Being a Karel Fellow has been my dream for the past three years — my picture-perfect internship, if you will. I had been visiting this website weekly since November to see if there were any updates about applications, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I cried real tears of excitement when the applications came out. Mostly because that’s who I am, but also because it had just become super real.
People told me I was really bold (code word for “crazy”) for only applying to this Fellowship, but I had this intense gut feeling that this was meant for me. However, I don’t think the city of Washington, D.C. agrees with that. Since I moved in, I’ve gotten a bad upper respiratory infection that turned into an ear infection, and I recently discovered that I tore a ligament. D.C. can continue to throw curve balls at me, but I am not going anywhere.
I must admit, I was initially hesitant to have been matched with the Children’s Defense Fund, but once I went to CDF’s website, it all clicked. CDF works to end things likes poverty, violence, and racial discrimination by putting children first. “Children don’t come in pieces” is the CDF mantra. This means that CDF is looking at all aspects of children’s lives. Research shows that poverty affects more than just a child’s living situation, it affects their health and education. CDF is committed to helping communities now and create policies to help children of the future, and I’m honored to help them achieve that this summer.
Now here’s the biggest downside of what I thought would be my “picture-perfect internship:” living in DC. It’s been overwhelming, but also eye opening. I’ve always lived in a small town and to go from that to living in the Capital and figuring out the metro has been a challenge. Thankfully, all the Fellows have stuck together, and you start building a relationship based on that mutual feeling of “help, I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going.” It’s also been interesting to hear everyone’s stories, learn about the work they are doing, and discover all the similarities we share. It makes this big city seem a little smaller knowing we’re all getting lost and finding those random Instagram-worthy street corners together.
But even when you have those picture-perfect moments, they don’t last forever. In fact, I’m pretty sure it rained for hours after I took that picture. The same needs to be applied to social media and how brands and people portray themselves on these platforms. Social media is about authenticity and not aesthetics, which is where brands can go wrong. Ever cringe when there’s a tweet from a brand that sounds like a middle-aged dad trying so hard to be cool? That’s not authentic and it puts people off. To be authentic you need to listen to your audience and learn the way they interact with each other; you get more engagement when you can authentically relate to their daily lives.
CDF does this well because they have the benefit of being about children. Their voice mimics the tone of a child by using conversational text with emojis. But they also know how and when to be serious, like how to address the fact the current administration keeps separating children from their family.
So the next time you want to edit that photo or flex with a tweet, remember that social media isn’t about being picture perfect. I could sit here and write that this internship has been absolutely perfect, but I would be lying. The good has certainly outweighed the bad though. That’s the real, authentic answer.