in a very similar way. Hashtags come in all shapes and sizes, essentially letting you (and the online world) pull together and organize many photos, videos, and posts. Your essay’s main points are like the hashtags sprinkled throughout your feed. By using them again, you return to and remind your audience of what you find important about your subject. Best of all, your essay will be organized around the central points and ideas that guide your audience through what you’re thinking. Like with our other techniques here, you have the chance to play around and have a little fun, so your writing is a reflection of your own customized voice and thoughts.