After spending a class period last week discussing social movements in the age of Twitter, several of Jordan Soliz’s communication studies students put the theory fully into action.
What resulted was a social-media movement that roared to life — and that included Twitter endorsements from Larry the Cable Guy, several Husker athletes and even from All-American basketball player Doug McDermott from in-state rival Creighton.
The crux of the movement? To build a wave of social-media support for the class — Communication Studies 498, Communication in the Digital Age: Identity and Communication — and try to convince Soliz to cancel their final exam.
Under the hashtag #unlcomm498, students tweeted requests such as “Help me cancel my final exam” and “retweet if you hate exams and help get mine canceled.”
“Can we get @GitRDoneLarry to get a retweet to get our @UNLComm498 exam canceled #unlcomm498 #socialmovement,”asked Walker Ashburn, a member of the Husker football team. The answer was yes — the comedian, a big Nebraska fan, kindly obliged.
The push started with three or four students, Soliz said, but by week’s end the campaign had gone viral. On Friday, it had a reach of 275,000, according to Twitter analytics. There were about 1,000 tweets by about 500 contributors.
“That’s really impressive, considering there’s about 30 students in the class,” he said.
Soliz said he never intended to cancel the final, and he’s not sure how the idea for the Twitter “protest” started.
“I think I mentioned it as an example in class, so I may have implicitly planted the seed,” he said. “And I think they were just having fun with it. I don’t think anyone who started this seriously thought I would cancel the exam.”
But as the campaign went viral, many of the people tweeting and retweeting thought they were doing their fellow students a favor. Husker athletes Ashburn, Jeremiah Sirles, Johnny Stanton IV and Josh Mitchell chimed in, pushing the campaign into Twitter’s well-traveled Huskersphere.
When McDermott, the Creighton star, retweeted the students’ cancellation request, he received 96 retweets and 12 favorites. And a reply from a CU student: “How bout you advocate for cancellation of some Creighton classes, bro?”
Soliz said it was interesting to see how the campaign and “protest” changed as more and more people got involved.
“It just blew up, and a lot of people were assuming that we were going for a certain number of tweets or something, though the original message was a protest,” he said.
The most entertaining part of the student-driven campaign, he said, was seeing their creativity in trying to find and expand their online social networks.
“They started to see the possibility of how big it could get,” Soliz said.
Soliz said he felt he should respond and turned the campaign into a teachable moment. He posted a link to a YouTube video that argued why exams are important.
“I’ll talk in class (Dec. 10) about how it’s not just about numbers,” Soliz said. “You have to have an argument as well, which is why I posted the video.”
The video has a humorous slant to it as well, using photos of children and mournful music to argue that exams are important.
To create the video, Soliz reached out to friends and colleagues to get pictures of their children holding signs begging the students to take their exam.
The video ends with a small teaser, since Soliz would like to recognize the success of the students’ campaign, but he’s not yet sure how he’ll do it.
“But I’m definitely not cancelling the exam,” he said.