Erin Fox

HSS - Fox - Alumni

From a young age, Erin, from Co. Sligo, wanted to be a journalist. She was diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of nine and used hearing aids, but Erin didn’t see this as an obstacle. “You know, I never let that pull me back from pursuing an education or a career in journalism.”

However, when she got onto DCU’s BA in Journalism in 2008, things didn’t go smoothly. “I was getting headaches, and I couldn't keep up with lectures, and I told myself that I just wasn't cut out for third-level education.”

A check-up with her audiologist revealed the real problem - her hearing loss had become severe and the only way to address it was to get a cochlear implant. “It was a massive shock,” says Erin. 

Her dream career in journalism now seemed to be impossible. And although she managed to finish her course, on graduation day she told herself: “OK, that's the end of my academic journey.”

Ten years later, and despite all the odds, Erin returned to DCU to start the MA in Social Media Communications.

Since her first college experience, she’d received a cochlear implant to help address her hearing loss. She’d also carved out a career path using her journalistic skills in feature writing, marketing and social media, and ultimately landed a job with the leading PR firm Drury. 

Despite her professional progression, Erin was “hungry to learn more” and DCU’s Master’s in Social Media Studies was her “dream course”.

Her college experience was completely different, the second time around. “When I started the Master’s, I just loved it so much. The lectures were fantastic.”

Erin made a point of introducing herself to her lecturers and letting them know she was deaf. They were very supportive and DCU’s Disability Service also provided a note-taker. 

Standout modules on the course included “Social Media, News and Democracy” which explored echo chambers, polarisation, and the ways that the online world can shape people's perspectives. Another module that she found fascinating looked at “Gender and Sexuality in Digital Culture”, and featured an exploration of incel narratives and ‘the manosphere’. 

When it comes to her views on whether social media is a positive or negative force, her answer is: “It’s complicated”. Her dissertation looked at how networks of social media users across the globe began to troll leading Russian military officials as part of an unofficial cyber front in the Ukraine war. 

The course included practical projects such as building social media campaigns from scratch to support the objectives of a business or a social issue. They also studied real-world social media campaigns, analysing their success or otherwise based on metrics like engagement or likes.

Erin admits that doing the course alongside her full-time job was a challenge. Combating “listening fatigue” and the general stress of juggling responsibilities was very demanding, but worth it. “When I got the results last November and I got first-class honours and was ranked second in the class, I cannot even tell you how happy I was.”

The MA has had a positive professional impact. “I'm exploring new ways to apply my learnings from the course to what's relevant here because I do think that PR has an important role in the way information is communicated, to avoid misinformation from being spread,” says Erin. “Aside from the benefits it's had in my career, doing this Master's has just been a major confidence boost.”

It may have been that self-confidence that encouraged her to appear on a recent episode of First Dates Ireland. And while she didn’t meet the love of her life on the show, Erin’s spark for learning hasn’t gone away. “I do have the PhD bug, so in a few years, I might be back!”

DCU Prospectus - Back to MA in Social Media Communications