Gone are the days of wood cabins, campfires and sing-a-longs: one summer camp in Los Angeles is grooming kids to be the next big social media “influencer” instead, The Verge reports.
Writer Megan Farokhmanesh wrote an in depth feature on SocialStar Creator Camp, a summer camp that helps social media stars-in-training be the best version of their brand they can be. (Campers range in age from their early teens to their mid 20s.) The three-day sleepaway camp takes place at Claremont McKenna College, near Los Angeles, and draws aspiring actors, singers and vloggers from around the U.S. and as far away as Puerto Rico and Sweden.
The camp sounds like—and is, in many respects—a modern dystopia. But after reading the article, it seems more like an intense crash course in branding than a bunch of selfie-taking tweens eager to get more likes on their latest post, a nuance that Farokhmanesh expressed surprised about, too: “The reality was a group of surprisingly business-minded teens with an eye on their futures.”
During their stay, campers attend workshops hosted by Michael Buckley, an “experienced vlogger, host, comedian, and author,” Farokhmanesh wrote. While the whole “let’s help kids build their personal brand” idea is still a little unsettling, the camp might not be all bad: the kids learn practical and technical skills that could actually help them offline, like video editing, branding and monetization.
Buckley has a cautiously optimistic approach to social media and the internet in general: he thinks vlogging can be used for good, for example helping to destigmatize mental illness and encourage people to “be comfortable with themselves and identify their sexual orientation or identity easily and effortlessly with no shame,” he told the Verge.
But he doesn’t shy away from how dangerous social media can be: the campers get a few different online safety courses. Farokmanesh sat in on one less-than helpful presentation on cyber security from an LAPD officer (he thought Vine still existed) and a more practical lesson on how to deal with the “haters” from Buckley himself. He taught the campers basics like “check into locations after you’ve left them” and more personal tips, too: “whenever you read something, keep this in your head: don’t let the praise go to your head, don’t let the hate go to your heart. That is life advice. It is always about them. It is never about you.”
Buckley predicts similar camps will start popping up around the country soon, and has a practical mindset about the trend: he says kids are “spending all their time looking at their phone anyway. They might as well be productive about it and get some skills out of it.”
This approach might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does make a certain amount of sense. If younger generations are going to be immersed in social media, teaching them to take it seriously may help them understand that while it seems like fun and games, there are real consequences—some positive, some negative—to using social media, let alone being a future “influencer.”
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