By: Youmna Sirgi, Content Curator Intern
“I want to spark this idea that there is more to girls and women than their visual appeal on social media.”
As an entrepreneur, speaker, published author, doctoral student in psychology, aunt, and now mother, Julia Garcia has seen firsthand how vulnerable young girls are in today’s society. A number of studies have shown that social media use is directly linked to body image concerns, dieting, a desire for thinness, and self-objectification in young women, including young girls that Julia loves.
Julia is passionate about empowering high school girls who feel insecure because of society’s obsession with body image, and is devastated by the huge spike in depression, suicide, and cyberbullying since the rise of social media. Now, she’s working to transform this toxic social media culture by speaking at conferences, college keynotes, and school assemblies, and even developing an uplifting app.
KYA is a mobile application community and emotional support network that gives young girls and women a positive social media experience. As the founder and CEO, Julia has created a safe space where young women can anonymously share stories, seek support from peers, and ask advice from strong women in their communities. It adds the real to the fake highlight reels young women see on their Instagram and Twitter feeds.
“I want to create a community that represents honesty, vulnerability, and just raw authenticity.”
Combating Society’s Unhealthy Representation of Women
Julia’s journey as an entrepreneur and motivational speaker started when she was 20 years old. After finishing college, she turned down a job offer to move back home and work with high school students.
“I just wanted to connect with students in a way I wish someone did for me.”
Back in Phoenix, she launched The TRU Movement, a non-profit that promoted self expression through art, music, and slam poetry. Over time, The TRU Movement morphed into The Rewrite Project, a program geared towards combating mental health issues, normative gender roles, and toxic masculinity in high schools.
As she interacted with young girls, Julia realized that society’s unhealthy representation of women on social media was already having dangerous, and sometimes fatal, consequences. Suicide is now four times higher than it was ten years ago and Generation Z is more vulnerable to cyber bullying than any generation before.
Having expertise both in psychology and high school mentorship, Julia decided she needed to be on the front lines of change. She switched the focus of her doctoral studies at Saybrook University to research the impact of social media on young women (check out the great article Saybrook wrote about her here). While conducting hundreds of interviews nationwide, Julia realized how widespread this issue had become.
“Young girls were telling me they wanted a space to be heard and I felt like it was my obligation to give it to them.”
That’s when Garcia pivoted again… towards KYA.
Offering a Place Where Young Women Feel Heard and Valued
KYA isn’t meant to be flashy; it’s not meant to be the next Snapchat or Instagram. Instead, it’s supposed to fill a gap in the existing social media market and offer a place where young women truly feel heard and valued.
“Girls know that there’s a problem, but taking away social media isn’t a solution because it’s their social life. KYA offers a safe space; when they need it, they’ll go for it.”
Within the first three weeks of KYA’s launch, the application was already saving lives. After introducing KYA to a junior high in Phoenix, a student anonymously posted she was contemplating suicide. Within 48 hours, she was successfully identified and connected voluntarily to the school’s social worker.
“I’ve seen how much sharing stories on a real level can change a person’s perspective on themselves and those around them. Ultimately, I think that can change the world.”
The First Step is Acknowledging Vulnerability
Between launching KYA, finishing her doctoral degree, writing a TEDx talk, raising a toddler and planning a wedding, the path to growing KYA has been far from easy.
“Sometimes it’s lonely, and it’s hard…. But you can’t stop because you feel defeated.”
The first step to changing social media’s expectations of perfection is to acknowledge vulnerability. For Julia, this means surrounding herself with a network that supports her and pushes her to keep fighting, something she encourages all budding entrepreneurs to do.
“Equip yourself with whatever you need to spark a plug… there are people out there who need your ideas and communities who need your product.”
KYA is growing every day to protect more young girls from the dangers of toxic social media culture. Julia hopes to one day convince society that there is far more to women than their physical appeal. But her ultimate goal is to break down the barriers social media has built up.
“What changes culture is recognizing that the person behind the screen is human too. Only then can we create a more empathetic world.”
Over 2,300 girls and women have already signed up for KYA. Give the KYA experience to your girls and bring social health to schools and social media nationwide! You can book Julia as a speaker on her personal website, or schedule a demo for the KYA app on the KYA website.
Start your entrepreneurial journey today!
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