McAllen teen pens book on cyberbullying

Omar Arafat,16, has 54,000 Instagram followers and recently wrote a book on Cyber Bullying. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

At age 16, Omar Arafat just became a published author.

Better known for his social media handle, @WhoaOmar, the McAllen teen boasts a following on Instagram of over 54,000 most of whom funneled from his other accounts, like his YouTube channel, Twitter and TikTok, he said.

>> An audio interview with Omar Arafat

Omar’s book, titled “How to Handle Your Haters: The Hard Truth About Social Media,” explores the psyche of two genres of internet users: those who dedicate themselves to producing content and those who choose to make negative comments on posts.

There is not one without the other, Omar said.

“I would go online and see a lot of hate comments and I was wondering how people cope with it and what their motive is to actually comment negative things like that,” he said. “…Anywhere online, you are always going to see negativity. There’s always going to be someone out there who is going to want to hate.”

A child of the 21st century, Omar is part of a generation that has always coexisted with social media. He was born in 2002; Myspace was created in 2003, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter in 2011.

At 8 years old, Omar began posting videos on YouTube of him and his friends just doing “random things,” but it wasn’t until he was 13, that he began taking it more seriously.

“My life has always been online, basically,” he said.

Omar posted scripted skits, short films or just vlogs. He enjoyed every part of the production: scripting or planning, filming, editing and receiving feedback.  One summer he uploaded videos almost every day, which is when his following began to grow. According to his Instagram and YouTube statistics, his fanbase is about 80 percent females in their teens. He described them as “just the typical teenager who likes Justin Bieber, or something.”

With the rise in followers inevitably came some of the negativity detailed in his book.

“I would upload videos and there would always be people who would comment negative things, and that’s one of the things that inspired me to actually write the book,” he said.

With that, he decided to privatize parts of his account and delete certain videos. Only a few pages in the book detail his personal experience, which he admits is a bit complicated. The rest is personal research and surveying he’s done on the topic and examples from other social media personalities.

Currently, his YouTube account has five videos, with the last one posted in 2017. His most viewed video, at 119,000 views, is titled “I’M STARTING TO VLOG!!!”

The junior at Science Academy of South Texas said a big part of why he hasn’t posted videos lately is because he’s focused on his studies and is wary of what college admissions officers might think of his content. At the moment, the priority for him and his parents is keeping his grades up.

“(My parents) don’t really mind what I’m doing, but they don’t motivate me either,” he said. “They actually pushed for me to write the book and they’re the ones who actually helped me get it published.”

At the moment he isn’t sure what kind of career he’d like to pursue, but imagines something in the creative field might suit him. What he is sure of is that he’s going to keep broadening his following through his social media accounts and work.

“For sure, I’m going to keep up with social media when I’m in college,” he said. “If I end up making a career out of it, so be it, but honestly right now it’s two worlds I’m living in.”