Surrey students explore social media in ‘Status Update’ video show

Six months of work concludes with an exhibition at Surrey Arts Centre this weekend

The complex, sometimes dangerous world of social media is explored in video artworks created by high school students at four of the five Learning Centres in Surrey.

A public exhibition called Status Update: Critical Creations on Social Media will debut at Surrey Arts Centre this weekend, beginning this evening (Friday).

For six months, outreach educators with The Cinematheque in Vancouver worked with close to 60 students for the project, in collaboration with Surrey’s Learning Centres and with funding from B.C. Arts Council and Vancouver Foundation.

This weekend, in a public unveiling, 21 video artworks will be shown at the arts centre.

The goal of Status Update was to encourage students to be creative media producers and have them engage critically with social media.

“The germ of the idea really came from reflecting on how many of our students end up here because of things that happened on the Internet, and it’s just shocking,” said Jennifer Aulakh, who teaches visual and language arts at North Surrey Learning Centre.

“It’s amazing that this thing they use all the time, social media, is something that they don’t really understand the ramifications of sometimes, or even how to use very sensibly.”

Surrey’s Learning Centres provide educational opportunities to older teens attempting to fulfill the necessary requirements for graduation.

Students in the Status Update project created their videos after considering their own experiences with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other channels of social media, and then presented their work to Grade 6 and 7 students in nearby elementary schools.

“It was really amazing, very cathartic,” Aulakh recalled. “Students at our school went to David Brankin Elementary (and) I think our students were kind of shocked when they were asking the kids things like how often they used their device, who monitors that use, how they felt about the way they used (social media). A lot of these issues came up about things like anxiety and depression, and you had these elementary students speaking very articulately, questioning these Grade 12s, and those younger kids listened to these teenagers.”

The students explored themes of privacy, online anonymity and the addictive lure of social media, and came away with some compelling, thought-provoking videos, according to Aulakh.

“The other thing here is, our students got to take care of these younger kids, in a way,” she added. “Our students are often very typecast as the at-risk kids – you know, the troublemakers, and fair enough, some of them are in trouble with the law, that’s why they come here, but giving them the opportunity to be that responsible elder in their community was just amazing for them.”

The video artworks will be posted on the project website,, following this weekend’s show at Surrey Arts Centre.

“Some of the films are five minutes long, and one is about 17 minutes, with a wide range of films,” Aulakh explained. “It’s funny, because we weren’t approaching this (subject) as a negative thing, we just opened that door to (students) to tell us about the subject, but all of them ended up being very critical of social media, and technology in general, the place it has in our lives, even if they used humour and the films ended up being quite funny.”

Students at the Guildford, North Surey, City Central and White Rock/South Surrey learning centres took part in the Status Update project; students at the Cloverdale learning centre did not participate, due to logistics.

Friday’s launch event runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., with viewings on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at 13750 88 Ave..

Langley Times