It can be a powerful tool and a great outlet
ed ue es e t in n, er. s n e Ms o e t o me au s of ial e s , 200,000 Instagram followers. For these young entrepreneurs, social media has opened up a virtual career.
“I started out quite by accident; my boyfriend created a WordPress blog site for me to share recipes with my mum back in the UK,” says O’Neil, who is also known as the Fit Foodie. “I didn’t realise other people could see it at first, but when I did, I started making more effort with photos and it just grew from there.” O’Neil now has more than 75,000 followers on Instagram, 14,000 on Facebook and her online blog gets more than 60,000 monthly visits.
But finding a positive balance on social media platforms can sometimes be easier said than done, particularly for kids and teens.
Brad Marshall, principal psychologist at Sydney’s internet Addiction Clinic, says they established the children’s clinic because of a demand from parents at their parent clinic, Kidspace.
“If you look at the fact you are always putting the best version of yourself online, it’s not good for you because that then becomes Tito focuses on fashion on social media, while O’Neil (below) is known as The Fit Foodie and Sersemis has a beauty focus. the only acceptable thing you have to share,” Marshall says. “The difficulty comes when a child then has to compensate that with their real self when they’re offline.” ueensland University of Technology professor in digital media Axel Bruns says the reason we are seeing more people posting is that social media platforms are making it easier to do so. “These networks — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — are in a constant state of evolution, updating what we can do with them,” he says. “Facebook live and Instagram live which allow people to post videos of what they are doing as they do it, are the most recent big evolutions. As they evolve, so does the way we use them.
“We share so much on social media now that people risk missing out on real life events, like parties, if they are not on social media. Facebook in particular has become a really important tool for sharing news and you can become disconnected if you don’t participate.”
Bruns says users need to be careful with how much of their lives they share on social media as this information is virtually impossible to retrieve or delete completely.
“People put so much power in the hands of these companies when they click through all the terms and agreements on joining,” he says.
“They can change clauses from when you first joined, and in posting you give them licence to use and distribute your image and information, even to third parties, which is why we see targeted advertising on our profiles.
“The best way to protect yourself is to ask yourself this question when you post: ‘Am I happy for this information or image to be out in the cyber world forever?’ If you answer ‘no’ then don’t post it.”
The focus on social media is often negative, but Sydney psychologist Philipa Thornton says there are many positives as well. “Social media is a great resource for information, support, research, philanthropic awareness and fundraising, for business people and entrepreneurs,” Thornton says. “It can be a very powerful tool and can be a great outlet for self-expression and self-discovery.
“Social media is not going anywhere soon, so we have to learn how to use it to our advantage.”
Tito started posting men’s fashion pics on Instagram around three years ago and has gained a 40,000-strong following. “I’m on social media every day, whether I’m looking for a good restaurant, online shopping or just watching people’s lives; it’s pretty constant,” the 25-year-old says.
Cass Sersemis, 21, of Wollongong, started sharing pics on Tumblr at the age of 14. Now her beauty and fashion pics are eagerly anticipated by about 82,000 Instagram followers.
“I started just posting selfies for fun on Tumblr and moved to Instagram when I was about 16,” she says. “Now I also do make-up and fashion tutorials on You Tube. I would say I’m on social media all day, my phone is always in my hand, even if I’m watching a movie. As soon as it vibrates, I’m on it, but that’s pretty typical of people my age.”