The Real Social Media Stars
These three teens are sharing their passions and sharpening their talents with every single post. How will you make your mark in the online world?
Whether it’s your mom, dad, the nosy cashier at the grocery store, or a perfect stranger at Starbucks, chances are you’ve had your fair share of adults insisting that you spend too much time staring at your phone and not enough time doing...well, whatever it is they think you should be doing instead! It can be frustrating to hear them complain that all “kids these days” (groan) do is take selfies and play games—especially when, in reality, you’re exploring the world, connecting with people who share your obsessions, and sharpening your amazing talents (photography! writing! design!) before you even get to college.
We talked to three amazing teens who have created their own incredible communities online. Let their stories inspire you to take your screen time to a new level!
The Bowtie Businessman 33K+ followers
When Mo, 14, couldn’t find bowties he liked, he started designing his own. Today he’s the boss of his own online company, Mo’s Bows: facebook.com/mosbowsmemphis
Even at 9 years old, Mo had serious style. “I wanted to look sharp. I’ve always liked to dress nice!” he says. But the shops in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, didn’t carry what he wanted—cool bow ties. Instead of giving up, Mo asked his great-grandmother to teach him how to sew. That way, he could make exactly what he wanted for himself. “I’d wear my homemade ties out, and people would ask me where I got them,” he says. “That’s how I started getting my first customers, but things really took off with social media.”
Mo sounds kind of annoyed when he says, “my mom only lets me have Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter,” but he’s maxing out all three of them to get attention for Mo’s Bows. “Yes, social media is free advertising, but it’s so much more,” he says. In fact, if you comment on one of Mo’s posts, you’ll probably get a response back. “People appreciate being heard, and they want that personal connection,” he says. “The more they feel like they know you, the more they want to support you.”
But think again if you’re assuming Mo is all business and no pleasure. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t playing games on my phone sometimes,” Mo admits, “but I use my phone for everything— from work stuff, to joking with my friends, to school projects.”
As for whether he could exist without his cell by his side? “Of course I could,” he says, “but I wouldn’t want to!”
The Foodie Teen 10K+ followers
Alessandra, 17, was stuck in the hospital for seven weeks, but instead of letting herself get bored, she focused on sharing her love of healthy eating—and created a media empire in the process! Instagram: @thefoodieteen
Cooking and baking have always been Alessandra’s favorite hobbies, which is why it was extra hard for her to cope with a celiac disease diagnosis that limited her food options. “I had to spend time in the hospital,” she says. “Lying in bed is good for a day or two, but there’s only so much Netflix you can watch!”
So Alessandra went online in search of something to do. “I started blogging about what I was dealing with, and writing about the foods I could still eat. Getting e-mails from teenagers who’ve dealt with similar health issues made me feel less alone.”
After Alessandra was allowed to go home, she started testing new recipes and sharing them with the world as The Foodie Teen. “People eat with their eyes,” she says, “so I knew Instagram and photography in general were going to be important.”
Borrowing her dad’s old camera, she started shooting the food she made. Now, less than two years later, Alessandra has a massive following—and a book deal! “I took the pictures in the book myself, which was very important to me,” she says.
“I’m used to having total creative control, and I didn’t want to give that up!”
The Literary Stylist 14K+ followers
Literature and fashion are two of Laura Elisabeth’s favorite things in the world, and now she shares those passions on her Tumblr: fashion-by-the-book.tumblr.com
“About two years ago, I was on Pinterest and saw something that said, ‘I collect books like some girls collect shoes,’” says Laura Elisabeth. “It made me mad, because the idea that girls have to pick one or the other is ridiculous. I collect books and shoes!”
To prove her point, Laura Elisabeth started Fashion by the Book when she was 16. It’s a Tumblr blog where she features outfits inspired by the books she’s reading. “The first outfit I posted was for the first Harry Potter, and I really didn’t expect anybody to see it,” she says. “Now I’ve made friends from all over the world!” (Cool side note: She’s been reblogged by The Fault in Our Stars author John Green!)
According to Laura Elisabeth, a lot of her readers are brought in by the fashion—then get interested in the books: “I think reading can change lives. So if I can introduce people to that, I’m happy with what I do.”
Today, in addition to running Fashion by the Book, Laura Elisabeth is an official member of book publisher Simon & Schuster’s teen blogging team. “I couldn’t believe it when they contacted me,” she says. “It shows that you never know what will happen when you put yourself out there.”