There’s something very satisfying when teens themselves participate in issues that not only affect them directly but also affect many others outside their demographic.
Enter Jonah Mowry, the 14-year-old Californian middle school student who has attracted interest from Lady Gaga and other celebrities (including Jane Lynch, Rosie O’Donnell, Perez Hilton, Paula Abdul, Ricky Martin, Zooey Deschanel and Jordan Sparks) thanks initially to a YouTube video (titled “Whats goin on…”) he posted in which he addressed the issue of bullying. Although “addressed” is probably an understatement. He got to grips with it and wrestled with it to the point of extreme vulnerability, and we defy anyone not to be moved by this emotionally devastating video.
Closing in on 10 million viewers later, Mowry has now launched a weekly advice video.
Each week, he answers any questions he receives via his Twitter account and from the many YouTube comments below his videos, in a roundup on his YouTube Channel. He has so far discussed self harm (cutting), emotional triggers and depression.
Citing the 55,000 subscribers he amassed after the initial video, Mowry says “I wanted to turn that into something good. I want people to know they’re not alone and that they can get through bullying and depression like I did.” He is refreshingly free of psychobabble while cutting to the core of the issues: “Depression is like being sad but it’s a whole lot worse,” he said. “I hated being around people and talking to people so I’d sleep all day and stay up at night.”
Given his personal familiarity with the issues of bullying and depression, it can’t be overstated how courageous this boy is. And it doesn’t end there. In February, he headlined the launch of Monster March in San Francisco, appearing with the family members of teens who had been harassed into ending their lives.
Given the displays of cruelty in some corners of the internet, Mowry’s mother, Peggysue Mowry, was initially and understandably concerned about her son making advice videos, and spoke with his therapist about the issue. In the end, the entire experience appears to have helped Jonah successfully navigate some of the very obstacles he discusses in his videos: “It’s less walking on eggshells and he’s even-keeled even though he’s still a teen,” she said. “He’s a lot more fun and his true personality is out. He isn’t always angry and upset.”
Mowry has no intention of quitting, claiming he’ll keep making videos until they’re no longer needed. After which, he says, “Once I get all this sad stuff out of the way, I can be happier and joking.”
Is this the perfect story of how the internet can both create and solve problems for young people?