written by Emily Buckley, editor in chief

Collin Kartchner, a Utah man and Ted Talk speaker has taken Instagram and schools across the state and beyond by storm in a crusade that he says is to “save the kids.”

When Collin visits schools he explains the phycological damage that comes from improper use of social media, using relatable terms and scenarios that teens can understand.

Before starting his current project to educate people about the risks of social media use, Collin was a full-time video producer and he had a following on Instagram, where he made satirical sketches.

In late 2016, Collin had a chance meeting with an old friend, Roxanne, at a gas station. He casually asked about her daughter, Whitney, who he had known when she was a child. The mother sadly reported that Whitney had died by suicide, at age 23. He was heartbroken. As the two talked, Collin learned that Whitney had become heavily immersed in social media and had lost her sense of worth somewhere along the way. Her mother felt social media was the literal cause of Whitney’s death, and that giving her daughter a smartphone was the equivalent to handing her a loaded gun.

Collin decided to take action. “If we don’t stop this epidemic it is only going to get worse,” Collin said.

Collin now uses his active Instagram account (with a following if about 90,000) to share research about the effects of screen time and social media use. He also uses it as a platform to tell the stories of teens who have been affected by it.

Collin says he receives anywhere from 200 to 700 direct messages on Instagram every day. “I’ve been able to turn myself into their voice,” Collin said. “They can share what they are going through, and I listen … I sit in the ditch with them. I block their names and share their stories, hoping it will help someone else.”

It has been said Collin is “fighting Instagram with Instagram.” To illustrate how to use social media for good, he shares his experience of raising money for Hurricane victims. Disappointed that Instagram influencers were using the disaster to promote and sell products, he used his platform to fundraise for those affected by the hurricane. He ended up raising more than $100,000.

Likewise, within 9 minutes of sharing Whitney’s story, Collin raised enough money to put up “You are Beautiful” and “You are Loved” billboards, in memory of Whitney, along stretches of one of Utah’s busiest interstate freeways. Since then, Collin has been traveling to schools, churches, and arenas sharing his message.

Collin says he isn’t suggesting that teens stop using social media altogether. “I don’t think teens need to get rid of it — although I would delay getting it as long as possible,” Collin said. “I just think they need to take a break; see what is toxic, cut out those toxic accounts — delete them or mute them, and then go back to only things that are inspiring. Use social media for good. What if we all had accounts that promoted positivity?”

Every time Collin speaks to teens he shares what he calls the Collin Challenge:

  • Get/give eight hugs a day for a minimum of 8 seconds.
  • Start sharing more authenticity and positivity. Show others it is OK to be real.
  • Don’t participate in any kind of cyberbullying. Cut it off when you see it.
  • Do something awesome and DON’T share it.
  • Fail at something and SHARE it proudly.
  • Unfollow every account on Instagram or Snapchat that doesn’t make you happy.

“My challenge is for teens to connect in real life,” Collin said. “Put your phone down. Don’t let social media tell you what you are worth. You will never be happy if you are chasing numbers and followers. You don’t have to follow accounts just because others do; don’t follow accounts that make you judge yourself or make you feel less or inadequate.”