YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation Book 1

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YOUTH speak Essay Competition 2016

National Book Development Council of Singapore 50 Geylang East Avenue 1 Singapore 389777 YOUTHspeak Essay Competition 2016: A compilation ISBN 978-981-11-1551-6 Š NBDCS 2017 First Edition Various contributors All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, in whole or in part, or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without written permission from the publishers. Printed in Singapore

YOUTH speak Essay Competition 2016


06 Foreword 08 Message


The Winners’ Circle

Writing as An Art, as an Outlet, as a Vision A Day in the Life of An Ordinary Youth The Youth and Social Media: Thrills, Frills and Challenges


Essays from Innova Junior College

A Selfie Speaks A Thousand Words The Emergence of Selfie Culture and its Societal Implications


Essays from River Valley High School Fears and Dilemmas of the Younger Years The Sheltered Societies and the Youth of Tomorrow Selfies and the Value of Self-Expression


Essays from Batangas State University I Am A Millennial Virtual Milieus and the Positively Rebellious Youth Exploring Self-Disclosure in Social Media What Holds Us Back More than A Stroke

60 About NBDCS

FOREWORD R Ramachandran Executive Director National Book Development Council of Singapore Since its inception nine years ago, All In! Young Writers Festival’s main objective has always been to inspire the next generation of writers, with the hope of providing writing-related industries with a steady stream of creative young minds that would bring the writing landscape to new heights.


From day one, the Festival had been in close partnership with schools, having the National University of Singapore’s Literary Society jointly organise the very first All In! at the Arts House in February 2009. From there, the partnerships grew, with a few more universities and polytechnics coming on board by 2013, and junior colleges by 2015, underlining their support to the Festival’s ideals. In 2016, All In! launched an essay writing competition that engaged 13-18 year olds to discuss contemporary topics that concerned young people, and how they perceived writing as a craft. Called YOUTHspeak, the competition received a total of 14 essays from three schools from Singapore and the Philippines. I would like to congratulate the students and schools who have submitted essays for this compilation, the first printed publication out of All In! It is an apt beginning to yet another chapter in the Festival’s promising journey, which not only promotes writing, but

the industries relating to them, and how schools must respond to the industry’s pertinent and future needs. The Book Council is ecstatic at the support that our local and regional schools are providing to young writers, all in the continuing effort to foster a writing-enthused environment in Singapore and across the region. It is the hope of the Council that schools will continue to do so, ensuring that young creative minds will continue to thrive and be inspired, and become a part of the larger writing community in the future. On this note, I would like to congratulate Crescencia Chia Huimei (Innova Junior College), Kimberly Khoong Jing Wei (River Valley High School) and Li Qin Hui (River Valley High School) who were chosen to present their essays and represent their schools at All In! 2016. We hope your schools and others will follow suit, by submitting entries in the coming editions of YOUTHspeak. We look forward to receiving the next round of essay submissions, and fervently hope that more students will be inspired to take the next step and pen down their thoughts on how they will build their future world of creativity.


MESSAGE David Weinstein, Founder and CEO Write the World

We were happy to host the YOUTHspeak competition on the Write the World website as part of the ALL IN Young Writers Festival in 2016. Here at Write the World, we share the philosophy with ALL IN that supportive feedback is critical throughout the writing process. Mid-way through the competition period, participants in the YOUTHspeak competition submitted a draft of their work in order to receive feedback from our team of Expert Reviewers. This enabled students to revise and refine their piece before submitting a final draft. 8

The young writers participating in the YOUTHspeak competition also had the opportunity to become part of Write the World’s international community of young writers. Through connecting with other young writers and offering and receiving constructive feedback on drafts, students begin to think critically about the writing process. Furthermore, by reflecting on the writing and diverse perspectives of young writers from around the globe, students broaden their worldview and heighten their ability to engage with the world as active global citizens.

Ultimately, writing is like any other exercise. The more often you practice, the better you become. Competitions like YOUTHspeak and the Write the World website encourage teenagers to develop a regular writing practice in response to interesting and diverse topics that expose them to many genres of writing. By establishing a regular writing practice within a thoughtful and supportive community, students can improve their writing and develop their voice—invaluable skills that will benefit them in academia, their careers and in life. 9

The Winners’ Circle Crescencia Chia Huimei, Innova Junior College Kimberly Khoong Jing Wei, River Valley High School Li Qin Hui, River Valley High School

Writing as an Art, as an Outlet, as a Vision Crescencia Chay Huimei Writing is, in essence, a messy, challenging affair. Yet, for the writer, it is his raison d’être. He continually seeks to scale new heights, to push the boundaries of imagination and convention, and to capture life’s profound truths on paper. Despite its messiness, the act of writing is also paradoxically rife with precision; each word and punctuation used adroitly to deliver its intended effect. As such both medium and meaning combine to create works of art that pin down the ‘intangible, the transcendent, the inexpressible’1, speaking to us on an almost spiritual level and often reflecting the state of our changing times. Deliberately crafted, each new literary work is a manifestation of shifting cultural norms; a perfect example of art imitating life. 12

Beyond that, writing is a literary exhibit that elicits response, very much like an art piece displayed in a public museum. The dialogue between art and reader forms an important morphing body of interaction that charts our changing times; a cartographic map of how society has evolved. In 19602, Penguin Books was condemned for publishing D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover due to its exploration of female sexuality. Yet what was once thought as risqué is now commonplace as riotous books rampant with promiscuity pervade the contemporary shelf. In this, it is clear that the literary works the general readership contends to accept is a reflection of who we are as a society. Even Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, which was described in 1847, as a book filled with ‘vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors’3 , is now lauded as a superior exposé on the Vallely, Paul. “Why Poetry Is as Essential as Air.” The Independent. 12 Sept. 2010. Web. Sandbrook, Dominic. “Lady Chatterley Trial - 50 Years On. The Filthy Book That Set Us Free and Fettered Us Forever.” The Telegraph. 16 Oct. 2010. Web. 3 Graham’s Lady’s Magazine 1848. Print. 4 Vallely, Paul. “Why Poetry Is as Essential as Air.” The Independent. 12 Sept. 2010. Web. 1


The Winners’ Circle

truths and psychology of trauma, morality, and social class; all in a present era that can no longer shy away from our twisted capacity for destruction. Writing allows us an outlet for introspection, while also enabling us to engage societal ills and our collective fears, equipping the visionaries and optimists amongst us with the tools to chip away at the turmoil of the current age. In this vein, writing has been described as a refuge from the monotony of daily living, an ‘underground bunker’ and a ‘secular form of prayer’4 , a medium for the vital examination of the self – both spiritually and intellectually. A counterintuitive example is found in the writing of the Warcraft series of role-playing games; evidence that game writing can be a safe haven and outlet for gamers to construct order in a chaotic world. A mimesis of a fantasy world in a constant state of war and conflict, the backstory of the games strives towards a resolution of peace (albeit a tenuous one). It therefore becomes an outlet to explore the possibility of reconciliation in a world rife with destruction. Perhaps this is also why literary works end, more often than not, with the triumph of good over evil. More notably, the way in which we crave closure with ‘good’ endings betrays our inherent need to recapture an innocence lost to the bleakness of reality. The edited ending of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations fulfils this exact criterion5 , and is credited as contributing to the book’s mainstream success6 both at the time of publication and even now in the 21st Century. The act of writing itself also has the ability to empower the visionary, charting a new direction for the future. In journalism, it was the tenacity of one Gay Talese that revolutionised the writing

“The Ending of “Great Expectations”” City University of New York, 12 May 2002. Web. Schlicke, Paul. Oxford Reader’s Companion to Dickens. Oxford UP, 1999. Print. 7 Digiacomo, Frank. “The Man Who Led the Esquire Decade.” Vanity Fair. 31 Dec. 2006. Web. 8 “”King of the Day-glo, Stiff-spined, Wise-guy Shiny Sheets; In the World of Glossy Magazines, Esquire Was to the 1960s What Vanity Fair Was to the 1980s — the Wittiest Chronicler of Its Time”” The Independent 8 Feb. 1997. Print. 9 Digiacomo, Frank. “The Man Who Led the Esquire Decade.” Vanity Fair. 31 Dec. 2006. Web. 5


YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


scene. Unsatisfied with the restrictions on journalism7, Talese took it upon himself to craft a body of work so visionary, so raw, and so powerful that it sprung forth a new wave of journalistic writing dubbed ‘New Journalism’. And so it was back in the heyday of Sinatra that Talese wrote for Esquire magazine the magnum opus, Frank Sinatra Has a Cold. With its use of metaphorical language and bathos, Talese revolutionised journalism with his celebrity profile of Sinatra; all without speaking to the legend himself (who was at that time wildly sought-after and disinterested in providing Esquire an interview). Thus, at the hefty (and worthwhile) price tag of about $500089 came Esquire’s – and journalism’s – finest work to date.


On a similar note, the literature scene in Singapore is slowly evolving into a force to be reckoned with; a haven for the mavericks amongst us to put forth a new perspective of the present while simultaneously charting a vision for our future. With gems like Alfian Sa’at’s poem The Merlion (which seeks to highlight the subtleties of displacement experienced by a diaspora nation) to Jeffrey Lim’s Understudies (which underscores the ugly underbelly of a perfect, hyperreal society), writers in Singapore have mastered the art of tacit subversion; poking and prodding at the conventions and idiosyncrasies that have shaped society. Local literature effectively allows us this space for introspection, to identify the gaps between where we are and where we want to be. It is only when we are allowed to look within and examine our lives and collective identities that we can truly take a step in the right direction to forge a society we can all be proud to belong to. These works are thus more than just the empty ravings of the nonconformist but are in fact dribs and drabs of a larger tapestry; a collective bildungsroman for a nation state still navigating her own identity. In its entirety, writing is truly an art form, an outlet, and a vision. When one writes, one captures the past and the present, and perchance, hope for a brighter future.

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A Day in the Life of An Ordinary Youth Kimberly Khoong Jing Wei The doorbell rings, louder with each passing second. She rushes to open the door, a flurry of ash brown, only to be greeted by a cool morning breeze that carries the faintest hint of coffee, as well as the familiar sight of her neighbour’s open door. She leans forward and looks around, half-expecting someone or something to jump out and scare the wits out of her, but nothing of that sort happens. If anything, the doorbell continues to sound without a care. She eyes the doorbell suspiciously. Could this be a prank? She wonders, combing her fingers through her tousled, out-of-bed hair. As she turns around to shut the door, her surroundings begin to fade... Her chocolate-coloured eyes open wide with a start. Beside her, her morning alarm screams the beginning of the day. Picking up her smartphone, she silences it before burying her head deep into the pillow, expressing her discontent with an inaudible mumble. Rolling onto her side, she holds her smartphone and peers at it, checking the online weather forecast and breaking news. The number nine on her clock seems so beautiful today; she struggles to keep a grin from creeping up onto her face. Holidays mean that it is finally time to unwind and reward herself for the hard work and achievements in terms of academic work for a little while. She intends to do just that - only then would it relieve the constant throbbing in her head previously brought upon by the stress to excel academically and enroll in her university dream course. Setting down her cup of latte, she selects her favourite song from the music playlist on her laptop and signs in to her Facebook account. “Catching up with her friends” is her pet name for it, but simply put, it means finding out what her friends had been doing through their online posts. YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


Hers is neither a famous nor well-off family; they are what you would call ordinary. With both her parents bringing home the bacon, she is often home alone. However, being an IT-savvy nineteen-year-old means that she always has her smartphone or laptop as a companion through these times, and that itself makes it impossible for her to feel lonely. Through conversing with her many friends through instant messaging service WhatsApp, she is able to convince herself and maintain the imaginary presence of others, hence staving off the feeling of loneliness. Indeed, loneliness and solitude are never a part of socialising.


Of course, there are times when she craves face-to-face interaction with her friends, and that is why they would make plans to meet up once in a while. She leaves her house around lunchtime, dressed in a stylish T-shirt and jeans, and her earphones plugged in to her smartphone. As she travels down the North-South Line on the Mass Rapid Transit, she savours her freedom by listening to her favourite genre of music – pop rock and reading the e-Book One Hundred Years of Solitude. Upon meeting her two best friends at the MRT station, the trio make their way to the newly-opened café in town as planned. Despite having almost lost their way just five minutes later, a kind soul offers them directions along the way and they manage to make it there successfully. Thank you Google Maps. Soaking in the cosy atmosphere of the café, the three friends chat merrily over lunch, occasionally stopping to snap pictures of the lovely café interior, food and selfies. Precious memories ought to be collected and shared, right? With the café offering free WiFi services, the topic of the trio’s conversation soon moves from watching the latest film releases to the highlights of the recent starstudded event — The Golden Globe Awards on Youtube. Shopping as the final task of the day causes the three friends to babble with excitement at the thought of bagging the latest items in The Winners’ Circle

fashion trends as well as Christmas presents for each other. They visit the recently-opened shopping mall with bright smiles, only to be met with the surprisingly large throngs of people here for a common purpose. Within the mall, advertisements promoting the latest tablet computer released compete to attract their attention with every turn they make. As she scans the sleek design of the tablet and its said functions, she feels a familiar tingle in her heart. Is it going to be the next thing on her Christmas wish list which has already included the newest smartphone, a new laptop and an instant camera? This is not going to be an easy decision to make, she sighs. The trio spend their journey home together, their eyes fixated on the glossy screens of their smartphones, and their minds absorbed with their online social lives or games; looking up only from time to time to release a few words, and finally to bid farewell. Does it not make one wonder about the importance of communication in relationships? Back home, she is faced with one last task before calling it a day – to “catch up with her friends” a final time. Scrolling down her Instagram home page, she mechanically “like(s)” each picture that surfaces - the key lies not in what is posted, but rather, who posted it. In fact, half of the posts probably belong to strangers she recently became “friends” with. Being an avid member and contributor of this popular social networking site, she then posts a carefully selected picture taken of their outing and tops it off with a witty caption. With the day’s events flashing through her head, she falls onto her bed, wondering what tomorrow would bring. Beside her, the light on her phone blinks, signalling an incoming message. Tomorrow, she thinks, closing her eyes. Technology can be tiring sometimes.

YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


The Youth and Social Media: Thrills, Frills and Challenges Li Qin Hui Social media. It is such an imperative and integral part of our lives that it is not necessary to launch into any lengthy explanation on it. At the very heart of this social media fad, are our youth, the Gen-Ys, or more simply put, the millennials. Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are a few examples of social media. One may question, what exactly is the allure of social media, that you hear these terms mentioned by the young people so often? Let me attempt to dissect this.


“We haven’t met up in 2 years but you’re looking good!” goes a typical comment on an Instagram picture. Social media has the power to connect people together, transcending time and space. Youth these days have such a wide social network, it is practically impossible to make time for everyone. But what if, just what if, you could know what’s going on in your friends’ lives and vice versa, with a few simple taps on your phone screen? That is exactly what social media allows for, and youth relish this convenience, this ease of being connected to everyone from anywhere, anytime. A few scrolls on Twitter loads you with information on Amanda’s holiday to Germany, a press-and-hold on Snapchat plays you a slideshow of pictures from James’ birthday bash. We often hear our parents lamenting that they had lost all contact with their childhood friends because someone had changed his phone number or home address. It is indeed a sad thing when these connections are lost. However, with social media, it is possible to connect with almost anyone, as long as you have the intention. This is the thrill of social media, and it also forms a huge aspect of its appeal to the youth. All practical and useful things tend to have sides to them that do not seem particularly necessary, yet confer added charms. In the case of social media, such frills include games that do not add value to our The Winners’ Circle

lives. Are they needed? Well, probably not. Do people like them? Seeing as Developer King, which creates Facebook games including Farmville Saga, has over 481 million monthly active users playing their games, it would indeed seem that social media users adore these games. Another frill of social media is that it changes the way people view celebrities. Celebrities used to be “other-worldly deities” you only got to see through television screens, but with social media, youth can see their favourite celebrities posting about their dog being sick, and similar trivia. It is not essential to know these, for sure, but it does allow youth to understand that these luminaries are not very different from them. Having mentioned both the thrills and frills of social media, it should be mentioned that social media are not without challenges too. Ironically, it has resulted in growing numbers of anti-social youth in an increasingly connected society. Youth can get so immersed in the virtual world that they neglect people around them in real life. It is not uncommon to see a group of friends seated around a table wordlessly, with only the sound of fingers tapping the phone screens to break the monotony. This weakens the very fabric of our societies which are weaved upon communication and emotional connection amongst people. Social media also promotes a culture which bases self-worth on societal judgement, which is a challenge to overcome. The gratification youth enjoy after posting a picture on Instagram stems from the number of ‘likes’ garnered. Many youth also judge each other based on the strength of online presences. The higher the number of followers you have on Instagram or Twitter, the more sociable and well-liked you seem by your peers, and this often creates the first impression that others will have of you. Seemingly harmless, this impresses upon our youth that these mere statistics determine who they are, possibly resulting in them becoming obsessed with creating the perfect image of them on social media. This culture also isolates the more introverted counterparts, who simply prefer to stay out of the limelight and have low key social media presences. As such, while we claim to appreciate different YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


personalities, such a society is in reality only allowing for one mould of individual, the one who is gregarious, sociable, out-going, and has thousands of ‘friends’. Everything brings with it thrills, frills, and challenges, and social media is no exception. Social media allows for a world connected like never before, and which has huge potential to continue impacting the world in unprecedented ways. The youth of today are stepping into a fast-paced, ever changing world fuelled by internet connection and smart devices. Yet, care must be taken to ensure that our youth do not lose themselves in the flurry of events, or in the double-taps and swipes of the social media world.


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Essays from Innova Junior College Manura Roy Matthew Kwong

A Selfie Speaks a Thousand Words Manura Roy


The simple mantra that everyone goes through often starts like this: Take out the camera, hold it at an arm’s length, and angle the camera to get the best shot. Position your face, experiment with different poses and hand signs, then snap away! There you have it, the ‘humble’ selfie. But it is not as simple as everyone wishes it to be. Of the 50 shots taken, you delete 49 of them that doesn’t seem right. You scrupulously scrutinise that one remaining selfie which appears amazing initially; however, upon further examination, you spot tiny flaws like that wrinkle on your face. What an unflattering background! So, you switch locations, dab on a little makeup and repeat the whole process. But it doesn’t stop there. You want your selfie to stand out on your followers’ feeds. One that would make them pause to take a closer look. So, you start testing out different filters, cropping out unnecessary backgrounds, evening the lighting and contrasts of the selfie. You might even take another step and edit the selfie to flatter your features by widening your eyes, concealing dark spots and sharpening your jawline. After much deliberation and satisfying yourself with the final product, you tap on the button and wait for the likes and comments to start pouring in. The feeling — the high of self-validation — kicks in. It is a new form of addictive drug, the feeling of sharing bits of your amazing life with the rest of the world, one that has hooked the 21st century generation. What makes it so irresistible to pick up your phone and go on a clicking frenzy? The answer lies in the human desire to place itself in the spotlight in the best way possible, to get the approval or attention from other people. What better way to do that other than a good old selfie? Almost no feed on social media is incomplete without a selfie. Each selfie has its own story to tell and allows even strangers to pick up your individual rose-tinted glasses and see his or her world from your perspective. Innova Junior College

Celebrities are often viewed as flawless, almost to the point of Godlike perfection. Magazine covers display fit, glamorous models with no trace of freckles, dark spots or wrinkles that mark our bodies as human. This almost establishes celebrities on a level higher than ordinary humans, driving many to desperation with how to achieve the ultimate figure. However, recently, more and more celebrities are sharing their ‘flaws’ online. Celebrities in the music industry like Demi Lovato, Nicki Minaj, and Jennifer Lopez post selfies of their bodies with huge curves, which sends the message that beauty is not determined by body shape defined by media. Zendaya, Troian Bellisario and Lana Del Rey are some of the famous models who expose their bodily flaws, which (un)surprisingly, do not show up in photoshoots. They bare and unveil the deceit of magazines in photo-manipulation and airbrushing their bodies. This drives home the message that one needs to have positive body image, and should be confident of their physical outlook. Therefore, this clearly shows how a selfie is a much more powerful tool of self-expression compared to mere statements made in an interview, which may appear as cliché advice followed by inaction on the celebrities’ part. That being said, it is important to recognise that self-expression online goes beyond physical statement, and validation from others – it is also a way to establish one’s status quo and/or belief. For example, snapping a shot of yourself in the trendy Chanel jacket that everyone is drooling over establishes your status higher in the social hierarchy. Or, by speaking out your beliefs against the current systems or traditions and injustice - for example, taking your stand at the Pink Dot Gay Parade to express your views online with a selfie. The heated debate on homosexuality rights currently sparked within Singapore resulted in the need for people to take their stand. The more people take a selfie in support of a cause, the more people are inclined to follow or are roused to take action. A picture, or specifically in this case, a selfie definitely speaks a thousand words and more. A single selfie has the power to either make or mar your image online and offline. Among the multitude of trends sparked world-wide, the ‘Selfie’ fad YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


is not a passing one but one that is likely to stay. Do not be afraid to take a photo that screams who you are or your stand on various issues, whether it is to support animal conservation in Kenya or to protest against white supremacy and prejudice against blacks. Every selfie is a step closer to pushing for revolutionary change. Every person gets the freedom to have their say online and nothing has catalysed change better than selfies. Take the first step to be in a world where you can express yourself so proudly that you can almost drop the mic and walk off with finesse.


Innova Junior College

The Emergence of Selfie Culture and its Societal Implications Matthew Kwong The word ‘selfie’, recognised by Merriam-Webster and added to its dictionary in 2014, has seen its way into the lexicon of today’s youths. For the uninitiated, a selfie is a self-portrait, usually captured with a digital camera but since the last half a decade, more commonly with a camera-equipped smartphone held in the hand. Selfies are popularly featured on social media sites, such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, as daily updates to share with other users and their friends. Selfies witnessed popular use with the improvements made in the front-facing camera of mobile phones. The upgrade in megapixels and camera technology in smartphones over their less technologically advanced predecessors helped facilitate the rise in selfies in popular culture. This breakthrough in camera technologies began with the release of front-facing cameras in mainstream handsets, and it has steadily seen enhancements in subsequent iterations of Apple’s flagship iPhone and Android rivals. Social media sites, like the aforementioned Instagram and Snapchat, capitalised on the camera-phone technology to tap on the current selfie phenomenon. The popularity of selfies and its correlation with the success of these companies have been indubitably boosted by the advancement of mobile cameras and the inane number of photoediting tools we have at our disposal. The sheer popularity of selfies in our culture has further underlined the importance of self-image to the human mind. According to the American psychologist Charles Horton Cooley, our self-perception is found in the knowledge of the personal qualities and impressions others perceive of us. For quite a number of us, this is the way in which we form a sense of self. Our self-image is not only important but a fundamental part of being human as it forms the very fabric YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


of our social identity. Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we are largely motivated by our social identity and others’ acceptance of us. It is not strange then that certain segments of society try to portray themselves better in pictures posted on photo-sharing platforms in order to get self-validation.


Additionally, a selfie has become a means of self-expression, where people have the power to express their individuality in photos. It is plausible to consider the rise of selfies as a result of users’ ability to present their visual aesthetics in the most desirable way. Photo-editing applications, found aplenty on application stores, enable users the ability to modify and alter their physical outlook, masking their self-perceived flaws and supposed shortcomings. This feature of selfie captivates the minds of many adolescents as it is a phase in which many of them experience a growing sense of self-consciousness. Studies have shown that since selfie made its entry into popular culture, it has been credited for boosting the confidence and self-esteem in teenage girls. While boys have certainly benefitted from the confidence rush, girls have been proven to crave the acceptance from their friends during their moments of self-doubt in the emotional teenage phase of puberty. Selfies thus provide an opportunity for them to erase their flaws and enhance their better features before posting these on the web. The number of “likes” and affirming responses by friends on their selfie posts only serve to validate their existence. The apparent benefits and popularity of selfies, however, shroud its negative implications. Some people have labeled selfies as a faucet for narcissism, as it encourages youths to embrace self-love to the extreme. This is reflected in the erroneous mindset of adolescents who feels validated only when they accumulate a certain number of “likes” on their social media posts. The “likes” culture of our society only worsens the issue at hand as it gives adolescents a false sense of security over their “throngs” of online supporters. Some even base their self-worth on the number of likes they get on their selfie posts as an indication of their attractiveness. This brings me to the next point – a selfie eclipses the darker insecurity of youths in Innova Junior College

our society. Every so often, we would find out that one of our more affluent friends has purchased a new luxury bag through a selfie post that appears on our news feed. The inability to afford such material luxuries might have adverse consequences on perceptions of material wealth. adolescents might become obsessed with the prospect of earning money, and place an unhealthy amount of emphasis on monetary wealth since it asserts their status quo. Selfie could also be seen as proof of one’s ‘cultured’ lifestyle due to their vast travelling experiences. Many tourists have taken stunning selfies around the world to impress their friends. In 2014, a Dutch student, Zilla van der Born, carried out a social experiment to discover how easy it is to distort our lives on social media. Equipped with photo-editing wizardry and her knack for creativity, allowed her to create fake photos of picturesque beaches and Buddhist temples and deceived her family and friends on social media to think that she was on a vacation in Southeast Asia. In actual fact, she had not left Amsterdam. Her results point conclusively to the fact that photos have served as a trigger for people to impress rather than experience the spirit of travelling. This demonstrates how the selfie has warped the ideals of travel — instead of a retreat to nirvana from the hustle and bustle of daily living, we become even more consumed by the need to impress and beguile our social circles. In summary, the selfie culture should neither be demonised nor should it be worth singing praises of. A selfie, in its raw form, acts as a novel way for us to express ourselves as we choose. The negative drawback of this culture is not to be borne by selfie alone, but also by teenage insecurities. Like a certain Dove experiment showed, we often perceive our appearance to be a far cry from our true beautiful self as seen by others. It is thus important that we as a society truly encourage the notion that “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.”

YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


Essays from River Valley High School Ao Wei An, Winie Koh Wern Xing Lim Siew Yi

Fears and Dilemmas of the Younger Years Ao Wei An, Winie The realisation that you broke the vase comes together with that sinking feeling of toppling a piece of furniture. That gut-churning reminder that you did not complete your school work. That frightening, slimy thought of your mother’s angry face staring back at you. You shrink smaller with each minor mistake you make, sinking deeper and further into your already tiny body. The fears of the younger years, how minute they were. Even as the bedside lamp glowed its soothing orange hue in the dark, you scrutinise the shadows for the monsters of your imagination. You swirl around in your riptide of fantasies, pulling yourself deeper into the deepest and darkest fears that don’t even exist. You feel alone, frightened, and vulnerable. The entire world caving in on you. The darkness mocks your cowardice. The shadows reach for the tiny toes that peek out from under the blanket. In this dark night, you feel scared and truly frightened. But you didn’t know that these imaginary monsters posed no harm, not like the others. The concerns of the younger years, how naive they were. Growing up, you began making friends. The good, the bad, the mean, the kind. In a stage full of clowns, you become blinded by the flashing stage lights, the exotic makeups and costumes, the overwhelming plethora of events as they jostle about you. The crashing waves of puberty and growing up, of rebelling and finding your stand. The sounds of the sea deafen you, confuse you. You stumble, you trip. Forced to make a decision, a choice between two. Friend or foe, you haven’t got a clue. Concerns about who you are and what they perceive you to be. Looking at the mirror, and seeing a stranger looking back at you. Your identity is a blur, morphed by social pressures into something you no longer recognise. Dilemmas

YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


between who to go to, and whom to avoid. Alas, as you grow up, you realise, the waves of time will distill the purest of friendships for you to enjoy. The dilemmas of the younger years, how confusing they were.


Reaching that higher stage in life, your fears are magnified. The garden of your heart learns to sprout the dewy white petals of lies. Your mind grows, analyses the smallest details, cluttering your thoughts with junk that you will think about once, and never again. You are now presented with notions of the future. Future? It puzzles you. It frightens you. It is a void, staring back at you hungrily, yearning for a reply. What is your next move? What do you want to be? Who are you? You feel sick again. Your body too big for your mind. You feel alone again. As though you have not crossed the hurdles of all the ghosts of your earlier fears, you forget how strong you were, and how strong you can be right now. You forget that it is a current that many, just like you, are swimming against. You forget that you are not alone. The fears of the younger years, how overwhelming they were. Eventually, you reach the point of stability. The calm after the storm. The edge of the cliff as waves crash onto shore, knowing for sure that no wave can sweep you off your feet anymore. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. There is no fear. No danger. No falling. No friendship dilemmas. No gaping void. Just you, and a trailing path behind you, defining who you are today. You feel comfortable in your own skin. Confident, even. In that moment of serenity, it strikes you. The fear trembles like a soprano voice, cooing to you, reminding you of its existence. You glance at the waves lapping at the horizon. The freedom. You stare at the footprints in the sand. You watch the petals of regret floating on the waters surface, carrying your hopes and dreams with it to a place where you would rather be. The terror, it sang in a sick, victorious soprano. You recognise the lone piece of land that you stand on. That there is no going back, no way to retrace your steps to the younger days, where

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all you feared was a broken vase. No way to regain lost friends. No way to take back the lies you told. No chance for time to rewind, and let you take the risk you need to be truly happy. No way. And on this note, with a sigh, you acknowledge the fear. Regret, it introduced itself, and you nodded solemnly. The fears of the younger years, how defining they were. The fears of the younger years, they never truly leave you. The true fears hidden at the core of your young heart, it’s not the monsters, nor the scoldings, nor the friends, nor the decisions that chilled you. The fear of regret, has always been by your side, awaiting its grand entrance. Yet, by the time you notice it, there is no turning back anymore.


YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016

The Sheltered Societies and the Youth of Tomorrow Koh Wern Xing Dear Diary Sorry for neglecting you for the past 14 days! I went on a learning journey to the United Kingdom, which was organised for Top Students. We took a plane to Manchester, and worked our way down to London. I wanted to bring you along, but I was rooming with Jenny and I heard she’s a gossip and really nosey!


Speaking of hotels, our accommodation was awful! The rooms were so small – there was barely enough space for two beds and a bathroom. Did we really pay $1500 for this trip? We changed hotels every day, because we kept travelling places. They were all Adam Lodge hotels, though. The last time I went to the UK with Mom and Dad, the hotel we stayed in was really elegant with great facilities. Adam Lodge had nothing. The walls were bare, and even the food was boring. Every “hotel” served the same breakfast every day: roasted tomatoes (eww), bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, different types of bread, cucumbers, some fruits and yogurt with coffee, tea and apple or orange juice. It was terrible. When I complained to Jenny, she told me to be more grateful! How rude! Speaking of Jenny, she was the Worst Roommate Ever. She’s such a nerd. She hardly talks to me and she doesn’t even want to play cards at night! I had to go over to Rita and Qiu Min’s room to play cards and it was just inconvenient. River Valley High School

Jenny only played cards once. We went to Rita’s room around midnight. Jenny stopped playing after a couple of games. I think she was offended because Qiu Min said it was “just beginner’s luck” when she won. Can’t blame her for getting annoyed; I would too. Maybe Qiu Min’s just a sore loser. After an hour or so, there was a loud knock on the door. Rita peered through the peephole and saw a male figure in a brown jacket running down the corridor. Rita immediately wanted to unlock the door and run after him, but Jenny stopped her. Apparently, running out or even opening the door was “stupid” and “dumb” because “this isn’t Singapore”. She’s such a chicken! Of course, we didn’t listen. Qiu Min and I ran along the corridor to the lift, but we didn’t see anyone. When we returned, Jenny started giving us disapproving looks, muttering under her breath about how we were “living in our own little bubble” and “sheltered”. We stopped playing soon after that: Jenny’s attitude had ruined the mood. The other students snickered when I told them about the knocking incident in the morning. Rita even wanted to call Jenny another name, apparently after a cowardly character in a Korean film, which was really childish and unnecessary. Poor Rita – she’s trying too hard to fit in. Her results aren’t great, and she rarely represents the school. She came only because Sylvia couldn’t. Jenny dislikes her too. I could tell by the way she rolls her eyes, grimaces slightly and looks away whenever Rita is speaking. Well, I’m not surprised. Rita’s always whining that the school doesn’t give her enough opportunities. Go to another school then! Maybe her grades aren’t good enough. She needs to learn to shut up. Does she expect to get opportunities on a nice golden platter? She doesn’t get that opportunities are sourced for. She doesn’t get that you fight for opportunities. She wants to be spoon-fed. But no one told her off because we didn’t want to hurt her feelings. YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


Qiu Min wasn’t that bad. We worked on a project together, remember? I guess I was pretty mean to her at first, seeing that I was expecting quality work but her ideas were not up to standard. After her long Whatsapp message telling me off, we talked and ironed things out. We’re cool now. I’m actually glad she told me off. I appreciate the honesty despite being ticked off at first. Nowadays, it seems like everyone is talking about you but no one is talking to you. Qiu Min was the one I got along with. She’s obsessed with guys though, and it’s quite creepy. When she sees a “hot” or “cute” guy, she would secretly snap a photograph or ask if he could take a picture with her. She drags me in too, which was really awkward because I am not as pretty as her. I didn’t really talk to the rest of the people on the trip because we’re from different cliques so I won’t say much about them. The teachers are okay too. 34

One inconvenient thing about the UK was the toilets. We drove through farmland and stopped at small towns to learn about their cultures. Once, I walked for 10 minutes before I managed to find the toilet. It was worse when we were driving through the countryside. The scenery was amazing – I took many pictures, posted them on Instagram and hit 1000 followers! – but finding the toilets was really difficult. I wasn’t used to holding it in and so I often needed the toilet immediately, which earned me an earful from Mr Lee. The coach driver stopped at petrol stations occasionally, but the toilets there were squatting ones. My legs cramped by the time I was finished. Some didn’t provide toilet paper too. I had to ask other people for tissue because I didn’t bring any. The coach was the one good constant during the trip because it was comfortable and fast. The driver was cute too. We had no coach in London; the teachers wanted us to experience the London

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Underground. The train was so hot! I thought the MRT back home was bad but that was worse. The food wasn’t bad too. We ate in restaurants – with clean toilets, thank goodness – even though there was mayonnaise and I hate that. To sum up, it wasn’t too bad a trip, but it was quite disappointing compared to my previous one. But hey, who would refuse a trip to the UK when everyone else is stuck in Singapore? Valencia


YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016

Selfies and the Value of Self-Expression Lim Siew Yi The selfie phenomenon is highly popular today, and almost everyone has been contributing to it. In 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary named “Selfie” the Word of the Year. Selfies are often associated with self-image, confidence level and also narcissism. To the majority, it is simply an act of self-expression, however, some psychologists feel that this selfie trend is related to the “me me me” millennial narcissistic generation.


A selfie is defined as a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media. In today’s world, where social media is highly prevalent and taking over the internet, selfies are not just meant for oneself to feel confident, but also for others to view them in the way that they want. Fifty-five percent of all millennial have taken a selfie before, and it is now one of the most popular acts in society. The selfie has been gaining popularity over the years, and can be taken for many different reasons, depending on the occasion. It has already been engraved in the lifestyles of many young adults, and the age group of people who take selfies has increased as well. Self-portraits can be used as a form of self-expression. Selfexpression is the assertion of one’s personality, feelings, thoughts and ideas. There are many ways of self-expression, such as through the arts, music, writing, or any hobby of a person. Self-expression is the way which we would like to express ourselves, and the way that we wish to be perceived as. Taking a selfie is just one of the ways of self-expression. Self-expression can also be defined as a cluster of values that include social toleration, life satisfaction, public expression and an aspiration to liberty. Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., a research psychologist, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University stated in River Valley High School

one of her written articles that “selfies are also a manifestation of society’s obsession with looks and its ever-narcissistic embrace.” To many, taking a selfie is a way to represent themselves in their best form, looking as perfect as possible for that one photograph that is to be uploaded online. One reason why selfies are so popular among adolescents these days is because they can digitally enhance their features to make themselves look better than how they actually look like in real life. They may spend hours editing their photographs, scrutinising every single detail until it’s ready for posting. Of course, it is also not surprising to hear that some people even delete selfies with less likes or compliments from their social media account. Today, selfies are mostly taken by young adults who place a lot of importance on their online profile. Over time, posting selfies has became a way to express one’s personality or unique and special traits, to let others remember them by those trademarks that they have created for themselves. Selfies can also be used to show the character of someone, to showcase the particular manner in which the individual would like to be viewed in. According to senior psychology major Jennifer Tennison, of Swansea, getting validation from selfies can improve a person’s selfesteem. She mentioned that she thinks that “selfies are today’s go-to tool for self-expression. We can use it to portray ourselves in the way we want to be seen. It can be a great way to build self-esteem and confidence if you view them as a means of self-expression and exploration.” This shows that selfies have their own benefits as well. Although most people view them as attention-seeking, it is actually about self-love and your relationship with yourself. Healthy narcissism is good for everyone, and feeling good about your selfies is beneficial because receiving validation about your selfies can boost your self-esteem. However, such a view fails to consider the disadvantage of taking too much selfies. Research carried out at the University of Birmingham, the University of the West of England, the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University found out that those who YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


frequently post photographs on Facebook risk damaging real-life relationships. This includes self-portraits as well, because people don’t seem to relate well to those who constantly share photographs of themselves. Forty-eight percent of selfies are being posted on Facebook, and that is almost half the amount of all the selfies taken. So while a selfie has its own benefits, it might not be entirely a good thing. It can be used for people to show their best side to their online friends, but excessive selfies and narcissism is never good for anyone. On the other hand, for some people, it may just be for them to fit in and participate in the trend, not wanting to miss out on the modern pop culture. To these people, it is not about self-absorption, nor is it about caring about their online profiles, but more of their desire to not be left out in the digitalised world today.


In conclusion, selfies are good platforms for self expression. It allows self-affirmation and empowerment, letting one have a higher self-esteem and confidence level while doing a simple and harmless act. Self-expression is crucial for self image and self-identity, allowing us to distinguish from others easily. Since social media is prevalent in our society today, uploading a selfie may be one of the best methods to express healthy narcissism about ourselves. However, taking a self-portrait is just one of the many acts of selfexpression, and the value of self-expression should definitely not be stopped at taking a photo of oneself or taking a photo with friends.

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Essays from Batangas State University Aaron Joseph Geronimo Chikki Hernandez James Panganiban Ma Jesusa Marcial Michelle Yvonne Clerigo

I am a Millennial Aaron Joseph Geronimo I am 22. I spend more or less half of my 24/7 a week online. I have a very short attention span, thus, I want everything instant. I breathe new knowledge, skill and experience as much as I breathe air. Indeed, I’m today’s typical youth. But I prefer being called a “millennial”. I am a millennial, born before the millennium shift and have the once-in-every-100-year privilege to live in two centuries – the 20th and the 21st. I am the every day busy, every day fresh with new ideas, needs, and wants, and every day striving and competing with myself. Living with youthful vigor and passion for varied things, I recently became a multi-faceted millennial. 40

It started with me being an architecture student. After dropping out of school during sophomore year in college and then getting employed in a call centre for almost a year, I went back to studying. I changed majors and enrolled in an architecture school with the hope that this time I’d be able to find my true calling and my future career. I loved the arts and I’m quite well-versed in Math so I thought of giving this major a try. The first year was a tough yet rewarding one for beyond time-cramming, focus-dilemma, and intimidating architect-professors, I survived it without flunking any modules. I must say that it was quite an achievement for me knowing that roughly half of my co-freshies already failed some classes, dropped out or shifted majors before the second semester started. But the routine of structure planning and designing became quite a persistently monotonous stress so I decided to semi-focus my attention on other stuff. That was how I became a church choir member. I signed up for our parish choir during the second semester of my freshman year. It was

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always my passion to sing and at that time I was finding a way to serve at our local parish so I joined its all-boys choir. It was my dose of stress-relief and was only a once-every-week gig so I was still able to manage my time well, even with two things already on my hands. A year later, I heard that our school publication had opened for applications. Writing is a skill I gained growing up in a household of bookworms and I was also a student-journalist in primary school and secondary school. I thought of grabbing the chance to write again this time in college. With a bit of hesitation, I took the qualifying exams and just a few weeks later, I received the news – I got in. Being a campus journalist was no easy task. I must admit that at that time the schedule already became really tight. I could barely juggle my academics and extracurricular activities altogether. There even came some times when I almost missed or failed some of my exams, classes or project submissions just to cover an event or interview someone for the school paper. Nevertheless, I continued what I started. What I didn’t know was how and why I made things even heftier for me. Before the end of sophomore year, a local radio station called for student jocks from different colleges and universities around the city. I got tempted again to sign-up for yet another diversion since it was really my childhood dream to be a radio disk jockey. Out of compulsiveness, I auditioned and without me knowing it, the rest became history. I became a jack of four trades – a fulltime architecture student during weekdays, a tenor of an all-boys choir, a part-time student jockey during the weekends and a campus journalist whenever necessary. I live with the idea that being a millennial equates to doing more with the time one has. But I never had the slightest idea that I would end up shouldering all these things. Imagine the responsibilities being an Architecture student alone bears. I don’t just deal with building aesthetics, plan circulation, programming, etc., I also need to compute for the possible stresses and moments YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


of a beam during our engineering math classes and memorise the national and local building codes in our lecture hours. I guess, all the stress from studying architecture is what pushed me to do more and try new things far from it. One thing led to another until one day, I realised that I was already serving too many masters. As a regular guy, I could say that I never lacked the passion and the vigor to do all these but sometimes time does not permit me to be in four different places at the same time. And frequently, 24 hours is just not enough. At the end of the day, I decided to prioritise and trimmed things down. I am now a senior architecture student. I still write for our campus paper and sing in church every Sunday but I settled to pause my life as “DJ Liam” for a while.


As they say, if you have goals, you need to give them your best shot, if not your 100 percent. And that’s what I did when I decided to give up my radio career for the meantime. Finishing architecture school is still my top priority for now. I am 22 and from all the experiences I had, I believe I am equipped with the least wisdom I need to be a fulltime grown-up after college. And with my short span of attention and passion for many things, I shall not fail to figure and sort things out myself as I continue journeying. After all, this world will soon depend on me, on us, the millennials – the farmers, professionals, innovators, and leaders of tomorrow. I am this world’s future. I am a millennial.

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Virtual Milieus and the Positively Rebellious Youth Chikki Hernandez For most people, the youth of today are a book opened on the wrong page. Perhaps, this is why men and women from the older generation are quick to criticise their actions, refusing to read the rest of their story. In recent years, the youth have gotten a bad blow being stereotypically described as self-involved, reckless, and only concerned with the ever promising trends of social media. From smoking and drug abuse to unwanted pregnancy and abortion, people can’t help raising eyebrows and muttering words of disgust. These people fail to see that, in reality, today’s youth are, in fact, behaving more righteously than they have in a long time. Roughly about one billion youth wander the globe today. In a civilisation with an ever-increasing dependence on technology, social media has claimed its spot as one of the largest forms of digital communication for today’s generation. Being the highlight of the trendy lifestyle, social media has somewhat transformed the youth into a look-at-me generation in which they are caught up in the ultimate popularity contest of Facebook likes and follows on Instagram and Twitter. Not only has social media unwrapped a kingdom of possibilities and allowed the youth to interact with people all over the world, it also has opened up the dark portals to cyber-bullying and cybersex. But in the light of it, some inspiring young people have been marching on the frontline of changing the world and how the world thinks about them. Being fated for a life of distinction by going beyond what the social media is negatively creating, the power of connecting to different societies of the world has indeed become a productive tool for the youth to start a rebellion of remarkable change.

YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


Possessing the power to soar above inequality outlines someone’s identity. On the 9th of October 2012, a Pakistani girl, aged 15, was shot in the head by a Taliban fundamentalist. The bullet penetrated the left side of her brain, fracturing her skull, and then made its way down her neck, leaving her in critical condition. The girl was Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to receive the celebrated Nobel Peace Prize. Emboldened by injustice when the Taliban movement advanced to close over 400 schools in Pakistan and threatened to kill any girl attending classes, Malala was prompted to begin blogging anonymously for British Broadcasting Corporation about her perilous life under the Taliban’s control.


Being branded as the most influential teenager in the world, Malala has been using social media to express her advocacies and impart the value of bravery among teenage girls. Upon surviving the gunshot after multiple complex surgeries, a live chat was held on Facebook with Malala speaking about the significance of education for girls and answering inquiries from the social network’s users. At the age of 17, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize and has become the pride of Pakistan. On her 18th birthday, the young activist persisted to take feats on global education by launching a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon, with expenses covered by the Malala Fund. The fund has been supporting educational projects in the most vulnerable communities around the globe and social media has become its aid in collecting overwhelming donations. With this, Malala’s advocacy has extended not only to the most unreachable areas of Pakistan but also to northern Nigeria, to Sierra Leone and to the Nairobi slums of Kenya. Notwithstanding continued death threats, Malala remains a resilient advocate for girls’ education. Unparalleled and unequaled, the commitment and perseverance she has shown goes far beyond any flattering acknowledgments she has received. Batangas State University

Yet another revolutionary act of today’s youth unfolded. People around the world, most especially the younger ones who became sick of the then budding trend of the horrible NEKnomination, a drinking game blamed for numerous deaths of adolescents, got motivated to do something positive, by replacing NEKnomination with random acts of kindness, or the RAKnomination. It is difficult to pin down where this trend began, but individuals and establishments on several continents have been posting photos and videos of themselves on social media doing random acts of kindness, before nominating and challenging others to do the same. Getting tired of all the damaging and potentially senseless things youth today are engaging into, many thought it would be radical to use social media for good rather than self-harm. Upon embracing RAKnomination, the youth have done all sorts of good deeds thanks to the gift of the powerful and influential social media. A young girl who cut her hair off, donated it to cancer patients upon discovering that her friend has been diagnosed with the disease. A teenage boy in Canada bought coffee and snacks for a homeless man. Employees of a marketing company fed homeless people and donated goods to a centre for the poor. What they have in common – they were all challenged by others to do acts of kindness, with social media being the intermediary. Malala Yousafzai and all the youths who have done acts of bravery or kindness are living proof that the youth can still do a lot of great things, from finding viable solutions for the society to fighting worldwide disparities. Through the aid of social media, the youth’s hope for a world free of poverty, inequality, exploitation, and discrimination on the grounds of race, language, and gender can still be achieved in reality to a certain extent and to a certain degree.

YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


Exploring Self-Disclosure in Social Media James Panganiban Social media is like a one-way mirror. To one user, an internet profile is a mere reflection of a person but for the other, this may or may not be true. If a picture paints a thousand words, a post or information in an online profile may paint a thousand shades of one’s state of being. Whether intentionally or not, these information serve as bases on how people perceive a person. Several factors from social media such as words used in tweets, follower ratio, and bio info can be significant indicators of one’s personality.


Among these indicators, James Pennebaker, a Psychology professor in University of Texas in Austin, identifies words as heavily linked to a person’s personality. Together with his team, Pennebaker created the online interactive tool Analyze Words which basically reveals people’s emotional, social, and thinking styles simply by scanning their most recent tweets. The science behind this tool as explained by the developers is that small words such as pronouns have great significance in the psychoanalytic process. For instance, the frequency of the use of the word “I” reflect signs of depression and insecurity because as evidenced by studies, people experiencing mental pain tend to orient towards themselves. Based on what Analyze Words says, Twitter users who tweet positively most definitely belong to the upbeat section and a status with a worried question clearly indicates anxiety. On the other hand, those who tend to write in capital letters and curse a lot are most definitely stressed out or angry. Twitter follower ratio also says a lot about people than what they initially think. Take for example @tipseychef, otherwise known as Christopher Lu who follows 1358 users and has amassed 2565 followers. He has quite a huge following base considering that he was a contestant in Master Chef Season 6, but perhaps, there is

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more to him than just being famous. A thousand or more followers of his account could mean that he is an advocate, an influencer responsible for information dissemination. It is quite better for followers to get information from one’s account as opposed to someone whose follower ratio favors the following section. Twitter users who follow more accounts than their followers could indicate that they are new on Twitter or that they’re the type who takes in information from others rather than being a contributor. Largely, the way one tweets suggests how follower ratios eventually turn out. In contrast to Twitter, Facebook uses the term ‘friend’ which in a sense is actually the same, although studies found that unlike what is said about Twitter follower ratios, the number of friends a person has is seemingly linked to a person’s self-esteem. Psychotherapist Amy Morin wrote in a study published in Computers in Human Behavior that Facebook users who have the most Facebook friends are actually those who have low-esteem in reality, which is why they compensate this by accepting more friends as a way to feel better. Narcissists as explained by the same journal, Computers in Human Behavior, are more likely to post about themselves in an attempt to gain admiration and to receive affirmation that they do look good. Furthermore, other studies reveal the relationship between how people present themselves online and their personalities. A 2010 study entitled Social Network Use and Personality identify users who fill out personal information sections more thoroughly as “open people.” This study may very well explain why some Twitter users have varying interpretations of the bio section. For instance, there are some who introduce themselves very formally by including their profession, hobbies and affiliations as if it is a résumé while some write the most random things like “pizza is happiness” or “welcome stalker.” And occasionally, some users who appear to be

YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


less reserved than most don’t miss out on the opportunity to use the personal information section as an avenue to lead their profile viewers to their respective Instagram accounts via a direct link. Once redirected, the viewers are led to a couple of selfies, some of which are owned by a couple of people with an inflated concept of self-admiration. Now if we were to log into our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account, we may find that our internet profile speaks volumes about who we are as a person. That one tweet, one like, one photo may have been the most subtle of actions but those may be enough to reveal who we truly are. And while we have the permission to post and to express ourselves in any way we deem appropriate, what appears on our profile will always be reflective of our personality. So in case we find ourselves in a situation when we ask “to post or not to post?” “to follow or to unfollow?,” we get to decide in the end how we would like the public to see us inaccurately or truthfully. 48

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What Holds Us Back Ma. Jesusa V. Marcial The youth’s most belittled affliction is this: there are too many voices speaking, we couldn’t hear our own. Fears hold us back from listening but we are neither scared of heights nor depths no more; we can climb up the mountain or go scuba diving down under trenches. We’re no longer scared of ghosts and dark alleys; we fearlessly walk through the night amidst curfew hours with every creeping nocturnal danger. We’re not even afraid of growing up; in fact, we willfully rush the hands of the grandfather clock. Nonetheless, a lot of things still impede our way towards being the best versions of ourselves we are yet to become. It is utterly disheartening that today’s youth don’t have the courage to paddle against the currents. We are afraid of not conforming to the patterns of this world, trembling at the thought of speaking up and taking our stand. Teenagers thirst for approval and affirmation for fear of rejection or worse, condemnation. We ditch classes, make it to late-night hangouts, and glue our eyes to our gadgets the whole day so we don’t miss anything. We loathe feeling left out; we despise being invisible in the eyes of others. We don’t entertain eye-openers so we laugh and mock at clichés that we are predestined to bring change, that one single willful soul with the right advocacy can make a difference. It is ironic that we hate clichés and yet, we conform. We misidentify our own colours; we are colour-blind. We chase other people’s dreams. We mismatch and misuse our God-given gifts, setting aside the fulfillment of unleashing and honing our own potentials. We look but we do not see. We hear but we do not listen. Hence, we are also deaf-mutes sealed to our dusty, old shells belittling ourselves. We’re commissioned to enlighten and colour the world no matter how frail we are, just like shattered colour pastels that still work. Yet, we have always been terrified of making mistakes – of splashing the wrong shade – only to find out that the YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


harder we try to avoid committing one, the more susceptible we are to doing it. We are deceived. The younger generation is consumed with the mentality that life is unfair and that, yes, everyone is in a huge ocean of dilemmas. We concentrate on the things that hurt. We keep ourselves with so much aura of negativity so that we have something to complain about. We neglect the fact that drowning is a choice. Losing a pinky finger wouldn’t be as painful if one would be grateful that there are still nine fingers left. But no, we feel aggrieved for the loss. We find fault in everything when in reality, how we look at it is how it will be. Everyone is struggling to reach the shoreline but we feel alone. We do not take heart. Instead, we refuse to cling to the ropes of hope thrown just within our reach.


Sad to say, most teenagers’ ribcage now holds a heart filled with disbelief. Faith became a forgotten paradigm. Most youths are afraid to trust and believe in positivity. This might be attributed to the seemingly-endless series of disappointments one encounters. And so the youthful adage lives: less expectation, less hurt. We expect little from the universe and ignore provisions in our lives called blessings. We blame anyone, even God, when hardships outnumber the joyful moments. We’re not struck with the realisation that blessings don’t just come in the form of a great deal of positive things; they may also come in the form of trials to fill the empty spaces of our lives. Even so, if it hits us, we brush it off our minds. We don’t give time to witness how our sufferings can be eclipsed by faith and faith alone. Lastly, we are afraid to fall in love with humanity. We do not want to believe in the seed of kindness that is innate in everyone. The idea that every man has a good heart sounds absurd to us because of the overpowering nightmare of trusting the wrong people. We grew up in a healthy diet of fairytales but we fail to see that there are still warm-hearted people. If we would all take time to think of eyes as peepholes, they’re the key for compassion. Yet, all we see is chaos. With a lack of an understanding heart, it’s too easy to inhale Batangas State University

doubts and exhale hopes. The world can at least heal a little but we deprive humanity of its chance to be cured. We are absorbed with the mantra that the world is full of transgressions and disorders. We are fed with cowardice— we don’t want to be involved in planting more seeds of faith and goodness. We hate to assume responsibilities. In every generation arise villains that persecute us and rob us of an amazing future. Hence, villains are not just among us, they’re within us. The youth has been an epitome of a fragile crystal that easily beaks. It fails to see that it can stand out, that it is beautiful just as it is. We do not explore and discover what we’re capable of. But then again, with this generation’s yearning to be adherents of a better world, humanity has greater hopes of flourishing for success is succession. Faith will enable us to overcome the fears that hold us back. The succeeding generations will follow the footmarks we will leave. Let’s start conquering our Goliaths by un-following the voice of the world. There are too many voices speaking but it’s time to hear our own.

YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


More than the Stroke Michelle Yvonne A. Clerigo This may be an act of plagiarism or may be not, for the thoughts presented in this paper may have been the thoughts of writers a long time ago. These ideas are the product of thousands of words from authors and a number of books that I have read. Yet, this writing is also the beating of my heart. These views are the result of my finding out how I think, what I see and what is represented by what I see. For writing is more than just composing text. Writing can accomplish a lot more than just putting strokes of colour on a piece of paper.


Writing creates beauty, and what beauty means depends on the writer. For instance, writing is a bright light in the distance and from the corner of one’s eye, he sees motion. Something is headed his way, a package bound by rainbow-coloured bows. He unwraps it. An African, a Chinese, and an Englishman start jumping out. Suddenly, all the national heroes he knows are greeting and smiling at him. Then, the sky turns black, the earth violently shakes, and the ground is ripped apart. He falls into the abyss and upon falling he wakes up and realises that it was all a dream. This is the beauty of writing – not knowing what’s in store. Along the way, one unravels the unique kind of beauty it offers. More to creating beauty, writing also helps preserve it in different styles and forms by creating a new world. Writers may stare at the blank sheet of paper or at the blank screen trying to assemble the thoughts in their heads. Once they hold their pens or touch the keyboard, they are creating realms separate from reality. They give meaning and life to the words through typing them into a void. One may see a box and write that it’s a gift wrapped in glittering gold; or one may see that same box and write that it’s full of ashes and bones. One may utilise words to create a setting where people kill

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one or where one may immortalise another. Or maybe, the realm produced through writing may be as virtuous as the idea of heaven, or as wicked as the notion of the underworld. Writing not only links ideas but also connects people to one another. By expressing himself, one attracts people with the same beliefs. Literary pieces bridge them to understand one another through words. Prose and poetry serve as an entry to a new dimension where the walls of miscommunication are broken down and where people find the circles they belong to. Through writing, they build a bridge from one side to the other end of the line thus connecting them to one another. In writing, one gives a shapeless idea a structured form by combining it with other ideas. The writer gives it air to breathe and food to eat. Ideas, at first, are indefinite and isolated. However, when he makes the two of them meet, they become comrades. A relationship between two ideas grows and together they create new concepts. Shakespeare in Midsummer Night’s Dream writes, “And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name.” Writing may also serve as the voice when one finds himself suppressed by the rule of majority. In an age where people go with the flow of social media, with the gush of worldly opinions, in a stream of stereotypical beliefs, it takes writing to go and push oneself against the current and have the freedom to express. One may want to add an ingredient to the society or one may want to change or divert his vision from the traditional belief. To do so, writing is a free and instantly available commodity. Through writing, a dot becomes a line. A line forms a shape. Shapes craft an art. In short, writing produces big things from small YOUTHspeak Essay Compilation 2016


packages. One idea springs a thousand ideas more into life. One question gives birth to numerous questions. Andre Dubus III, WD quoted, “I think the deeper you go into questions, the deeper or more interesting the questions get.” These small packages lead us to the image of something bigger—a vision of knowledge or theory we never even knew existed. If one judges an idea, he will never know that it may hide something valuable. Writing is a powerful craft that charms a writer to feed his ideas. Those ideas, more often than not, paints a vision in one’s mind without even knowing he has one. Or if one perfectly knew the vision he wants to share with the world, writing is one of the freest ways for that vision to travel.


Ultimately, in facing a blank sheet and writing this down, this writer has just created ideas, and gave them the most nutritive diet of words. Hence, it grows into an aesthetic writing which speaks and stands for itself. This writing, like thousands of written works of art before it, attempts to communicate and build comradeship among readers. Moreover, writing starts small and grows big. One may start with a question “Why do I write?” and that short question triggers one’s mind to many possible opinions. In the end, writing is more than just holding your pen and letting the ink bleed on the paper. It is more. Always.

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About NBDCS The National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) is a non-profit, charitable organisation founded in 1968. The Book Council initiated the Festival of Books and Book Fairs in 1969, and with Reed Exhibitions launched the International Library Expo (ILE) in 1998. Since 1990 the Council has been organising the prestigious Singapore Literature Prize. In January 2006, the Singapore Writers Centre (SWC) was set up with the support of the National Arts Council. SWC has been providing consultation services to aspiring writers by answering their queries on writing and publishing and directing them to the relevant channels. The Book Council has now set its sights on energising publishers, writers and related professionals with the objective of developing Singapore into an International centre for writers and publishers of Asian Content. 60

It promotes storytelling, reading, writing, and publishing through a variety of programmes and festivals, including the Asian Festival of Children’s Content and the All In! Young Writers Festival. NBDCS also presents many annual and biennial awards, including the Singapore Literature Prize and the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award for works published in Singapore; the Scholastic Asian Book Award, and the Scholastic Picture Book Award for unpublished works. Their training arm, the Academy of Literary Arts and Publishing (ALAP), also runs publishing-related and literary arts-focused courses and workshops throughout the year. NBDCS is a recipient of the National Arts Council’s Major Grant. Visit to find out more about the Book Council.

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