Gahanna Lincoln High School rising junior Bronte Johnson has been selected as one of 15 teens across the nation to participate in Microsoft's inaugural Council for Digital Good.
Johnson, 16, will visit Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus in early August for its first council summit, where participants will help lay the groundwork for a new approach to online interactions and to further champion its work in digital civility.
Microsoft received hundreds of applications, which included detailed essays and videos about applicants' lives online, along with their perspectives on Microsoft, and their hopes and expectations for the council experience.
Johnson said she had the opportunity to participate in many technological and STEM programs at school.
Marcie Aiello, a business-technology teacher at Lincoln High School, said Johnson is an excellent student who is highly interested in technology and in helping others.
She competed in the CBus Student Hack event, sponsored by Franklin University & AT&T, the past two years, gaining valuable experience in app development as well as in presenting her ideas to a panel of judges, Aiello said.
"This inaugural Microsoft Council for Digital Good is an amazing opportunity for her to grow, learn and contribute as well as to positively represent Gahanna-Jefferson (Public) Schools and the city of Gahanna," Aiello said.
"She will be able to share her experiences, viewpoints and ideas about digital issues and online interactions with students from across the U.S., and bring back what she learns to help her peers at GLHS," Aiello said.
Johnson said her mother, Beverly Johnson, told her about the council project that was open to teens ages 13 to 18.
She said she started her application by writing down possible ideas on which she could elaborate, and narrowed a long list down to about five strong points.
"I knew that I wanted my application to stand out, and that I wanted it to be absolutely perfect," she said.
With her mother serving as her No. 1 critic, she managed to narrow the top five down to her two strongest prompts.
"This was an extremely difficult decision to make because I spoke about my experience with cyberbullying and my distaste for social media in one prompt, while I spoke about my admiration of the overwhelming diversity offered, and my fiery passion for social media in the other," she said.
"After a few days of deliberation, I ended up choosing my second prompt. This prompt spoke heavily about my love of certain aspects of social media, what social media has to offer all of its users, what it has offered me and why it is so dangerous," she said.
An excerpt from one of her paragraphs states that on Instagram, she would create accounts and people from all sorts of backgrounds, fandoms and places all around the world would comment, like, follow and repost content.
"It really allowed me to leave my digital footprint in that particular 'fandom,' and it would spread my name all around in the fandom community," Johnson said.
"But becoming recognizable had a lot to do with the way I set up my account. I followed certain themes and colors when I would post, making my profile more appeasing to the eye.
"For example, one week the theme could be pink, and then I would post a spacer of white, and then the next theme would be yellow. It would continue like that for a while, before I decided what I wanted next," she said.
The message she wanted to get across was that she put a lot of time, emotion and thought into her posts.
"I cared what people thought of my pictures, what they thought about my captions, and if they liked it or not," she said. "This part especially shows my passion and love for social media. I dedicate a lot to my posts and try very hard to make them look great."
With that being said, where there is a positive, there is a negative, Johnson said.
"My problem, along with many other social media users, is that we care," she said. "Some people ... they care way too much. They put all of their time into social media, they put all of their emotion into their posts, they trust all of their followers, and they feel the need to be recognized by every person in the fandom community.
"Granted, I get this way sometimes as well, but this is a huge issue. And this is the issue I aimed to address with the aid of Microsoft," she said.
Now that she has been accepted into the Council for Digital Good, Johnson said she hopes to gain experience with a company as large and influential as Microsoft.
"Hopefully, we can make a difference in this upcoming generation of kids, improving their social media experience, and arming them with some basic defensive knowledge," she said.
Aiello said she's proud of Johnson for wanting to participate and thrilled she was selected.
"It truly reflects on her great character and dedication to making the world a better place through use of technology," she said.
Nine young women and six young men from California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington were selected for the summit, which intends to help young people appreciate and understand the risks associated with life online.
In turn, the organizer hopes to gain perspective from the members on the state of online interactions today; what might make the online space healthier, safer and more enjoyable; and to reflect on how Microsoft can play a part in shaping that future.