What I learned when I asked 15 young women about their photo sharing habits

SEEK just ran our first ever Camp SEEK — a week long intensive program for young women interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) related careers. This program was spearheaded by the brilliant Sarah Redmond and I feel very grateful to have been a part of it. 

Signing up to participate I knew that I was going to be teaching young girls about UX, with my colleague Rob Scherer, but what I didn’t expect is what I would learn from them. 

I got my first glimpse of the ladies at the ‘Women in Tech’ panel on the Monday afternoon.

Women in Tech panelists: Kate Claringbold, Gerda Schuring, Julie Fahey, Michelle Sheppard, Glen Cameron and MC Jacqueline McCudden

Women in Tech panelists: Kate Claringbold, Gerda Schuring, Julie Fahey, Michelle Sheppard, Glen Cameron and MC Jacqueline McCudden

Despite only meeting that morning, the girls had already formed fast friends and were chatting amoungst each other. When the panel started they gave their full attention and asked questions of the calibre I would expect to hear at any industry women in tech panel, including:

  • Have you ever faced discrimination in your work because you are a woman?

  • How many women are CEO’s and heads of companies? 

Unfortunately we had to tell them yes, and not many, respectively. To explain to them the severity of the situation I chimed in with the fact that there are more dudes named John running companies in the US than women. I don’t see that been a problem for these brilliant young women, however. These will be the girls who do something about that. 

Tuesday morning I co-ran a UX session along with Rob. It took a few minutes for them to warm up and soon they were excitedly explaining their Bad UX experiences to us. They drew some awesome interfaces and were not shy about participating and asking questions. They were everything I wasn’t at 15, but wish I had been: Confident, Assertive, Go-getters. They told us their passions and ideas for their tech careers, that I hadn’t even begun to imagine in my undergraduate degree, let alone at their age. The main activity that our session revolved around was photo sharing habits. We got the girls to interview each other; we analyzed the data using affinity maps; they created interfaces solving a pain point with existing photo sharing apps, and; they usability tested the paper prototypes. 

Camp SEEKers with their paper prototypes

Camp SEEKers with their paper prototypes

When we analyzed their data, there were some interesting insights in regards to their photo sharing habits.

Here’s what we learned: 

  • They're not all on SnapChat and Instagram

  • Some even like physical photos and print them off 

  • They don't all post publicly, as the media would have us believe

  • They are concerned about privacy 

  • They're not all self-absorbed and posting selfies, many spoke about disliking selfies. 

One was insightful enough to ask the question "what is the thing you want to get out of when you post something online?". The answers too were very honest and introspective: 

  • To get likes
  • To share photos and give assurance to self about 'coolness'

Along with the pressure to be 'cool' they also spoke about wanting to be able to report explicit content and inappropriate people, or even better yet - never see it. They also were insightful enough to understand that when people post mean things they are doing it on purpose to "destroy one's self-esteem". 

These young women do have a lot of body pressure from online sources, but they also have lots of resources online that are body positive.  In the create-a-thon at the end of the week one team took on this challenge on with their project I’m beautiful anyway. When I spoke to these particular girls they were all pretty confident with themselves, bodies included, even more so than adult women that I know. Maybe the Internet isn't all bad for body image, when there are awesome self-love blogs available that these woman are creating and contributing to. One showed me a website she worked on in year 8 which just blew my mind. The things kids can do today are things we didn't touch until university. With their talent, confidence and new weapons against the doubts that plague most women, I can't wait to see what these woman achieve when they've already achieved so much by 16.