Betsy Hughes and Kenzie McKallor, both 15, are living proof that social media isn’t all bad, after all.
For starters, the now-best-friends connected on Instagram before they became friends in person at South Valley Junior High School in Gilbert, Arizona. They constantly leave kind, uplifting comments on their friends’ posts. Their social media pages are filled with bright colors, positivity and gratitude.
For Betsy and Kenzie, positivity on social media is their solution to the growing problem of online negativity and bullying. When they were in eighth grade, the two teamed up to launch the campaign “Posting the Positive,” which encourages people to focus on kindness and positivity both online and in person.
In 2016, toward the end of seventh grade for Betsy and Kenzie, the friends started to notice an ever-growing amount of negativity and harsh words on social media among their peers. After discussing the issue, they wanted to take action.
“When people feel bad about themselves, they’ll kind of bring others down,” Betsy said. “To see friends' posts and other people comment negative things on that really hurt our hearts and we really wanted to do something about it.”
Katie Hughes, Betsy’s mother and a major supporter of the “Posting the Positive” campaign, said the girls were bothered by online bullying and things like “rates,” social media posts in which a user gives their friends a public rating between one and 10 based on looks.
“These girls were just kind of feeling that they could do more to promote positive things rather than these negative things that were kind of starting to overshadow a lot of what was going on on social media,” Katie Hughes said.
In response to these experiences, and after talking to their principal, Tim Cannon, Betsy and Kenzie spent the summer creating the “Posting the Positive” campaign. When school started in the fall, they presented everything they came up with to Cannon.
Cannon was eager to support their campaign. The school had recently received a chromebook for each student, and Cannon liked the idea of students learning to use social media more wisely and positively.
“It was really important to me that kids learn appropriate use and digital citizenship,” Cannon said. “I said, ‘This will fit right in.’”
Conveniently, the superintendent was on a back-to-school tour with the mayor and members of the school board, and South Valley Junior High School was their first stop. Cannon gave Betsy and Kenzie the opportunity to present their campaign to the group on their first day of eighth grade. Later that week, Cannon invited the girls to present to the entire school, and every student saw the video-launch to their campaign.
“They were received so positively here when they presented to our kids,” Cannon said. “They were just willing to take their message out, and for kids that young and willing to do that, it was really important to me to give them that opportunity.”
During the remainder of their time in junior high school, Betsy and Kenzie presented their campaign at a number of nearby schools, teamed up with local businesses to have nights to promote “Posting the Positive” and even presented at the Google Leadership Symposium at Arizona State University.
Even though it’s been more than a year since Betsy and Kenzie graduated from South Valley Junior High School, teachers and administrators still use the content the girls created to teach students about wise social media use.
“It really made kids think of how they use social media and the impact that social media has on everything that they do,” Cannon said. “We owe them a lot.”
When Betsy and Kenzie started high school last fall, they took a break from their “Posting the Positive” campaign. In February of this year, they re-launched and re-branded, calling the new movement “The Positive.” The campaign carries the same goal as its predecessor, but with a greater emphasis on positivity “in real life.”
“We wanted to do something bigger than just ‘Posting the Positive’ and what people knew about when they went to South Valley Junior High School,” Kenzie said. “We realized that it’s not always just about spreading positivity and kindness online, but I think now, more than ever, we need kindness and real human interactions in real life.”
As part of the new movement, Betsy and Kenzie designed a series of T-shirts for people to sport the message. All profits from the sales will go to furthering the campaign, as they previously turned down out-of-state speaking opportunities because they had no funds to draw on.
The girls also started hosting in-person events to raise awareness and encourage positive, face-to-face interactions without the interference of cellphones. They held such an event at Soda Rush, a popular soda and cookie joint in Gilbert, at the end of May.
True to form, a major part of Betsy and Kenzie’s campaign takes place online. In addition to their website and social media pages for the campaign, they invite everyone to post positivity, using the hashtags #postingthepositive and #thepositive.
‘The strength to show his love’
Betsy’s mother, Katie Hughes, believes something larger than Betsy and Kenzie has connected the two since the beginning of their friendship. She remembers when the duo first met, and Betsy told her mom about her friend Kenzie who was “full of light.”
“A light has always existed in their friendship, and a genuine love and a respect for their beliefs,” Katie Hughes said. “It’s been a beautiful thing to watch, and it’s been so neat for them to be connected on the same purpose of something.”
Betsy, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Kenzie, a Christian, both attribute the success of their campaign and the strength they’ve had to launch it to the divine.
“As somebody who believes in God, I think that God’s really just been able to help Kenzie and I through this whole campaign,” Betsy said. “It’s just something that we’ve needed a lot of help on to keep it going, and he’s just been the center of all this for us.”
Kenzie added she believes God has helped the two both to see the good in the world and share it with others.
“He’s really given us the strength to show his love and our love for him,” Kenzie said.
‘The Positive’ comes to Utah
After living in Arizona since she was 3 years old, Betsy will be moving to Utah this month and attending the new Farmington High School in the fall. She’s happy knowing she won’t be the only new student when school starts Aug. 23.
She plans to bring her movement with her, both posting and sharing positivity with her new peers while encouraging them to do the same.
“I know that ‘Posting the Positive’ is going to be something that I can spread to people in Utah, and something that will continue growing as I get older,” Betsy said.
When the Hughes family knew they’d be moving, they sat down to talk about what would happen with “Posting the Positive,” according to Katie Hughes.
“It was totally understood that we would just keep doing it,” Katie Hughes said. “There’s no reason to stop.”1 comment on this story
Although Kenzie is as upset as any best friend would be about the move — including counting down the days with dread — she’s also excited for what the future will bring for “Posting the Positive,” both in Utah and beyond high school.
“Whatever we do in our lives and wherever we go, this will always be a part of us,” Kenzie said. “We’ll always spread kindness of love, even if there’s not a label attached to it. We’re always just going to inspire people and inspire one another.”