Marie’s story: on social media, be the person who you are in real life

Marie Tauts is an active 16-year-old who is graduating from primary school and will be entering the Miina Härma upper secondary school in Tartu in the autumn. Today, we talked about the influence of social media, the dangers that lurk there and her first work experiences.

How and when did your social media career start?

Five years ago, I had already created my Instagram account before I created a Facebook account. I had actually experimented with creating my first account at the age of nine, but at the time I kept it a secret. My parents didn’t know, so I got into some trouble for it. Since I have been dancing for 12 years, I started posting pictures from dance competitions, as well as family photos from swamp hikes and the like. As there weren’t many people my age on social media, I started gaining followers quite fast. I did my first collaboration with a major brand a year after opening my Instagram account. By now, you could say that it has become my full-time job.

How did this first collaboration happen?

It so happened that my brother and I wanted to eat some candies that weren’t sold in stores here. I then wrote directly to the manufacturer wanting to order some from them, but they sent them to me for free instead.

What else do you do besides social media?

I have been dancing since I was 4 years old. In general, I love to fill my free time with recreational activities. I go to the gym or go on runs and in quieter moments, I read books. One of my latest reads is “Memories” by Andrus Kivirähk.

In addition, I have been a member of Tartu’s youth council since January this year, where opportunities for recreation for young people is one of the major issues.

Have you already reached the job market? What was your first job and what did you learn there?

Yes, I go picking strawberries every summer. It has become a tradition, so to speak. Picking strawberries has made me learn to value physical work. Even though I earn more on Instagram than I do from picking strawberries, I value the money I earned from it differently. Getting up early, a sore back… on some level, I value money earned from hard physical work more. It’s been a good lesson and a necessary experience. I’m likely going to go strawberry picking this summer as well.

Who did you want to become as a kid?

A store clerk! Of course, most of that work is now being done by self-service checkouts. The teaching profession also seemed cool to me. And, of course, I also wanted to become a dancing instructor.

What are the pros and cons of being a social media influencer?

Of course, there are more pros than cons. For example, I can do a lot of things that most people can’t do, such as going to various events, trying products and getting to know people. The ability to make contacts is one of the most important pros. If you decide to work in media in the future, then you’ll know who to contact. In addition, thanks to this kind of work, I learn new skills all the time. Already by the age of 12, I had started doing different collaborations and I also had to learn how to communicate with adults by e-mail. I have also learned to plan my time, as work and posts are usually always scheduled to the day.

As for the cons, there’s a lot of pressure – there have been a lot of offers during the current exam period. It’s a full-time job in the sense that you have to constantly come up with new ideas and exciting approaches. That thought process doesn’t shut down on the weekends. Of course, I have also encountered negative comments that have ruined the mood.

How much do you take negative feedback to heart?

Initially I was of course much more receptive, but my parents, who explained the situation, helped a lot. By now, in some ways, I have grown a thick skin and don’t take things to heart as easily anymore. Actually, I don’t know what’s going on in the head of the person who writes a negative comment or message. Maybe they’re insecure about something or maybe they’re just in a bad mood. I don’t know. That’s why you shouldn’t take things so seriously. Often, the worst people who leave comments are some 12-year-old boys. It’s best to just ignore them.

However, if someone leaves constructive criticism, I try to take it into account. I try to think about how I can do things better.

You have said that older men have also sent you inappropriate pictures on social media. How often do you encounter harassment?

Yes, I used to have an older serial harasser who sent pictures of his genitalia. When I first encountered this, I didn’t really know how to react. I was shocked. I then proceeded to talk to my mother about it and it helped a lot.

People like this should always be blocked. The subject of harassment should be talked about more in general. In cases like this, minors should absolutely turn to an adult for help – if they can’t talk to their parents about it, then they should talk about it to, for example, a teacher or another adult who can give advice. The police can be contacted as well if necessary.

What other potential dangers have you noticed while using social media?

One danger is definitely smartphone addiction. I have tried to use my smart devices less at certain times of the day. In any case, you should keep track of how much time you spend on social media. Then you should make an agreement with yourself that you will use your computer or phone for exactly this much time. Otherwise, you could get yourself lost in this world. Naturally, not all bad days are shown on social media and the view of the world there is somewhat distorted. Everyone has their difficult moments that they don’t want to share. I try to share both the more difficult and the better days of my life. On social media, be the person who you are in real life.

To end this interview - how are you going to spend your summer and what are your recommendations for bored young people?

As I said before, I’m planning on going to the strawberry fields this summer as well. However, I still have several other things planned as well. My grandfather is a geologist and together we have visited various Estonian islands. We haven’t been able to visit every island, so we’ll probably go to some islands this summer to discover a little more of Estonia. I’m definitely planning to travel abroad this summer as well.

But if you’re bored, I recommend giving yourself a challenge: for instance, see how many books you can read during the summer. Or gather your friends to play volleyball. Or go on a bike hike. Or go on a picnic! There’s also a lot of festivals and you can enjoy various performers. You can also visit museums. There’s actually a lot to do and you definitely don’t have to stay bored.

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