Using Media to Uplift and Inspire: When to Tune In, Not Out.

Dec. 20, 2011 True confessions, it’s been a heckuva challenging year, and it got me thinking about what different people do to bootstrap themselves out of adversity in its many forms whether it’s “first world” stress, third world crisis, health, home or holiday blues.

I turned to our SY advisory board child development specialist, Dr. Robyn Silverman and pointed the ‘whatcha got, girl?’ in her direction, and she replied with this “Cheer for the Cheerless” blog post pronto, my head bobbing with validation perusing her checklist of tips.

For an infusion of positive energy that streams directly into the soul,  I go straight for media that matters spotlighting REAL people making a difference in the world. Whether it’s broadcast en masse, like the recent CNN Heroes show (which will air again on Christmas eve and Christmas day, see international listings) or much smaller, online youth community hubs like the champions at Kids Are Heroes you’ll find a sure cure that uplifts and inspires.

Kids Are Heroes is a fabulous kids/animals/eco philanthropy grassroots org  co-founded by a dad (Gabe) daughter (MaryMargaret and her darling dog-Lily) who so far have profiled 261 youth leaders as change agents in nine countries to pay it forward so other kids can ‘see themselves’ as role models and step up next.

From schools, community projects and seeding kids entrepreneurial vision, to global engagement where kids can connect the dots on how their actions and service help others on a much larger scale, KAH uses media as a megaphone for bringing out the good in snapshots of philanthropy.

Right now they’re paying tribute to their own supporters with a ‘virtual giving wall’ if you’d like to add a block to their mosaic.

I just did—this year they have a BloggerWall, a Corporate Wall and a “Wall of Fame” (this screenshot  at left is from a prior year, and I’m getting a kick out of how many familiar faces (er, avatars) are recognizable from my own Twitter stream…it’s a birds of a feather social good peer posse for sure)

For kids, I view this as a fun way to give and have it almost instantly give back by enabling them to ‘see themselves’ as a “show and tell” example of kids helping kids, instilling philanthropy while appealing to the ‘starpower’ fame fandango which marketers always use only reappropriated for a good cause. (I’m not wild about the whole starstruck bit, and counter-market against it constantly, especially since stats keep showing a lopsided propensity for kids to cling to fame/celebrification, so it’s encouraging that KAH has flipped the message to showcase the REAL heroes) 

The Kids Are Heroes honorees are the REAL life celebrities that kids should be applauding over the media channels and cover stories being received in pop culture. Clearly it’s a ‘reality show’ that’s powerfully engaging, literally building a virtual wall of self-worth and aspirational peer to peer ‘fame.’ Pop on over and put up a star!

I keep thinking of the limitless potential of media when used to triumph rather than tear down…

…KAH would certainly make a meaningful media ‘reality TV’ challenge and a solid pilot show as I wrote here about ShopGirls, the eco-marathon Project Raceway concept of STEM car-building racers from Granite Falls HS that we helped sponsor.

Am I right? Do it, Hollywood. Put some reality in that Reality TV, showcasing positive kids like these.

The ‘real people making real change’ inspiration can zing in the selflessness and crusader directions too, as one dip of a toe into my twitter stream brings positive people by the thousands into my mind’s eye with a ripple effect that serves as a bracer for any pity party spiraling downward.

Example? A chilling tweet like this one from stopped me cold:

“They only need three laptops and 25 children in a room.” #Philippines #childtrafficking


It took me all of 3 clicks to land smack dab in a bunch of uplifting stories of success and triumphs and individual accounts of kids saved, action steps, mobilization and mindshare…What initially melts onto you as helplessness and angst can ignite quickly into activism fueled by can-do storytelling and insatiable spirit of love conquering all.

Caveat for the ultra-blue: There can be some backdraft if you’re not able to get beyond the fact that it’s happening in the first place, so choose this tactic carefully.

For many passionistas, there’s nothing like a ‘do something’ take charge motivation to jolt you into perspective, lift you out of the doldrums, and contextualize ‘first world problems’ in a worldview of life.

That one single tweet from Rob Morris, President and Co-Founder of made me leap forward to how to best support the efforts of orgs like these, such as GEMS Girls here in the U.S., showing media literacy films like Very Young Girls and gifting music and art that makes a difference for holidays, turning purchase power into positivity, like this “Made By Survivors” site…

I’m thankful for all those years my mom taught me how to use “by comparison” analogies to lift myself up from just about any sidewinder building a core foundation of strength, coping skills, and a very empowered ‘Survivor Personality’(great book by the way). It makes me wonder how we can best harness today’s social media touchpoints for kids to teach resiliency and engagement beyond a ‘can do’ click and vault a new generation “Z” into being the gamechangers for the planet too. (see the entire KooDooZ  website for powerfully positive examples of media magic meets hands-on service learning. Inspiring!) 

I changed channels to Facebook for awhile and found people posting upbeat links like this one in Time about Secret Santas paying off strangers’ layaway items…

…But also got concerned by all the year end angst, with youth particularly.

Predictably, most teen status lines this week are stressing out FAR too much about finals,  followed by family and relationship dramas, joblessness and student debt with ‘no money for the holidays’ from the anecdotal glimpse…

But I noticed a bright spark uniting many of the gripes…It was the ‘FML’ style humor used to uplift each other in ‘misery loves company’ mode. Social media and depression can be a double-edged sword as research and stats indicate but still, it got me thinking about how many kids tune IN to social media when they need a lift rather than tune out to isolation.

As I flipped back over to Twitter, my platform of choice, voila…I discovered the newly overhauled Tune In, Not Out site for teens and young people aged 16-25, subtitled as “24-hour TV for life’s challenges.”

“Ask and ye shall receive” I suppose, as it’s exactly what I was thinking about…A peer to peer, crowd-sourced, share your story style curation contributing helpful first-person vignettes exclusively by and for youth.

Tune In, Not Out has a comfy, warm, ‘you’re not alone’ vibe that sets a nice tone of peer to peer outreach as always there when you need it, whether for 10 minutes of purposeful storytelling, or perusing the depths in show-n-tell first-person video stories  factsheets and blogs on a wide range of topics. It turns the ‘always on’ media moniker into a positive context. Seems perfect for those times when youth are conflicted, up late, and head-spinning but not ready to ‘share’ with friends/family or their usual support web…they just want to process some of their ‘stuff’ in a safe haven.

The site describes itself as a blank canvas for doing just that, and it’s obviously been vetted for user generated content, context and mental health safety with plenty of partner orgs as well.

I’ll be adding their link to our ‘part one’ prior post during mental health month in May for “positive picks” in youth outreach.(also features It Gets Better and Project Happiness and more) Great find. That’s a teen share for sure.

Ratcheting up a notch, the big news in social media channels for youth support and prevention to make sure kids don’t ‘tune out’ altogether is the newly launched Facebook suicide intervention reporting tool this week partnering with the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Premiering to some ‘how does this work’ layers of mixed reviews, it seems like it has the powerful potential to turn a status line into a call for help (or at the very least friends ‘checking in’ on the person) by tapping the media platform as a sort of ‘first response’ alarm.

The ability to “live chat with a crisis counselor” via text rather than phone line adds just one more preference option into the comfort zone of an angst-ridden youth that could exponentially save lives if sheer numbers and eyeballs of friends’ newsfeeds are any indication.

From NetFamily News:

“The way the new process works is, “if a user spots a suicidal thought on a friend’s page, he or she can report it to Facebook by clicking a link next to the comment. Facebook then sends an email directly to the person who posted the suicidal comment and encourages the user to call a hotline or click on a link to begin a confidential chat with a counselor,” Slate reports.

…The Facebook triage team also contacts authorities local to the user and the Lifeline with the user’s email address and city. This is for users in the US and Canada for now.

I’ll do a full story once it’s settled in a bit more to interview the Facebook Safety team about how it works in terms of notifications and safety checks, as I know some have ‘big brother-ish’ concerns while others temper enthusiasm due to prankster digital caveats. I guess it all depends on how the system is deployed but it sure makes sense to use a turnkey platform with notification options galore into a public health and safety innovation for the good of all.

Meanwhile, here’s the AP newsbreak on the story with some helpful stats, along with this one from Forbes as well as write-ups by the two co-founders of Larry Magid’s piece about depression/angst intervention on SafeKids titled, “Facebook Empowers Friends to Prevent Suicide”  And Anne Collier’s post on NetFamily News, “Will the Global Village Have a 911?”

(Note: media literacy wise, ConnectSafely. org is an excellent nonprofit forum w/some fiscal ties to FB, they’ll definitely be in the ‘to interview’ pile for January, so ‘tune in, not out’ 😉

Last but not least, for hackneyed holiday adages, the ‘giving rather than receiving’ gem has some solid neuroscience behind it, and can play out in some simple social media ways to jumpstart some joy juice.

Whether it’s surprising a friend with a glowing “endorsement” on LinkedIn, an Amazon review of their latest book, a ‘like’ on Facebook, or a ‘retweet or favorite’ on Twitter, the desire to be desired is a colossally compelling human trait, which doesn’t take much to make EVERYone feel good about themselves, as long as it’s sincere.

The Wall Street Journal video “Is it true giving is good for your health?” explains the dopamine whys behind genuine, unconditional giving and the impact on our presence.

After all…presence over presents is what the season is all about.

Being there in your head, your heart, and your spirit for your friends and family instead of ‘going through the motions’ in hustle-n-bustle frenzied consumer nuttiness…

Now pardon me while I go play elf and doorbell ditch to a Scrooge that could use some light in his life and hide in the bushes to watch the reaction.

Yes, it’s gonna bring me joy. No, I won’t use media to record, post and playback for other people (privacy issues) but I will use media to seed the idea, share the concepts, and ask others to pay it forward in their own communities.

It’s the simplest moments of being mindful and meaningful that can turn spirits around when using media as a conduit.

What’s your sure cure for beating holiday blues when a winter walk sounds more like solitude than solace? Sharing is caring…

Related Reading by Amy Jussel, on Shaping Youth

Positive Picks for Youth Outreach (Part One)

Using Media to Gift Without Buying (“I spy but didn’t buy”)

Y-Me? Talk to Me: Because Media Matters for Youth Outreach

Harry Potter Alliance: Using Pop Culture Pervasiveness Positively

Blame Drew’s Cancer for My Attitude of Gratitude

The Perfect Gift for A Man: Reinventing Manhood/Inspire Fnd

Teen Book Publishers Premiere Louder Than Words TV

Olympics: Using Media to Inspire All Ages/Stages

Media’s Positive Impact: Twitter Sends An Orphan to College

Brain Cake: Teen Girls Talk Tech & Worldchanging

Media Matters: SF Giants Are Champions Beyond the Field

Laramie Project: Using Media to Teach Tolerance (10yrs later)

Can New Media Curb Anxiety in Stressed Out Students?

Body Image: Tips For Teens To Survive The Media Morass

Role Modeling Resiliency: How Are Kids’ Coping Skills?

Reach and Teach: Global Goods That Do Good

Pity Party? We Have An App For That! (FML)

When Life Goes Sideways…Is There An App for That? (mHealth)

Grammy Glitz/GEMS Girls: Mary Blige




  1. I love this post, Amy! It’s so important for people to learn to see the ways that media can be used positively and to see the ways they can get involved with it themselves. Thanks for a helpful, uplifting group of resources!

  2. Thanks, Jennifer…as you know, I think social media has some powerful pro and cons that need assessed beyond punditry and stats/user freq, trendtracking/and peer to peer influence…so it’s impt to step back a bit sometimes and think of the converse when we read stories like ‘SM causes depression’ etc—because there’s always two-sides to the coin.

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