Lifestyle

Sophie Elgort x M.I.N.T.

Interview via A Life in the Fashion Lane.

Sophie Elgort is a famous fashion photographer. See her website here.

How do you describe the photography industry in 2017?

Everyone has access to a camera now on their phones and especially with Instagram photography is definitely something that people really appreciate which is cool. 

What makes you interested in social media and mental health?


I think it's important to remember that when people post on social media you are seeing only glimpses of their lives - just because it looks perfect doesn't mean it is so it's so important not to compare yourself. Social media is a great, I love it - use it to express yourself and show your work but take everything you see with a grain of salt. 

What advise would you give to young adults interested in starting a business?


One of my biggest faults is thinking too much before taking action and I work to counter this every day, so the advice I'd give is if you have an idea that you're really excited about, try it out and take action right away. Someone once told me if you're going to fail to "fail fast" and then rework the idea and try again. If you don't take action at all, there's no way you can succeed. 

Does social media play a huge role in your business?

It does. With photography, social media is such an important platform for me to show my work - not only the work that's published but also outtakes and my own projects. It is also really useful for staying in touch with people - I'm meeting so many different people every day and I like to keep up with everyone but it's physically impossible but Instagram makes it a bit easier. 

 

What interests you in my program, M.I.N.T., and why should more teens be talking about their bodies?


Opening an honest dialogue at an early age about confidence and body image is so important - these issues need to addressed so that teens know that these are REAL issues, that they're not the only ones feeling the way they're feeling and that what they're feeling is not insignificant or irrelevant. Even as an adult it can be difficult when you see an image of a person who you think has the ideal body and it can make you feel like you're not good enough. I also think it's important to remember that to get that one perfect image maybe they took 100 images and picked only the best one to post.  Even if the person does look a certain way that you admire, everyone is different and you have no idea what other things that person might be going through or what other challenges they're dealing with. These are definitely important topics to start talking about early. 

THANK YOU SOPHIE! We can't wait to have you join us on an upcoming M.I.N.T. panel!

We're LIVE on GoFundMe!

We're officially LIVE on GoFundMe! The next steps for M.I.N.T. are to guarantee $4,000 so that we can bring M.I.N.T. to California + Austin schools, as well as apply for official nonprofit status. Anything that can be done will tremendously help us take our project to next level.

We've also offered some prizes to those of you that get your friends to give us a donation, too! Like a shopping trip with Alexa, a personalized beauty bag from Libby, and a personal coaching session with Steve. Getting AND giving back has never been easier!

Please share this link everywhere!

We're officially LIVE on GoFundMe! 

We're officially LIVE on GoFundMe! 

Watch our video too see more from Steve and Alexa, our founders, too!

Thank you all SO much for the help and support. We can't wait to continue this journey.

Sincerest regards,

The M.I.N.T. team

Why Not Us? Why Not Now?

Ever wondered how this project got started? Well, I’ll tell you anyway.

I met Alexa at a Talkspace conference in April 2016 in New York City. She presented eloquently and was very engaging during her discussion at the conference. At the end of her panel, the moderator noted that she was 18 years old. I was so impressed, I had to seek her out and tell her.

While lining up for lunch, I saw her. I told her I was really impressed by her knowledge of teen and young adult issues and her life experience. As we chatted quickly (of course, she was going somewhere else quickly!). we exchanged business cards. She was working out of Boston and we decided we should meet at some point.

When we did, we had two other collaborators who wanted to do the impossible: replace DARE in schools with a 60 minute panel discussion on mental health, teens, social media, and the stressors they faced. We did not have a name at a time but we had ideas and enthusiasm.  That was good enough to start creating a curriculum and talking to schools.

Our team worked at exchanging ideas and suggestions on how to present the material. It was exciting and we really wanted to go across the country and make these presentations. Our goal was to offer information, as well as educate in a fun, creative way, about the social media.

In time, our collaborators have worked with us behind the scene, as they had other personal and professional obligations that were happening. We both consider Jamieson and Abbey part of our team. Alexa Curtis and I have been working diligently to set up schools, create surveys, get good information based on studies, and a host of brainstorming ideas.

We got to speak to our first school in October. We then spoke in several other schools, 6 to be exact, spread across 3 states. We have enjoyed all the talks and gotten feedback on what was working and what was not. Alexa and I continue to work on MINT daily with passion and do everything to promote it.

So why us? Because we are a great team, we have added other collaborators since then. It will bring more excitement and more discussion, as well as a great set of opportunities. We can be flexible and present a curriculum that is adapted to the school need based on the surveys and information provided in them. We want this project to succeed. We want to reach out in every state. This is not something that is our job: it is our passion.

And we need to do it now. No one is talking social media, texting, and other newer communication devises and how it affects our teens lives significantly. We need to address it now before it gets more difficult. We are not looking to take away social media from teens: we want them to be more responsible and respectful with it, seeing the impact it has on them and on others.

It needs to be done now and we are the collaborative team to do it!

How is M.I.N.T.?

The response from M.I.N.T. has been absolutely phenomenal. We are thrilled at how many people have reached out to us, written about M.I.N.T., or simply shared their thoughts on our initiative with us. Teens have the power to change the world, and through this platform, we hope to inspire and enable more teens to have access to resources that they didn't know were available.

What's the next step? We are actively pitching our program to schools everyday. We are working on a curriculum, for both students and faculty, that we will have implemented in schools. We are trying to take over the D.A.R.E. system, and we have no mixed feelings on saying that out loud. Why are teens only being taught about their mental health and wellbeing up until 10th grade? Don't you think that students need to be talked to about their bodies for their entire life?

An education-based program is difficult. We are fighting the school systems, both public and private, as well as the denial that is associated with teens and their bodies. We firmly believe that by speaking to teens about their growing bodies and their cell phones as young as possible, that we will be able to slowly enforce new ideas into their brains. We aren't trying to showcase the Internet as a "bad" thing, we are simply trying to control and monitor how teens relate the Internet to their real life.

Along with pitching and starting a curriculum, we are still doing it all on our own. To apply to be an official nonprofit, we have to pay about $1,870. With no current funding or assistance, it's a battle for our team to give 100% of our time to this project without becoming financially stressed.

We'd love to see if you have any ideas. Know anyone with funding ideas? Email or tweet us. Maybe you are a funder for education projects yourself, and see a need for M.I.N.T. to be in every school. If so, welcome! We just want your help, and we want it now.

Send your ideas to the email on our contact page, and let's continue to revolutionize the way teens look at themselves. 

Meet Our Team: Steve Bisson

1. What inspired you to start M.I.N.T?

Alexa! I was so impressed by her presence at a conference I attended. She was inspiring then. We exchanged information and she was really into doing this project. Her energy helped me also get energized on a subject that I have observed from a far for years.

2. Why are you interested in social media and it's effect on mental health?

I have seen what it does to my adult friends. I can also see it in my teenagers that I see. Teenagers feel so isolated, it is important to remind them that they are not alone. As a therapist, I see the long term effects of bad experiences with others as a teenager. 

3. Why is this so important to you?  

Growing up, I lost my best friend when I was 12. He died in a fire. It devastated me a great deal, to the point I was more isolate and was really struggling with depression, weight gain, and self-esteem issues. I had no one to talk to. With social media and mental health, it is the same thing. While saying it is social media, I also see many people who don't know who to turn to for support.  

4. How is M.I.N.T different from other anti-bullying campaigns that are out there? 

No one is actually talking about the biggest bullying going on right now: the social media bullying. We know it's a phenomenon but we don't address the depression, anxiety, fear of missing out (FOMO), obsessive compulsive behavior it is causing. We also need to find  ways to show it is happening so that everyone can see it and how teenagers and adults CAN do something about it.

5. How does it feel to get out there and spread your message to teens across the country?

It feels awesome. I feel we have developed a great message that is based on reality and the actual issues teenagers face on a regular basis. IT is important to be able to get a message that is based on actual things teens are going through. I hope we can continue to share this message and give them the hope and courage to go forward. 

6. What has the response been from your program so far? 

Excellent. I think we have made many people uncomfortable discussing this issue and that is a good thing. I see teenagers and school staff cringe and be uncomfortable when we bring up some subjects such as cutting, as well as body image. Making people uncomfortable creates their little group discussion, which is key to get the conversation going.

7. Who inspires as you continue to build M.I.N.T? 

I like to think of my work here as groundbreaking, an innovation so to speak. We need more of these services around social services. Those innovators and people who pushed despite the odds against them really inspire me. To name a few would mean to forget some. So I will just leave it as that.  

8. What is the best advice that you received that has really helped you?

Be yourself. Do not change who you are to please others. I always wanted to make others happy but it caused me to lose respect in myself, as well as not be able to do things for me. I think that being able to be me allowed me to see that I am liked and that people will accept me for who I am. 

9. What are your goals for this year?

Go to more schools, get to do it on both coasts of the continental United States, as well as create the curriculum to make it even more real to potential schools, donors, as well as form our non-profit

10. Where do you hope to see M.I.N.T in 5 years from now?

The program is stronger than ever, being implemented in schools across the 50 state plus some westernized countries. I am still doing presentations with Alexa but we are also training other well motivated, great people to do the presentations their way, so they can inspire others for years to come. I have vanity license plates that say M.I.N.T.

 

Meet Our Team: Cassell Ferere

As M.I.N.T expands, it's quite important for us to find people who believe in our message. One person we met who made in impact almost immediately on us was Cassell. A Brooklyn photographer with a unique perspective and view on the industry, Cassell was a hit at our last talk in Brooklyn, NY. Welcome to the fam! Read his interview answers below. 

1. What inspired you to be a part of M.I.N.T?

I decided to be part of MINT because the message is something I stand firm in - not letting social media control aspects of my life mentally.

2. Why are you interested in social media and it's effect on mental health?

I'm interested because I have seen how social media has been changing the social dynamic for the masses - connecting everyone while isolating everyone, simultaneously. 

3. Why is this so important to you?  

I grew up on the cusp of the dotcom, digital, and social media era. And to witness it's effects as someone who was, at first, reluctant, has altered my view of the world as fragile.

4. How is M.I.N.T different from other anti-bullying campaigns that are out there? 

The focus on the mental effects of social media as well as the the resolves that can be met through the same channels that consume us.

5. How does it feel to get out there and spread your message to teens across the country?

 

I feel like I can be the medium between finding the real world and navigating the social media world for teens because of my position and will power to not be consumed by social media, but rather, using it to my advantage.

7. Who inspires you as you continue to build MINT? 

I think I'm most inspired by people and the life they live. It's evident to see how someone is living through social media but it's also evident that none can entirely live their live on social media. Those that try to are at the most risk of getting lost in the digital world. They forget the charm found in real world encounters. 

8. What is the best advice that you received that has really helped you?

"Sticks and stones may break my bones..." I like this phrase because it reminds me of how strong I can be when someone is trying to put me down.

9. What are your goals for this year?

I would like to become more open to the idea of being a voice for the people. Making my brand something people can relate to.

 

10. Where do you hope to see M.I.N.T in 5 years from now?

I see MINT having a dynamic effect on the youth culture, influencing the younger generation to be more adept with the realities of social media and its effects.

Depression & Social Media

Have you just read someone else’s status, seen someone’s tweet, or someone’s picture and got a little down? Are you feeling upset about the recent post of a friend or family member? Are you getting down or having trouble sleeping because of your social media use?

One of the things that can be a side effect of the use of social media is the effects it may have on our mental health. One of the most common feelings that we can see is the fact that we get down when we see someone else’s post where they appear to have fun or other stuff that makes you feel “less than” that other person. It is a very common phenomenon but sometimes, we see so many things that do that to us that it affects us in a deeper way.

We start feeling down about ourselves, which effects our self-esteem. We start thinking some negative thoughts about ourselves as we continue to compare our lives to what we are seeing on our social media and how it appears boring and unexceptional. We start isolating and start staying in bed, eating less (or more, depending on the person), and even start thinking if our lives are worth living? It is more common than you think.

It is estimated that 20% of teenagers will develop depressive symptoms that meets criteria for the diagnosis. While this stat may seem low to some (1 out of 5), this has to do with meeting the clinical definition. It is common for many teens to have some of these symptoms but it cannot be underemphasized how often it is related to the social media bombardment that they receive. But let’s also be realistic about it.

Previous generations were more isolated (no Internet) and had these symptoms in their lives also. They could, however, leave their social problems at school and go home and not hear about it.  With the advent of mobile phones, teens today cannot “Get away” from it as easily. It is important, however, to limit some social media use, not because it is bad, but what it does to their thoughts.

Please also remember that a person takes on average 5 selfies before posting the “right” one (6 for girls, 4 for boys). The post you see is a snapshot of a moment and not the entire time of the event. Most posts are meant to raise the self-esteem of the person posting, not to put yours down. Most posts put the best foot forward and this may be the best they feel all day. And finally, life is lived face to face not on social media. Try those uplifting thoughts when you see something that brings you down.

Guest Post: The Unexpected Parent Resource

M.I.N.T is expanding! Looking to guest post for us or join our team? Email us at fashionlane@alifeinthefashionlane.com.

Today, we have guest blogger Allison Koenig-Ford joining us. She's an English teacher in Florida, and an advocate for teens + mental health. She's an inspiration to all.

Most people will tell you that after having a child, you will look at the world in a different way. I had always heard this and wondered if it was true, or just something people said like, “Middle school is tough, but just wait until you get to High School.” And then, “High School is tough, but just wait until you get to college…”

Why do people tell us these things? I had always sort of resented it when people tried to warn me into being afraid. As a high school teacher, I tried my best to explain, rather than warn.

I did have a child—a girl to be exact—and my perspective did change, quite a bit. What began to blossom after giving birth, was another birth. A powerful perspective…one that no one had ever warned me about.

I began to look at my students with a new lens—focused and looking for answers.

I thought about the expectations placed upon them, I watched as they struggled to find their way, and find their voice. I observed them when inspired and proud, as they shared with the class, a thought, an insight.

With each snap-shot I thought about my daughter, Kennedy. I saw her in them. I was overwhelmed with what she might do in this world; the courage she might project. And on the opposite end of that spectrum, I feared for the labels which would undoubtedly stick themselves to her. So many children I meet have already allowed the label to introduce them, their ability, and their possibilities.

I began to see many adults who were once children, still wearing these things. I am this or that. I have always been that way. I have to do it that way, because it’s what I grew up with. No matter if it gets in the way of being fulfilled, I must wear our labels, I must repeat cycles, because that’s just the way it is.

Layers of insight were peeling back.

I started looking at myself, noticing many things I had bought into once upon a time. And while this awareness was painful, it was also liberating.  The more I saw, the more I wanted to know. I wanted to know about the process of how we evolve, what that is like for this current generation, and what kind of power I hold against this machine. I got curious, challenged my own dogma, put on my own “thinking cap.”

The product?

I decided to write a book, to become a speaker, and to show up on another level.

I asked over 500 teen girls to teach me. To school me on how to be a good parent, how to show up for my daughter with love, and on what is really happening within their hallways. We talked communication, honor, expectations, social media, body AND mind image, and so much more.

This was the crash course I needed. It was touching, invigorating, and oh so eye-opening. They taught me a lot! But what I observed on my own was unmatched by any lesson I had ever learned as an Educator.

I witnessed their confusion. How they were struggling with processing emotions, how they had bought into labels themselves, and how they needed great assistance in getting out of that whole mess. It was clear to me that they could identify a friction, but that they did not always have the tools to articulate and breakdown why it had happened, or how they might heal it.

The good news?

That’s what I love to do! Break something down, find the source, and come up with a solution.

 Teachers know how to do this, and they do it well.  We are always looking for that angle, that phrase, or that metaphor that does the trick. We are proactive thinkers. We are always trying to get ahead of any issues that many arise with our kids…and from their parents J

Why are we so good?

We have been burned. Our lessons have fallen flat. And we make so many mistakes in front of a very expectant audience, each day. It’s humbling. It can make you into an incredible study, if you let it.

So here’s what they taught me about parenting—the Cliff’s Notes—as we all use them from time to time:

If you thought college was rough, just wait until you become a Real Parent.

*And I will NOT leave you with blank a phrase to scare you, as that is not enough, and never was.

Real Parent World…

Where you will need to find great patience and invest in the work. You will need to watch your ego in order to gain connection, and you will need to do your own work internally—for you can never expect anyone to do what you will not—unless you wish to foster resentment.

You will have to prepare them for far more than Algebra and understanding Lord of the Flies. They need to learn to transcend that label, to honor themselves, to back away when that is threatened, and to get outside of a judgement. Invest in teaching them self-reliance, as we know statistically they will be outside of our company more than they will be in it, God willing.

We must rise to the grand occasion—the great exchange. We have to teach and learn through it all--with them, and for them.

They need us. They need us showing up and holding this type of space, so that they might hold it as well.

Thank you Allison for the lovely post! Check out her blog here!

Don't Be a Bully

Bullying is something that has been talked about for years, and is sometimes wrongly thrown around.

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. 

This aggressive behavior can take many forms:

  1. Physical Intimidation: this is the most commonly known form of bullying. It involves using physical power to push around, beat up, or hurt someone. 

2. Financial Intimidation: this is the lunch money issue we once knew. It also comes in form of paying someone to be protected. It may also relate to socioeconomic status, as well as what brands of clothes you have.

3. Cyber Bullying: this is becoming disconcertingly common, happening to 33% users of social media under 18, with 95% of social media users witnessing it. It uses social media to pressure someone out on purpose, telling other teen users not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, embarrassing someone in public. It is related to verbal bullying as it was once known. Our talks relate many issues to cyber bullying constantly. 

It can be intimidating to intervene in cyber bullying issues, as you don't want to lose your social status, appear uncool, or even policing your peers. We can also keep in mind of many cases where cyber bullying and bullying have led to some teenager to kill themselves and citing bullying and social media as the main source of their despair.

So what you should do?

Speak up anyway. It is a risk to take but don't you wish someone would support you if you were going through it yourself? You may lose a few friends but were they really your friends if this is all it took? 

Report it. Most social media platforms have a reporting button. It is usually anonymous and can be addressed by a neutral third party. You can also let a trusted adult, social worker, adjustment counselor about the issue. They will be more than happy to help the victim. You can also report it to law enforcement if it is of violent nature or sexual.

 Ask questions to the bully. It usually disarms the person bullying and makes it more difficult to continue to hurt others when others question you. It may encourage others to support you.

We all have a role in it. Don't go silent, your voice is needed by everyone.

Talk to your peers. Talking to your friends and other kids in school can also be beneficial. It takes away the power from the bully and you may also find allies that have been through what you have been through. There is something to be said about having strength and numbers. We are social and having a social support network definitely helps.

We all have the power to stop bullying. And it's in your hands. You are not powerless. You have the possibility to change things.

Meet Our Team

Welcome to the official M.I.N.T blog! Thanks for visiting our site. We're very excited to finally be LIVE! 

Most importantly, we're excited to give you BTS access to everything going on with Media Impact and Navigation for Teens. 

Let's introduce you to the creators of M.I.N.T first...

Steve Bisson and Alexa Curtis founded this project in 2016. 

Steve Bisson is a licensed LMHC based in Holliston, MA. Born and raised in Montreal, Steve moved to Boston 17 years ago and has lived here ever since. He speaks French and English. He studied at McGill University with a concentration in psychology, and we like to consider him the "book smart genius" on the panel. Steve has two young kids, and already sees the impact that social media has on the child brain. With a strong passion for influencing teens to start speaking out, Steve makes a fantastic addition to the team.

Alexa Curtis founded A Life in the Fashion Lane when she was 12, and began dealing with severe bullying and body insecurities. Many of her online pieces have gone viral, including this one on her experience in the modeling industry. She's appeared on shows like TODAY, GMA, Good Day LA and more discussing her experiences inspiring teens across the globe to follow their dreams and love who they are.

The M.I.N.T team is looking to expand. If you're a suitable candidate for this project, and are interested in young adults, please contact fashionlane@alifeinthefashionlane.com.