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Child and Adolescent Counseling Blog for Lisa Klipfel, MFT
What #AlexFromTarget Has Taught Us.

This week a photo that a 15 year old teen took of a cashier at Target went viral, tagged #Alexfromtarget. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I know that you are not on social media. The back story is two girls, Alyssa and Alanna, having a discussion about how there is a cute guy that works at Target, but they don't know his name. It's a typical discussion that happens between many teens at lunch, after school, everywhere. But where did this story become all the talk? Enter social media. 

Alyssa was dragged to Target for errands with her parent, and when she saw Alex bagging, she snapped a picture and posted to her friend on twitter to let her friend know his name. That is the post that changed her life and his life forever. Can I say it changed in a bad way? That is for these young people to determine.

"In the olden days" Alyssa would have just texted the photo directly to her friend with a note that says, "his name is Alex." Then nobody today but Alyssa and Alanna would really know who Alex is. It would be private between those two and whoever else she shows her phone photos to. 

In this case, she tweeted her friend on twitter the photo with his name in twitter hashtag language #AlexFromTarget. Anyone on twitter was able to see the post, the photo and choose to respond, retweet or ignore and keep scrolling. For whatever possessed those in Alyssa's feed at that moment, her followers commented and retweeted the photo. The choice to post on social media is an invitation for comments, retweets and feedback. People think they are talking to their friends, which they are, but it's like there is a microphone for the whole stadium to hear. And, everyone in the stadium has a microphone to talk, simultaneously with their opinion, good or bad with no filtering.

People talk about how "big brother is watching". The thing is that with the use of social media, we are shouting at big brother to "watch us." Yet they don't really understand what that means, until a viral event like this happens. 

The girl who posted the original photo was interviewed. She had no intent to become famous or have a photo go viral. What she expressed at the end of the interview is the horror that one social media sentence can change your life forever. 

Alex was also shocked at how fame can occur instantaneously. He has has got caught up with false stories and photos that have been created about him, while having to fend off female fans he doesn't know. He now lives with unintended fame with over 63 thousand followers, having to start a new twitter account after his original one was locked. Her original tweet with his photo was retweeted 1.5 million times.

So, what has #AlexFromTarget taught us?

1. Your photo can be taken by anyone anytime.
2. There may be a photo of you somewhere, anywhere. Perhaps a server in Yakutsk.
3. You should probably just make good choices because of #1 and #2
4. Do your job well. You never know where praise will come from
5. Like where you work. You may be linked to it forever without knowing.
6. Be kind to everyone. You never know who is watching.
7. Be nice on social media, because everyone or anyone could read your post, including your boss, your parents, your teachers, Ellen DeGeneres.
8. If you want to talk with your BFF privately, do it privately, like not on twitter, instagram, vine, youtube, etc.  
9. Random hashtags are not silly.
10. Replicating and predicting what will go viral is not possible. People are trying to get their favorite cashier famous...but it just isn't working, despite their equal dedication to their job.

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