Social Media Wellness: An Authentic Hangout with High School Students

My third book, Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World, is slated to be released in August 2017 (Pre-order Here!). SO EXCITED. I am really proud of how this book turned out – and because of the awesome feedback of my teen and young adult readers, I feel as though the book provides some needed insight on how to navigate the multitude of online and IRL pressures students, parents, and educators now face every.single.day.

In preparation for the book’s release, I asked some awesome high school students to come into my office and talk a little about their social media world. With the help of a terrific San Francisco-based filmmaker, Jeff Springer, we captured their authentic, uncomfortable and sometimes downright funny stories of Silicon Valley teens on social media. Mid-way through our interviews, Jeff turned to me and told me how wonderful all the kids had been – they were far more open, honest, and revealing than he imagined they would be. Nearly every girl told us about private Instagram accounts (for only their “hundred closest friends”) and one high school sophomore girl admitted to having 50 on-going Snapchat streaks (which took her hours each day to maintain).

I wasn’t surprised to learn they generally watch lots of Netflix and YouTube, are stuck on Snapchat, and have multiple Instagram accounts. I was surprised to learn that most of the students did not even have a Facebook account (nearly all had Instagram accounts, and Instagram is owned by Facebook). The few that did have Facebook accounts rarely, if ever, logged in (“Facebook seems really hard to set up” or “it is not intuitive to use” or “It’s overrun by people my parents’ age). I thought Facebook Live would have encouraged some of them to be online, but nope – most claimed to not know how FB Live worked.

Some of my favorite highlights:

  • High school junior boy who told me he was really into this TV show he was watching on Netflix. “It’s a show called Friends.”
  • High school junior girl who, mid-interview, has a moment of self-awareness and reflection, and comes to the realization – on camera – that she uses her phone too much. I think it was when she was describing how she sleeps with her phone and starts looking at it within seconds of waking up.
  • Students holding back laughter when I ask them if their parents know how to use Snapchat. The consensus was “No.”

In the end, I hope this book sparks a lot of conversation about what wellness means and looks like in an always on world – and to that end, I am pleased to report the young woman who used to sleep with the phone in her bed decided to move it another room so she could get better sleep. #progress #baby steps

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Stories From Students Who Created Their Own Blueprints: Bo

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Why did you originally come to Green Ivy?
 I wasn’t the most studious high school student, but I had ambitions to go to a great university and I wanted options. When I started at Green Ivy, my grades were poor and I was a horrible test taker, and while I realized grades aren’t everything, raising mine meant I would have a wider range of options for college.

How long did you work with us? Almost three years. 

Which skills or habits did you learn that were the most effective in helping you achieve your own goals? Test taking + organization! That was what helped me the most, that and how to study effectively and retain the most important information. I was used to just getting by, barely getting my homework done in time, and didn’t know how to use the knowledge I was learning. 

Did you continue to use these skills throughout high school and college? If yes, which ones specifically? Organization and preparation! I am now in the travel industry and am one of the biggest “planners” around, according to my peers. I like to have everything mapped out these days, and it all goes back to the skills I learned working with Ana!

Describe your work today. What is your favorite part of your job? I started a company, JusCollege, with a high school friend. We are a student travel company focused on providing high-end experiences for students at a fraction of the cost. We focus on Spring Break travel, senior trips to Vegas, ski trips, fraternity weekenders in cities like New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville and much more. We also are the official collegiate marketing arm and partner of music festivals around the country that provides discounts for 18-25 year olds. My favorite part of my job is doing what I love. I enjoy going to work every day, creating my own schedule (even though I work 60-100 hour weeks) and providing experiences my clients are going to remember for the rest of their lives.

What surprised you most about working with Green Ivy?  I enjoyed it (haha). Previously, I hated academic counseling and tutoring, but Ana made my experience amazing. Not only did I see results, but I enjoyed spending time in the office.

 Do you have any favorite moments or stories about your time at Green Ivy that you’d like to share? (Side note: Bo, my favorite was when you set three goals for yourself – GPA goal, starting on the varsity water polo team, and winning CCS – and all three came true!) I would say meeting my goals, as Ana said from my GPA, water polo achievements and college admissions. I got into 4 out of the 5 top schools I wanted to go to, and ended up at CU-Boulder. I set a goal before my junior year to start on the varsity water polo team as well as win CCS that year. Halfway through the year the head coach decided to bench three seniors and move younger guys (one of them being me) into the starting lineup. Once that happened, we didn’t lose a single game and upset Menlo in the championship against a goalie who was ranked as best in the world at that time. I ended up scoring the winning goal with a buzzer beater at the end of the 3rd quarter.

If you could go back and have a conversation with your younger self about school, what advice would you give? Listen to your elders and take their advice. They have been there before and have learned from many mistakes. 

What are your current professional and personal goals? To sell my company in the next 1-4 years, take a year off and travel the world (for enjoyment and not work) and then come back into a sales consulting role or VP of Sales for another startup. I want to enjoy what I’m doing and go into work every day with a smile on my face. I was lucky enough to take a risk and become an entrepreneur as soon as I graduated. Somehow I’ve been lucky enough to have my first endeavor actually work out but I believe that’s a testament to my hard work, dedication and refusal to give up. I plan to take this with me for the rest of my life on helping smaller companies grow themselves into what they envision. sell my company.

What do you love most about where you are now in life? For years after paying yourself next to nothing, to see things come to fruition and be financially taken care of is quite satisfying. More importantly, I’m closer with my friends and family than ever since I can finally be okay with taking some time off. I’m able to travel where I want to, do the things I want and don’t have a sense of guilt that I should be working. After grinding for 4-5 years, having that freedom I’d say is rather satisfying. It’s also rather gratifying at 29 years old, knowing you’ll be “okay” in life no matter what happens.  

And a few more just for fun. . . 

Best invention of all time: A plane 

Dream vacation: Traveling all over the world in a private jet for a month (snowboarding + beaches)

Favorite movie: Too difficult, too many

Breakfast staple(s): FRENCH TOAST

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Stories from Students Who Created Their Own Blueprint: Julian

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This month marks Green Ivy Educational Consulting‘s 15th anniversary, and in celebration, I wanted to share the stories of a few of the many students who have worked with us over the years. When Julian first came to my office, he thought he needed to attend a certain exclusive science program to demonstrate his interest in science. I suggested he instead look into getting an internship, and helped him put his resume together. He landed a (paid!!) research lab position at Stanford, where the lovely professor allowed him the opportunity to do his own experiments as well. As a result of that experience, he was a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search contest in 2011 for his research on how plant roots mainly grow toward gravity but also away from light.

On March 30, 2011, he wrote me one of my favorite emails of all time (yes, I kept it): 

SUBJECT: College News!!!!!!!!

Hi Ana,

I got waitlisted by Stanford, rejected by Princeton, but none of that matters, because I got into Harvard!!!!!!!

Thanks for everything!!!

Julian

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Why did you originally come to Green Ivy?

I came to Green Ivy because I was looking for a college counselor who could provide individualized and honest, guidance that is often missing in public school counseling programs.

How long did you work with us?

I started working with Ana from around March of my junior spring, until after college applications were submitted that winter.

Which skills or habits did you learn that were the most effective in helping you achieve your own goals?

Perhaps the most important idea I learned from working with Ana was not to be afraid of taking risks in carving out your own interests. Each of us has grown up with so many different experiences, and they come together to form unique interests, regardless of how similar they may initially seem. Many times, it is impossible for existing opportunities to cater to exactly what you want, so sometimes it may be up to you to seek them out or create them.

Did you continue to use these skills throughout high school and college? If yes, which ones specifically?

Yes, many of the experiences that I have had in college were a direct result of me seeking out my own interests when they were not posted on the school website, or printed on flyers across campus. Not all of my projects panned out the way I wanted them to, but each of them helped shape who I am today and what I want to do in the future.

Describe your work today. What is your favorite part of your job? 

Currently, I help run clinical trials for cancer patients. My favorite part of the job is having the opportunity to be a part of each patient’s unique story, and to support and guide them through their treatments, through good news and bad .

 What surprised you most about working with Green Ivy?

I was most surprised about the truly individualized guidance I received. Each time I came to Green Ivy, I was able to meet with Ana, who was familiar with my experiences and goals right from the start; all of our discussions were shaped by my own personal aspirations. Ana always worked hard to make sure that I could present the best version of myself, instead of simply trying to mold my application after that of another successful students. 

Do you have any favorite moments or stories about your time at Green Ivy that you’d like to share

At one meeting, in the midst of college application season, Ana strongly encouraged me to get my driver’s license. Moments like this remind that Green Ivy is about helping students develop into young adults, not just picking out a list of colleges to apply to, or creating the perfect college application.

If you could go back and have a conversation with your younger self about school, what advice would you give?

Don’t be afraid to take risks! Each time you start to feel comfortable, it means you need to push yourself just a little further out of your comfort zone.

What are your current professional and personal goals?

I am currently applying to medical school.

What do you love most about where you are now in life?

I love that I have had the opportunity to have work experience before starting medical school again. I’m glad that I had the chance to learn how to live by myself as an adult, and I know these experiences will help conceptualize medical school not just as an educational program, but as part of my own life.

And a few more just for fun. . . 

Best invention of all time: Airplane

Dream vacation: Spending a few months in the Italian countryside 

Favorite movie: La Dolce Vita

Breakfast staple(s): Bacon and eggs

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