Smart Girl Society presentation causes girls to rethink social media implications

by Maria Determan

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Reality check Amie Konwinksi, founder and CEO of Smart Girl Society, teaches Marian students and staff the importance of social media safety. She highlighted both the useful and harmful aspects of social media use. Photos by Audrey Yost

Before the flurry of Surprise Day excitement hit Marian on Feb. 15, the faculty and students got a healthy dose of reality. Mrs. Jennifer Christen, Dean of Student Services, brought in Amie Konwinksi, founder and CEO of Smart Girl Society, for a presentation about digital branding and social media safety.

Christen spearheaded the effort to bring Konwinksi to Marian. “She spoke at my kids’ grade school last fall. I heard really amazing things from my husband and from other people that attended,” Christen said. A Marian parent who attended that same presentation contacted principal Mrs. Susie Sullivan which got the ball rolling.

About two weeks prior to the student presentation, Konwinksi spoke to a group of Marian parents. Though the presentation was not well-attended, Christen knew the impact was significant, and that all students should have the opportunity to hear Konwinksi’s message.

Before Konwinksi stepped foot on Marian’s campus, she collected the social media demographics of the student population. She asked students to respond to statements such as “I feel anxious when I don’t check my social media for an hour” and “I feel safe sharing my location on social media.” With these responses, Konwinski formulated a presentation that fit the social media makeup of the Marian community.

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Keeping it humorous  Amou Majok ’ 18, Vicky Bongomin ’ 18 and Evelyn Paul ’18 laugh through Amie Konwinksi’s presentation. Konwinksi kept the audience engaged with her up-to-date information, humor and relatable anecdotes.

The result? A diagnosis for the Marian student population: FOMO. FOMO is an acronym for a new emotion in today’s technological world – fear of missing out. Exhibit A: the average 13 year old checks their phone over 100 times each day. Exhibit B: 64 percent of Marian girls sometimes feel anxious when they don’t respond to a text right away.

Christen noted, “Honestly, I was surprised that a couple of the numbers weren’t higher. Unfortunately, in this day and age you guys are inundated with handheld devices. There is a constant need to take and post pictures and other things.”

In Konwinksi’s opinion, there is only one solution to such widespread FOMO: a conversion to JOMO. Instead of wallowing in fear and doubt about the lives of their peers, Konsinksi proposed an empowered approach: joy of missing out.

Konwinksi, the mother of five girls ranging from ages 12 to 26, is as well-versed in social media lingo as the students that filled the bleachers of the East Gym. She mixed her maternal advice with her own company’s research to present a logical warning to students and staff alike.

Senior Anna Mikulicz was pleasantly surprised by the way Konwinksi presented the material. “She was really real. Most of those speakers are like, ‘Social media is evil, delete it all, don’t use it,’ but she was like, ‘No, I like social media. Here’s how to be careful,’” Mikulicz said. She thought that Konwinksi’s message was perfect, “She was honest.”

After explaining how the Marian population fits into the outside social media world, she explained how exactly young people fall into hands of social media danger.

To start, when you create a social media account such as Snapchat, you agree to the terms of service and privacy. Though it appears that the mere seconds of embarrassing selfies vanish into thin air, these photos are automatically stored for 30 days and can fall into the hands of data collectors.

What are data collectors exactly? They are individuals who gather your personal information for a living. These collectors are able to construct an accurate representation of your personality through every Twitter rant, selfie, kitten picture and Pinterest post. Data collectors have approximately 700 data points about each and every social media user.

Data collectors aren’t the only individuals who may find that a-bit-too-revealing picture you took on the beach over spring break. Your parents, coaches, Ms. Mo, college representatives or even your creepy neighbor can get a hold of this; the consequences could greatly affect your future.

Mikulicz noted, “I already knew that everything on the Internet was forever, but I didn’t know how many people actually check it, like colleges; you can lose your scholarships.”

Sophomore Maggie Peklo was equally as shocked by the fact that anyone and everyone could access her information.

“In six clicks you can find someone’s personal information,” Peklo said. For her, this presentation “was a reality check of how permanent stuff really is. I’ll be more mindful about what I post and what I say because colleges can data scrape.”

Indeed, nothing that is posted on the internet will ever fully disappear. Konwinksi warned students not to place their school, address or other personal information on their social media accounts for this very reason. Specific to Snapchat, she told all students to turn on ghost mode. Though the new tracking feature may be entertaining, she warned that anyone who finds that information could use it to their benefit, regardless of the implications it could have on you.

This alarming fact sprung Mikulicz into action. “After the presentation I turned on ghost mode on Snapchat. I didn’t know they could give away my address,” Mikulicz said.

Konwinksi’s presentation gave 83 percent of students a new perspective on social media branding and safety.

Mikulicz, along with 37 percent of Marian students, made changes to their social media use or removed something from public view, according to the Network Google survey after the presentation.

“If I can impact at least one kid, then it was worth it. If 37 percent are going to make any kind of change that’s huge for me,” Christen said.

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