Kat makes a stop close to home

Kat Perkins demonstrated her musical prowess last week in New England as part of her tour to promote the positive use of social media.

Perkins and bandmate Eric Warner peform in front of students from New England. [PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | Adams County Record]
Perkins and bandmate Eric Warner peform in front of students from New England. [PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | Adams County Record]
By COLE BENZ | Record Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

Perkins, a Scranton native and finalist on NBC’s “The Voice” last year, visited New England Public Schools April 15 to offer a performance for students and teachers, but her message was a crucial part of her visit as she shared both sides of her experience with social media.

In September 2014, the songstress partnered with EduTech, an organization that aims to teach educators and school administrations about new technologies in the classroom. EduTech established a Positive Social Media Tour with Perkins serving as its messenger. New England was just one of her many stops in North Dakota.

The topic of social media, especially as it relates to today’s youth has received added attention in recent years due to the rise of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying has gained national attention within the last decade as the use of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media programs have seen an increase in school-age users.

Perkins held two sessions for the New England students, each with its own message. Her first presentation was the kindergarten through sixth grade classes and she later spoke to the seventh grade through senior classes. It was the latter presentation that focused primarily on social media.

Perkins can attest to both sides of the social media conundrum. Is it good? Is it bad?

As a competitor on “The Voice,” Perkins was saved twice from elimination by way of social media. Viewers could tweet a vote to the show during a designated time, and after the time allotted expired the contestant with the most votes was safe to go onto the next week of competition.

What many people didn’t know, however, is how social media affected Perkins’ daily routine. Perkins told students if she was having a rough day and didn’t know how she was going to pull herself through another performance she would be lifted up by positive feedback on her Twitter account. Reading through her feed, Perkins saw uplifting and appreciative comments along with comments that just left a smile on her face. She also experienced things she never imagined, and from those experiences she knew she had to tell both sides of the story.

“For me it was mostly good, I just happened to experience the negative side of (social media) that blew my mind and I thought, I have to tell these kids,” Perkins said. “I have to tell them that I experienced it.”

She talked about the insults she heard criticizing her performances and song choices. The negativity even led to a threat on her life. One person was even petty enough, she said, to repeatedly tell her not to smile because he didn’t like the way she looked.

Instead of standing up front and pointing to a slideshow filled with statistics, Perkins took a different approach. She poured her heart out to the students on what she experienced firsthand. Perkins’ presentation was executed in a manner that brought social media issues down to something the students could understand and appreciate.

It also was a good display of how much your popularity does not prevent the negativity that may reach you. While Perkins found success as a Top 5 performer on “The Voice” during the show’s sixth season, for some people she still couldn’t get it right, she said. The experience was not only disheartening for her, but also a little awkward considering she is an adult.

“It was interesting to be older and to feel bullied, and to have to deal with it on a daily basis and keep myself positive about what I was doing,” Perkins said. But Perkins used her experiences to direct the students to do something positive instead of making comments that could negatively impact someone’s life. She said no one ever went to their deathbed and thought, “Oh man, I think I was too nice.”

Perkins took a different approach for the younger students. She spoke about being nice, being brave, trying new things and finding your passion. With the elementary students, she made sure to emphasize kindness towards others and practicing manners.

Perkins was a true display of her words — her kindness and manners while interacting with the students was a living example.

After her speech and musical performance were finished, she spent time happily interacting with everyone. She never hesitated to pose for a photo or sign an autograph. If someone came up to her and had something to say, she listened. While Perkins’ attention can be inspiring to the youths, she said she gets something from it, too.

“What I guess I wasn’t prepared for is when I leave these schools I’m inspired, I’m inspired every single day by all these kids because they have so much passion for whatever it is they’re doing,” Perkins said. “I can see it in their eyes and it’s just fun to go kind of tell these kids everything I wanted to hear when I was their age.”

It is yet to be known how many kids were impacted by Perkins’ life lessons on social media and kindness, but she said she hopes they can just take time to think before they press the send button.

“It’s a powerful thing to tell these kids,” Perkins said. “Just to take time to think about what they’re doing online.”