New ‘Social Media Manager’ Degree is One Step Below Toilet Paper

So there’s this old joke that goes: A person with a degree in science says, “How does it work?” A person with a degree in philosophy says, “Why does it work?” A person with a degree in liberal arts says, “Would you like fries with that?” I think we can now change “liberal arts” to “social media management.”

Newberry College in Newberry S.C. (Go Wolves!) has just become the first accredited place of higher learning to offer a degree in social media (I know what you’re thinking, but turns out clown colleges aren’t accredited). That’s right, you can now spend four years and roughly $100,000 of mom and dad’s money to learn how to build a Facebook page and tweet. Building a Tumblr account likely is postgraduate studies.

The problem with this whole folly is that this school has likely fallen into the same buzzword trap that most businesses willing to hire such a position have — it sounds mysterious and edgy, therefore it is relevant. The only thing worse would be if the school knows that “social media” is a sham and are therefore bilking stupid people. Its like when that school up in Oakland began offering a pot degree. Easy money.

Perhaps “sham” is too strong a word, but I like the way it looks in print, so I’m leaving it. The reality is though, the world of social media is still too undefined for anybody to be considered worthy of conferring degrees in said studies. Look at any success story of the major dot coms — nobody knew they would blow up like they did. And further, nobody knows where they are going. Success in the new media world comes not from filling a need, but rather, creating one. Let me make it easy for you to communicate with your friends while you’re taking a poop. Search Engine Optimization is the position everyone is hiring for (and paying good money), but what is that? Learning the secrets of SEO seems like one of those terrible handmade advertisements you see staked to a post when you get off the highway. Anything SEO-related you can get a comprehensive analysis of by spending a couple minutes on Adwords.

There is a school of thought out there that doubtlessly says, “Hey, if a business is stupid enough to pay me for it, I might as well do it.” This is the kind of thing that got America lagging behind other countries in the first place. We’re so hung up on the easy money that we tend to overlook the bigger picture: is it good for society. Now, I’m not going to go off on a tangent about moral turpitude in what is supposed to be a fairly straightforward lampooning of social media degrees, but just know that if you’re gloating over the fact that someone is paying you to maintain a Facebook page, fire off a few promotional tweets, and make sure your company is easy to find on Google, you’re part of what is wrong with America.

Back before I started working for NMR, I was like some of you. I was afraid of new media. I didn’t understand it, I’ll admit it. I thought Facebook’s chief benefit was getting me out of going to high school reunions. Now that my job is reporting on its many facets, I can’t help but laugh everytime I see some “legitimate” company advertising to handle my new media applications. I remember getting a bartending degree years ago, and then not being able to get a job because bars wanted to hire real bartenders and not theoretical ones. They wanted someone who could make 100 martinis in five minutes, not a jerk who knows the backstory behind vermouth.

Now I’m sure that there is a broad base of social media managers who are reading this article and are a little pissed off right now. That’s fair. I’m sure there is much nuance to your job that I don’t comprehend, and certainly, an industry being “new” is no reason to ignore it or treat it as less than valid. I just think that the way technology moves, my 10 year-old cousin Denise* will be a more viable employment candidate than most of those people after they get done studying four years’ worth of practical application theorems that will be outdated two years into the program.

*I don’t actually have a 10 year-old cousin named Denise, but even fictional, she’s arguably still a better candidate.      

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