MINT

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!

Our Ethics

Us at M.I.N.T. stand for a few things. Here's some Monday inspiration and guidance to get you through your week!

1. We stand with Planned Parenthood

Our team doesn't have any issues supporting this cause. With a President in office who doesn't believe in many of the topics we believe in, it's important that more people start standing up for their rights. We are trying to reduce the stigma around mental health, AND supporting the causes you believe in.

2. We stand with teens taking over

The past few years have revolutionized how people view teens. In the past, teens weren't given nearly the time of day that adults were, but now, teens are running the game. Millennials are writing for the top magazines, learning how to pitch the minute they're born (literally) and following their dreams. That's what we like to see!

3. Mental health issues are not your fault

There is a stigma around mental health issues that we are trying to reduce. But many people still blame the person with mental health issues, stating that it's "there problem" or "their issue" when it actually isn't. About 1/25 adults in the United States face mental health issues, and instead of blaming, be a friend for whoever you know is facing some issues. You may be able to help them overcome them.

4. Teens need M.I.N.T.

We're a bit biased, but from our research, teens need M.I.N.T. Teens need to hear about their bodies, their wellness, and their lives. We believe strongly in opening up the discussion on health to teens, and we need your help to continue pursuing our passion to make every teen fall in love with who they are.

Happy Monday!

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. 

Compassion and Love

 

Do we overshare on social media? It is an interesting question and concept when you think about it.

We tell people how we feel about lots of things: from your Aunt Marie’s new haircut (heart, thumbs up) to the news out of your favorite political party (Yes!) or the opposition (clearly, they don’t get it). We also show indifference to certain people’s news and we then celebrate or vilify the little things of a former acquaintance we haven’t talked to or seen in years.

It helps define our views of others, as well as ourselves and also helps shape the circle of social media friends we have around us. It is a good way to also let others know where we stand and how you are a firm believer of whatever you. Social media lets us express ourselves freely and openly and this can be very rewarding and uplifting. IT is you, it is a voice, a way to let others know who you are and your stance on just about everything.

But is it something we should be doing? I think it is so easy to say what we want but it also brings less understanding of other points of view sometimes. We ignore certain things others may say as to not offend, or hurt or deal with the consequences. Sometimes, we speak up, where we feel it needs to be done and may be beneficial for others to know how you feel. This can cause conflict where we start getting more passionate and entrenched in our beliefs of what we said. But is this a good way to show compassion?

I think that we are allowed to say what we want but we also got to understand not everyone in our circle of friends will like, be pleased, or feel the same way about what we post. And we need to lear that this is OK. There is a place for a great dialogue in our new way of communicating, without name calling or standing so firm in our beliefs that it costs us a very important thing: our humanity.

This is not to say to not disagree or talk to the other person. We need to communicate it in a more compassionate way. Suggestions include:

-avoid all or nothing thinking: we don’t always need to prove our point. Sometimes, others will bring in another point of view. Don’t dig deeper in your trench but be curious about their point of view

-agree to disagree: I am a firm believer that root beer barrels are the best candy ever. Why should I fight with someone who posts a picture of Swedish Fish? I know this example is somewhat trivial but think about just agreeing on disagreeing on the other stuff too. No attacks are needed

-look at it empathically: we lost this skill on social media. Walk a mile in that person’s shoes and see where they are coming from. Maybe, from their point of view, the opposite of your beliefs can ring true for them.

- where is the common ground?: in all disagreements, there could be a common ground. That does not mean we agree on something, but we can find a place where we can all agree.

Show compassion for others and yourself on these platforms, it may just open your eyes. The whole “You are with us or against us” is a fallacy.

Social Media and the Brain

An interesting article we recently read on CNN...

Whether you're on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, What's App or Twitter, the way you communicate with friends today is changing.

Keeping in touch is no longer about face to face, but instead screen to screen, highlighted by the fact that more than 1 billion people are using Facebook every day.

Social media has become second nature -- but what impact is this having on our brain?

    Reward circuitry

    In a recent study, researchers at the UCLA brain mapping center used an fMRI scanner to image the brains of 32 teenagers as they used a bespoke social media app resembling Instagram. By watching the activity inside different regions of the brain as the teens used the app, the team found certain regions became activated by "likes", with the brain's reward center becoming especially active.

     

    Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time

    "When teens learn that their own pictures have supposedly received a lot of likes, they show significantly greater activation in parts of the brain's reward circuitry," says lead author Lauren Sherman. "This is the same group of regions responding when we see pictures of a person we love or when we win money."

    The teenagers were shown more than 140 images where 'likes' were believed to from their peers, but were in fact assigned by the research team.

    Scans revealed that the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain's reward circuitry, was especially active when teens saw a large number of likes on their own photos, which could inspire them to use social media more often.

    Peer influence

    As part of the experiment, participants were also shown a range of "neutral" photos showing things like food and friends, and "risky" photos depicting cigarettes and alcohol. But the type of image had no impact on the number of "likes" given by the teens. they were instead more likely to 'like' the more popular photos, regardless of what they showed. This could lead to both a positive and negative influence from peers online.

    Sherman believes these results could have important implications among this age group.

    "Reward circuitry is thought to be particularly sensitive in adolescence," says Sherman, "It could be explaining, at least in part, why teens are such avid social media users."

    Read: What parents need to know when kids are on social media

    Social learning

    Adolescence is a period that is very important for social learning, which could explain why teens are often more tuned in to what's going on in their respective cultures. With the rise of social media, Sherman thinks we may even be learning to read likes and shares instead of facial expressions.

    "Before, if you were having a face to face interaction everything is qualitative. You use someone's gestures or facial expressions, that sort of thing, to see how effective your message is," she says.

    "Now if you go online, one of the ways that you gauge the effectiveness of your message is in the number of likes, favorites or retweets, and this is something that's really different and unique about online interaction."

     

    This is your brain on LSD, literally

    However, the study may not be applicable to everyone, according to Dr. Iroise Dumontheil, at Birkbeck University.

    "[The study] only has adolescents and so they can't really claim anything specific about whether it's adolescents who react to this differently compared to adults."

    Read: Teens spend nine hours a day using media, report says

    Changing the brain

    Dumontheil does, however, concur that social media is affecting our brain, particularly its plasticity, which is the way the brain grows and changes after experiencing different things.

    "Whenever you learn something new or you experience something, it's encoded in your brain, and it's encoded by subtle changes in the strength of connections between neurons," says Dumontheil.

    For example, one study showed that the white matter in an adults' brains changed as they learned how to juggle over a period of several months. "They found that if you scan [the brains of] adults before they learn how to juggle, and then three months later, you can see changes in the brain structure," says Dumontheil.

    Time spent on social media could, therefore, also cause the brain to change and grow.

    "We might be a bit less good at reading subtle expressions on faces that are moving, but we might be much quicker at monitoring what's going on in a whole group of our friends," says Dumontheil.

    So are these new skills a good or a bad thing? Neither, she says. "It's just a way we have of adapting to our environment."

    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.

     

    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.