Foreign Intelligence: A teenager discovers the bright side of social media
Editor's note: (Transcript edited lightly for clarity)
Whatever it is, I feel like parents always find a way to blame everything on phones and on social media. Whether it's their kid getting bad grades in school, having a bad attitude, or literally nothing at all. That social media can be a really positive influence on teenagers. Help them find happiness, friendship and connection.
My name is Sylvia Korson, and I'm 16 years old. I go to Catholic Central High School in Springfield and I live with my mom and dad, Amy and Scott and my two cats, Alice and Mika. I'm creative, energetic and a super friendly person. You know, when you're young and you get your first phone or you make your first Instagram account, your parents and teachers, they all tell you the same thing. Be careful. Don't talk to strangers on the internet.
My parents were very worried when I first got social media, but what I remember even more than my mom's thousands of rules and restrictions are the dumb presentations that we had to sit through at school every single year. We would all gather in the loud, hot gym and listen to our teachers, give a presentation about how you should never, ever talk to strangers on the internet, because then they would stalk you.
The first social media that I had was Pinterest, I saw this one post about finding someone who would listen to you, talk about your writing. I figured it couldn't hurt. So I messaged them. Then one day he asked what my hobbies were saying, that we'd been reading each other stuff a lot but not getting to know each other, and that's when we started talking. I found out that his name was Archie. His English was so good that at first I thought he must be from an English speaking country, but he's actually from Pakistan.
One of the first things I asked him was What are your pronouns? And he said he never had anyone ask him that in an introduction before. And just that little thing. It meant a lot. And the other morning, I video chatted with Arki like usual, but aside from our normal conversation about family members, things we did in our week. I also asked him some questions about our friendship and his parents' rules on social media.
Sylvia: What were your parents rules about your phone?
Arki: I was actually not supposed to be talking to people, and neither was I. But then I was like, You know what? This could only go well. This is someone who like is in demand so that this will go well. And it did. And then I did not do them for like the longest day. And then my mom accidentally found out when my mom found out you were in my phone, you wanted to know that you weren't like some Nigerian prince trying to scare me or something. And what is it?
Sylvia: Do you think that helped us stay friends for so long and become so close, even though we've never met in person?
Arki: Oh, I think a big part of, though, is that it is a privilege and effort because we both put in a lot of effort into texting each other and calling whenever we could.
Sylvia: And if we do meet in person, what would you want to do?
Arki: I would want to go on like a bookstore date with you. It would be so fun. Oh my gosh. Exactly like how much fun it would be.
Sylvia: Yeah, we can have like cute matching, like dark macadamia outfits and stuff. Oh my god, yes.
Arki: And then we can like, go sit in a park like all the others in the 1860s. Yes, that would be perfect. Thank you. In this interview with me, you're all girls.
I think doing this story helped me just really, really think about how incredible it is that I had to talk to these people who live all the way across the world and Pakistan and France and the Netherlands in California, everywhere, every place. I learned so much from talking to them, and I gained such a meaningful connection. I understand that for some people, social media can be a toxic experience, and it's definitely not perfect. But I don't think enough adults and parents know how overwhelmingly positive of an influence it can be.