Claudia Gonzalez September 10, 2012 ENC 3331 Every day – whether for a few seconds at a time or for a couple hours – we easily find ourselves in engaging in some sort of social networking. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr; you name it, someone, somewhere is on it. It is a big part of everyday life, and more so of adolescent life. According to the “2011 Florida Civic Health Index”, a lot of teens would say they don’t have time to volunteer or give back – especially with all the time spent online. But well, there is always an exception.
19 year-old Stephanie Frosch seems to know the power of social networking – and knows how to use it well. More commonly known as “ElloSteph” from her blog, Stephanie has many goals and has found a means to achieve them. In her senior year of high school she created a blog on Tumblr, and thought not much of it. She was out as lesbian, and that brought her blog to the attention of teens around the world. She was faced with personal questions about topics like sexuality, suicide, eating disorders, abuse – and found herself doing everything she could to answer them and reach out to these kids. She wanted to do more with social networking, and went on to join LGBTV, the number one gay collaboration project on the internet. With their videos guided towards adolescents and teens, LGBTV helps more and more people every week. Her weekly videos average 20,000 views and she currently has over 10,000 subscribers to her channel. Though a shy child, Stephanie grew out of that shell as she aged and it worked to her benefit. Coming out was a personal struggle for her, but she was able to do so gracefully because the confidence she carried. When her mom passed away, there was one thing that Stephanie held on to: “She always told me to be the best person I could be” (Frosch). Her mother can be said to be her inspiration. “I remember that she always helped everyone she could, no matter how close or distant she was to them. That’s what I do; even if there’s a kid on the other side of the world that needs to tell their entire life story to get help, I do it” (Frosch).
Stephanie was well received in the Tumblr community and was glad that she didn’t have to change anything about herself for this to be the case. Her success came from word of mouth, as she never thought to promote herself. Stephanie believes that the popularity of her blog can be attributed to the fact that “kids have issues talking to older people” (Frosch). When she was growing up she didn’t have anyone to talk to, and now fights to make sure that anyone out there doesn’t have to feel the same way. She didn’t believe that talking to a teacher or guidance counselor that hasn’t been through what she has been through would help. Stephanie feels that this is what draws teens of all ages to her and her blog. She is open about her experiences and the struggles she has had to overcome, and in her words, “it works for them.”
Stephanie also does plenty of work outside of her social networking. For fun, she was a volunteer coordinator of Diva Invasion, a UCF event, as well as the biggest drag show in Florida. All the money earned from that was donated to different charities. She also is a fellow of Young People for Bisexual (Bi)People of the American Way. In this organization, she feels that they are engaging in social change for the community in order to create a positive environment for bi adolescents to grow up in. Stephanie does a lot of activist work in theatre, and participates in theatre for social change. One of her favorite shows has been “The Other ‘F’ Word” – a show about gender issues in society. She is currently working with a friend, the producer of Breakthrough Productions on creating a show about body image and eating disorders. “We shouldn’t have little girls growing up thinking that the only way you are considered beautiful is if you’re 6 feet tall, with double D breasts and size double zero pants” (Frosch).
According to Stephanie, civic engagement is “anything that you can do in a community in order to effect some sort of change” (Frosch). She believes that people are much more reserved and that causes the lack of civil engagement in our communities. The general population is used to going home and opening a screen than talking to people one on one. She feels that others should get involved and engage in their community or something that interests them. There aren’t enough people our age preventing teen depression or other issues and the kids she speaks to have no one else their age that they can relate to. Contrary to the Civic Health Index, Stephanie is doing more than just getting a college education here at UCF. She is attune to the needs of both her university community and her online community. Through her work, Stephanie goes against the status quo that the Civic Health Index imposes on teens and
university students, and knows the satisfaction gained of working to helps others. The personal responsibility to give back is on her shoulders â€“ â€œIf anyone has the ability to make a positive change on anyone, no matter how big or small, it is their responsibility to do it.â€?