Addiction or Conviction – The Social Networking Effect

Written By: Racquel Royer

Journalism Student

​University Of Maryland

Jonathan N. Bertrand, a rising junior at Florida A&M University and the CEO and founder of The Global Touch Foundation Inc casually answered a stranger’s Facetime call on Sunday night. Maybe I’m not considered to be a complete stranger considering we follow each other on Instagram. In other words he has an idea of who I am… or who I want people to believe I am based on pictures and quotes that I post online. Looking at his Instagram from my perspective, he was a young entrepreneur trying to spread a movement about the effects of social media. I was immediately interested.

Endless posts on his profile captioned with the hashtag, #TheSocialNetworkingEffect are what originally caught my attention. I messaged him to learn more: that’s the beauty of the internet. By the next day, our conversation was live. During the course of our two hour call, I learned the inspiring story of a young college student on his path to “Pioneering The Social Media Awareness Industry .”

Like so many children, teens and even adults, Bertrand was a victim of both physical bullying and cyber-bullying. For many who are unaware, cyber-bullying can refer to several types of virtual harassment, be it online or through a mobile device. Anything from malicious posts, online threats, posing as another individual online to intentionally harm others, or the circulating of suggestive sexual or false material could fall under this category.

It was saddening to learn that the bright and passionate young man, so eloquently telling his story on my computer, screen was once the victim of such cruel and cowardly harassment; bullying so sadistic that it would lead him to question his life. Bertrand became addicted to social media, whether it involved refreshing his page or defensively posting his thoughts immediately. The end result was a young man kicked out of his house and sent to live with his grandmother, ultimately leading to enrollment at a mental health facility for his own safety and the safety of those around him.

Luckily with time and a great support system, Bertrand was mentally strong enough to realize, before it was too late, that he had become addicted to social media. In 2012, he posted an open letter on Facebook detailing the long term physical and mental abuse that he endured from bullying throughout his life while attending Apopka High  High School in Orlando, Fl. The letter explained the frustrations and embarrassment Bertrand faced dealing with school officials that disregarded his pleas, and his reluctance to reach out to his parents. The post also included statistics on the prevalence of adolescent suicide.

You may be thinking, how many people are truly affected by this? The numbers are more alarming than you would imagine.

More than half of adolescents have been cyber-bullied and about the same number admit to partaking in cyber bullying activities. Additionally, well over half of adolescents refrain from sharing this news with their parents, according to statistics from the i-SAFE foundation and bullyingstatistics.org.

Ultimately, it was Bertrand’s ensuing strength and the love of his family that pulled him out of addiction. However, many people are not as fortunate. Aware of this, he set out to make a difference with the goal of spreading awareness with regard to the effects that the digital realm can have on our everyday lives.

Fast forward a few years later and Bertrand’s efforts would not cease. The 17-year old young man who once fell victim to the addiction of social media , the drive for revenge and suffering of open discontentment, had now turned the tables in his favor. He formulated a new commitment and personal conviction. Using social media as a networking tool to spread positivity and awareness with a hashtag. As of 2015, Bertrand is now the trademark owner of the phrase “The Social Networking Effect” and the CEO and founder of The Global Touch Foundation Inc ( 501c3 Tax Exempt ) .

Bertrand smiled proudly and said it “All Started With A Hashtag!” ironically, when asked about the expansion of his movement. #TheSocialNetworkingEffect was a hashtag that Bertrand generated on twitter, Instagram and Facebook beginning in 2010, simply to get people talking. In a short time people just like me were curious what effect he was referring to. Little did he know his hashtag would be the start of a long journey toward revealing the effects of a new norm: social media, a medium so commonplace that he refers to it as the “third realm.”

“We are going to educate people on the positives and negatives of social media. We are going to expose the effects of what it does to your mental and physical state of being,” is the statement on Bertrand’s official website, www.TheSocialNetworkingEffect.com

The Global Touch Foundation Inc focuses on five basic areas: education, research, mental health, physical health and policy. With the help of educators, strangers, online “friends” and peers, his goal is to consolidate his research to create a national educational platform that can be used to inform all types of people – from students, to working professionals and military personnel – with an emphasis on children. After all, kids are receiving iPhones, tablets, and creating online profiles as young as 7 and 8 years old. Social Media is only expanding and becoming more accessible and pervasive, hence the foundation’s name “Global Touch.”

Thus far, Bertrand has received sponsorship toward his efforts from several companies, private donations from numerous supporters and funds from t-shirt sales which he plans to use towards furthering his initiative. As of last month, he is also the recipient of a Google Ad Grants award, a program that supports registered nonprofit organizations that share Google’s philosophy of community service, currently providing him $360,255 a year in free online advertising.

It’s been six years in the making thus far, but Bertrand reminded me that “this is only the beginning.” The movement is rapidly expanding, just like social media. If there’s one thing Bertrand wanted everyone to know, it’s that “people matter.” “Everyone’s got a story.” he said. Bertrand was able to turn his negative relationship with social media, into a platform to help people just like himself. “That’s the Social Networking Effect.” What’s your story?”

Share your story, or support the movement by using the hashtag #TheSocialNetworkingEffect. You can get inspired by following Jonathan Bertrand’s movement on Instagram @JonathanNBertrand or visiting the official website, The GlobalTouchFoundation.org

Step back and re-think how social media is shaping, controlling, ruining or improving your life. We can all learn from the “Bertrand Model”. Make sure that you manage social media – don’t let social media manage you. Discover how to turn a potential addiction into a conviction to have a purpose driven life



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