Like most girls today who are growing up tethered to their tech – connecting and socializing via the screen – many of my Digital Daughter Ambassadors (DDAs) have been profoundly influenced by experiences with cyber bullying, sexting, text dating, FOMO and the like. I’m honored to introduce you to my DDA Lauren, who has not only risen above and beyond her own middle school tech nightmare, but is doing something about it in a really big and meaningful way…
Meet Lauren Galley, teen mentor and founder of Girls AboveSociety, her non-profit born out of her own personal angst-ridden experience and a desire to help girls everywhere cope and thrive in our digital world.
Back in January, Lauren and I met on Twitter (of course!) and I continue to be blown away by her dizzying schedule, pure dedication and unending list of accomplishments. At age 20, she has just finished her sophomore year at SHSU and is pursuing a Masters in Psychology. Lauren is a TEDx Speaker, Huffington Post Contributor, Official Ambassador for Secret Deodorant’s Mean Stinks Campaign, and just wrote a book, “Kissing Frogs:In Search of Prince Charming.” Most recently, she is working on a course in cyber citizenship for the Texas Education Agency,
I asked Lauren about social media, social anxiety, the importance of speaking articulately and with confidence, and her generation’s future. Here’s what she had to say…
Audrey: Hi Lauren! I am so honored to have you as a Digital Daughter!
Lauren: Hi! I am so honored to be a DDA, and so happy to connect!
Audrey: Already at age 20, you have done so much to empower girls to be confident as they face pressures of today’s social media driven society. To kick things off, would you mind first telling us why you called your non-profit, Girls Above Society, and then fill us in on the motivation behind it?
Lauren: I chose the name Girls Above Society because I believe a young girl with positive morals, values and confidence is a Girl Above Society, one who ignores the “noise” of the media and how it shapes youth. A Girl Above Society will rock to her own beat and rise above the pressures and challenges of the tween and teen years.
I was bullied terribly in middle school. A girl on my cheer team put up a bulletin on MySpace and basically ripped me to pieces. I had no idea why she would do this and was completely mortified after I read it. EVERYONE could see her bulletin. I didn’t want to go to school even though I knew I had not done anything wrong. It turned out that the girl was jealous and she apologized months later and said she shouldn’t have done it. Her boyfriend at the time had asked me about homework in the hall and she saw us talking and thought I was trying to steal her boyfriend. This could have been resolved with talking it out. It would have saved a lot of tears, anxiety and self-doubt.
Audrey: I am so sorry that you had to suffer through that harrowing experience, and I am sure there are lots of and lots of other girls out there that can relate. Do you think social media promotes jealousy?
Lauren: Absolutely. Girls spend a lot of time scrolling the feeds looking at everyone else’s highlight reels so I do believe that it is easy for girls to judge and get jealous. Girls are also concerned about the numbers on social media. How many likes or followers determines their self-worth.
Audrey: Yes. That is a big issue that we all suffer from, adults included, and one I have explored in my blog, “The ‘100 Club’ – More ‘Likes’ Equals More Popularity Points” (and covered in Your Teen Magazine). How about engaging with friends? At this point, interacting on social media is pretty much the norm. Would you say that social networks are the best way to “talk” with your friends? Or do you prefer face-to-face?
Lauren: Face-to-face communication all the way!! We can’t really understand how words are taken when it is delivered in a text format. There is so much emotion in our faces and actions that explain how we feel and the context in what we are saying. We can use emojis and exclamation points all day but we still don’t get the human connection we get when we are face-to-face.
On the positive side, social media does bring us together in a sense of living far away and being able to see each other via pics or videos but it can also become a habit and a replacement of taking the time to get together and have real convos and friend time.
Throughout my travels and speaking to tween and teen girls, I find that girls get lost in communication. Like you say in your article, girls are so busy focusing on their social media #’s (likes, comments, “friends”) that they have been shaped to believe that these numbers define who they are and their idea of communicating is expressed in such a way that no other generation has seen. This isn’t the case for all girls but most girls are finding their validation from numbers instead of quality face-to-face conversations.
Audrey: You mention the downfalls of relying on emojis and exclamation points. Do you think that our digital communications are affecting how girls communicate, particularly their ability to speak confidently? And, what about the “like, ya know” syndrome and the epidemic of “I cant’s,” totally’s and whatever’s”?
Lauren: The “like” syndrome is becoming more and more the norm with tweens and teens. Adults have caught this syndrome as well, but I feel it runs more rampant with the younger generations. I have to self-police myself when it comes to using “like” too often. With it being a norm, we tend to use it without even thinking. As I travel speaking, I find it important to delete this from my vocabulary as it weakens my ability to be taken seriously. I feel adults judge each other more so than youth. I do feel strongly about teaching youth the art of communication. I also feel that social media use has taken over as our main means of communicating, therefore our vocabulary suffers with these tics.
Audrey: What do you think the future will be for your generation’s use of digital communications?
Lauren: I believe my generations’ future will consist of pushing buttons and having the ability to get things done very quickly. My generation IS lacking in verbal communications skills. My hope is that generations to come never forget the power of human interaction.
Audrey: Thank you so much Lauren. You are truly an inspiration to us all!