Familiar Strangers. Future Friends.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

On 4/01/2014 11:25:00 pm by Teens Next Door in    No comments
Our journey as Teens Next Door in the Media Challenge 2014 has had its ups and downs, but we have definitely learnt and grown a lot from it. Join us now as we take a trip down memory lane to recall all that we have discovered!

The 3 Little Pigs: A Little Singapore Story

We started out our advocacy with the idea of the 3 Singaporean Little Pigs. We realized that many of the little pigs in Singapore were closing their doors, both literally and figuratively, to those around them. What we wanted to do was to encourage them to open those doors, little by little, to the familiar strangers around them, their acquaintances, those they met every day, those they hadn’t gotten to know. We wanted to use social media as an enabler for this change, in that people would share their stories of friendship to inspire others to take the leap of faith. Slowly but surely, we wanted to make a community that was more open and inclusive, and thus a warmer and stronger-knit place for all.

And indeed, we have done just that. Our very first activity, the Selfie Session with the RGS Year 3 cohort, encouraged everyone to get to know a little more about the person they were sitting next to that day, and share it with everyone else in the form of a short reason why they appreciated her as a caption to their selfie. 

During the workshops and Mini-Challenge, we, too, took that first step to get to know our fellow participants whom we had spent those two enriching days with. It started with a simple hello and an exchange of social media accounts, and that has allowed us to stay in contact over the past few weeks and encourage each other to pull through the hectic school term. And over the course of these past few weeks, we have been receiving and sharing stories of friendships that were forged with strangers through our social media platforms; indeed, we have seen the spirit of Teens Next Door spread in our RGS community and out into the rest of Singapore.

a fun-shot photo together with Bowen Secondary (:
a polariod we took together with The Unseen Scene from Evergreen Secondary

Indeed, in addition to the “software” of our social impact, we have tackled some hardware in this competition too - namely, resource planning and management. Our main resources in this project were social media, electronic gadgets and people.

Social media was probably the resource we relied on the most heavily. Be it for spreading of our message through our team accounts, publicity of our blogs or even publicizing our team account through personal accounts, our social media platforms were indeed well-utilized. Specifically, Twitter was the platform we worked best with as we posted live updates, short facts, little jokes and carried out meaningful conversations with our followers! We used Facebook mainly to post deeper insights and reflections as there was no character limit. However, due to the in-between nature of Facebook posts (longer than a tweet, shorter than a blog post), our posting there was rather irregular. Meanwhile, for Instagram, we felt that we could upload more photos. Because the photos’ resolution was high, we could not upload them immediately and thus, these photos were sometimes forgotten. The blog itself could also have been further utilized as a main social media platform, instead of merely a depository for all our content. Better planning of our content could have allowed clearer delineation across the various platforms and thus more effective use as well.

The next resource was electronic gadgets. Fortunately, all our team members had smartphones with 3G/4G data plans that allowed for not just posting but also communication on the go. We also had our personal laptops so it was not necessary for us to loan out the iPads and laptops from DMC. However, in view of the field trip, most of us did not bring our laptops which hindered work on our mini-challenge deliverables and caused us to have to work more at home. On a positive note, our group also had a video camera, DSLR and internet-sharing enabled digital camera, which allowed us to produce quality pictures. Overall, the planning and use of our electronic gadgets was done well.

Last but not least, one of the most invaluable resources is human resource. We were able to play on the strengths of individual team members to work better together. Aisyah and Julia are more outgoing and thus helped us make many new friends and also rally existing friends towards our cause. Meanwhile, Clara-Ann and Fatima are stronger writers and thus helped to helm the making of deliverables. Victoria, our tireless blogger, slaved through pages and pages of HTML to make the blog both aesthetically appealing and accessible. However, having said that, we can still work on playing on the bubbly and serious contrast in our presentations as instead of balancing each other out, they have been clashing a little during our presentations so far. This is one thing we will be working towards in our final presentation!

But we could not have done this alone! Mrs Alfie, as an English teacher, provided essential feedback to improve the quality of our blog posts and also helped to secure several announcement slots on very short notice so that we could receive maximum air time and publicity to share about our cause. Noor, our student leader, also shared with us his personal experiences and tips to keep us going. Lastly, Ms Harjit Kaur helped to refine our ideas and guide us through her thought-provoking questions.

All in all, we realized the value of each of these items as resources, and the importance of planning them to maximize their potential.

From Kids to Teens
The inspiration for our team name came from a childhood TV show, Operation: Kids Next Door, wherein an uncanny group of children come together and rise above their differences to change what they feel strongly about in their community. We hope to be a sequel of sorts to this TV show, and that’s why we call ourselves Teens Next Door.

In a way, the journey is really quite reflective of our growth throughout this competition. Similar to the transition from childhood to teenagehood, our responsibilities increase. Apart from meeting the demands and requirements of this competition, we had to juggle school work and assessments. Indeed, we were unable to carry out some of our plans for Teens Next Door, but we also learned to make personal sacrifices for the team’s progress. We also learnt that not everything was play and luck, that popularity on social media was not a hit-or-miss situation but that there were methods and ways to go about building credibility and rapport. But most importantly, we grew from Kids to Teens and retained the youthful passion and burst of energy. We also spread that positive energy to work with others and further our cause.

So is our journey a yay or nay? Let us know what you think, or if you have any feedback! But for us, it’s a definite yay.

On 4/01/2014 05:40:00 pm by Teens Next Door in    No comments
Some people see only the stranger, but Samantha Rabino looked beyond the "stranger" and saw the future friend. This was what she shared with us.

"So I paid my friend $10 to take a photo. Was on my way home, I saw this cute auntie picking out pieces of paper and drink cans from a trashbin, bent back and hand all the way in the bin and all. And I was just walking, walking and just thinking about how I would feel if I was hunched over a trashbin, hand in it, feeling around among the unworldly space in which we throw all our trash in. And I walked past her. But heck, I turned around haha.

And we had a nice half- hour chat about the pitfalls of life and about kids and how they never seem to care sometimes and about being old and seeing more of the world than everyone else and being sick and not having enough and not BEING, SEEING and FEELING just enough for our liking. And in that moment, I felt like woah- the universe has offered me so much more than I deserve and I still yearn for more when some people have much less than they are entitled to.

But one thing most of us still have is time and well, treasure it, I guess. Thanks for reading."

We commend Samantha's courage to take the first step to befriending someone, and her compassion to help a stranger, even if it was just a small deed. Most people would pay $10 for a photo with a celebrity, but Samantha "paid $10" for this photo with the auntie to help her in the little way she could. She has inspired us to take the first step in starting conversations with other people in our society today.Would you pay $10 for a photo just to help someone you barely know?

Monday, 31 March 2014

On 3/31/2014 10:51:00 pm by Teens Next Door in    No comments
If you think social media is only a distraction, think again! On 18 and 19 March 2014, we attended a series of workshops and took part in a mini-challenge that was really an eye-opening experience. The workshops taught us much about how we can utilize social media effectively, while our visit to Kranji Countryside for the mini-challenge opened our eyes to the beauty of nature in Singapore. Above all, we experienced first-hand how, with a simple hello, we made friends with other fellow contestants.

Confused about how all this links? Fear not, for we have a list of 7 ways that social media has made us better people! We have learnt to expand our social circles, to be more succinct in communication, and to be more sensitive to our audience!

1. #Togetherness

No matter where you are or when you’re posting, hashtags always help you find that common ground with other people around the world! Did you know that on Instagram, #instagood has over 7,690,902 posts? With hashtags, you get to connect with even more people who are interested in the same things! #isntthatnice We can bond with more like-minded people and convey our thoughts to a larger audience.

2. Back to Basics

On social media, everything has to be kept short and sweet. Who wants to read an essay when they are looking for some fun?
So instead of using 1000 words to describe your day, we learnt to use more creative ways to keep people reading your content. Things like videos and gifs change things up a bit, and people go to great lengths to keep things S&S, IYGWIM (short and sweet, if you get what I mean).

3. It’s harder to forget things… sort of.

Our memories may be getting worse, but at least we have a record of everything online in a hoard of different places! That being said, anything that goes onto the internet stays there and never gets forgotten. Perhaps we should think twice before posting anything on the internet...

4. Sensitivity: We are forced to care about what others think.

Person A likes dancing and soft toys, but person B likes computer games and soft toys. But if A goes on and on about the latest dance moves while B is only interested in the latest Skyrim cheats, there isn’t a common area where they can connect and form a relationship. When blogging, tweeting, instagramming, or posting something on facebook, we are forced to think about what others like in addition to what we want to communicate across, We are forced to find that sweet spot, something that’s appealing to everyone, the “soft toy” that will engage all our readers!

5. We dig all the way into the Mariana Trench

“To boldly go where no man has gone before.” - Star Wars 

We will go to any extent to push boundaries, to venture into uncharted territory, in order to bring to our audience new perspectives and a deeper insight into things. The quirkier, bolder, newer the insight is, the more interest it will receive! With social media, news can spread like wildfire, especially when it’s new and hot off the press-keyboard! We learn to dig deep when using social media.

6. We’ve been everywhere without going anywhere. 

We’ve brought everyone to Kranji Countryside with us: live updates on Twitter, pictures on Instagram, a more in-depth introduction to Kranji on Facebook, and a video on youTube. The only muscles you’d really need to move are your fingers, to retweet the tweets, to double-tap your way through photos and to comment on our Facebook posts. All this in the comfort of your home, perhaps even under our snuggly quilt. And you got to learn everything along with us!

7. Making friends is that much easier

Making friends is really just a click of an “add friend” button away, so social media has really made connecting with people really easy. Let’s all harness these benefits and take the opportunity to get to know the people around us better today!
On 3/31/2014 05:14:00 pm by Teens Next Door in    No comments

This video is a remarkably amazing example of how a simple hello can go a long way, just like how Peter made a new friend. And really, anyone can be our friend, despite the apparent differences between us!
We shared this video with the Year 1s during hall assembly and received a very enthusiastic response! It was indeed a meaningful introduction to our cause. According to our Senior Deputy Principal, Mrs Shirley Tan, we raised an "interesting perspective" on societal issues.
Thank you to all, for your support!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

On 3/19/2014 11:36:00 pm by Teens Next Door in    No comments
The 3 Singaporean Little Pigs
“By the hair on my chinny chin chin, I will not let you in!” said the little pig. Not only did the little pig close his doors to the Big Bad Wolf but also to everyone else around him, even people he saw every day. Never once did he say hi to the other animals around him, though he occasionally stopped to help the Old Tortoise cross the street. But what this little pig, like the other little pigs, needed to realise was that not every stranger was going to huff and puff and blow his house down! The pig, like all of us, should try to connect with the familiar strangers and other Singaporeans around him. If only we open up and make the effort, everyone around us could possibly be a friend.

Let’s use "anti-socialism" to make youths more "social"!
Based on a study conducted by Singapore Polytechnic, youth in Singapore used an average of 5.5 hours of social media each day in 2012, and countless articles and forum letters have been written on how this is making them more anti-social. Instead of trying to get teens off social media, we are going to harvest their interest in social media to get them to be more social; social media does have the word "social" in it after all. That’s right, Teens Next Door is going to reach out to the youth using social media, and also encourage them to use social media to connect with the familiar strangers around them! This is what we are all about!

Familiar Strangers. Future Friends
So, let’s all take the first simple step to connect with the familiar strangers around us; they are just friendships waiting to bloom! There are many people we see very often, sometimes every day, but have never talked to; these are the people we are going to target, those around us that we have unfortunately neglected in the past. The small actions, like saying hello, are what make us more approachable as individuals and a society, bringing us one step closer to removing our tag of being the least positive country in the world. These small actions are also the first step in connecting with these familiar strangers in our lives, for every individual has a story to share and, with that, something that they can impart to us, the potential to change our lives. The small actions can start a chain reaction, especially with social media. So take the first step, connect with the familiar strangers in your lives, and share it to inspire others too! Our project will only be as successful as the efforts of all of you, so let’s all work together as a community of friends!

The 3 Singaporean Little Pigs (again)

One day, the little pig was scrolling through his newsfeed when he chanced upon www.facebook.com/teensnextdoor, and realised he, too, had some familiar strangers in his life! The next day, as he walked out of his straw house, he saw the second little pig in the wooden house next to his. For the first time, he said hello! The two little pigs had a nice little chat, and at the end of their conversation, they took a selfie and shared it with @teens_nextdoor on Twitter and Instagram. The third little pig saw this, and realized that beyond making the difficult first step, this idea was a whole lot of fun! So he decided to comment on the first little pig’s picture, and get to know them better through social media. Soon, they became a close-knit family of little pigs, and were even featured on the Teens Next Door blog! Remember, as William Butler Yeats said, “There are no strangers here, only friends you have not yet met.”

Saturday, 15 March 2014

On 3/15/2014 05:03:00 pm by Teens Next Door in    No comments

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a selfie is a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. 450 Year 3 girls did just that in our first activity- the kickstarter for our campaign! On twitter, they quoted @teen_nextdoor’s tweet with their selfies with a short reason why they appreciated the people next to them, and some also hashtagged #rgteensnextdoor. This activity was aimed to generate hype for our campaign, and to show everyone how even something as small as taking a selfie could really make someone’s day.

Through this activity, we encouraged a sense of community spirit within the batch. We hoped to be able to inspire a wave of positive energy in our community, where everyone is open and welcoming to everyone around them. Not just that- we wanted to create a space where everyone was comfortable and willing to take the first step to form a connection with someone they’ve previously not talked to before.

At the end of the day, we made a collage of all the selfies we had received. And indeed, everyone went home with a deeper understanding of not just our cause, but also the joys of advocacy!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

On 3/12/2014 05:10:00 pm by Teens Next Door in    1 comment

Indeed, the littlest things can amount to so much! The lady at the cinema was but a familiar stranger to the man who visited the cinema regularly, but his kind act changed her life and benefitted many others in the community.

What is your take on this comic?