The NY teen collective providing IRL & URL love

Capturing the teens of Facebook movement #LoveYourz, this film shines a light on their beautiful, complicated relationships with social media and each other

#LoveYourz is a burgeoning movement of young people in the outer New York boroughs, who have united to pursue their ambitions and be “weird” without being judged. They’re not together, they’re “three-gether”. Beginning as a small group on Facebook, the teenagers have transcended from the digital to the physical world: they are now a supportive, inclusive group of friends that encourage creativity and self-love. One of the girls describes #LoveYourz as “nothing but good energy” – energy captured perfectly by Brooklyn-based director Nick Bentgen.

As the teens navigate issues on gender, personal style and sexuality, footage shows glimpses of the group skating in the park; playing ‘it’ on the baseball pitch or creating music in freestyle rap sessions. They live by simple rules: don’t isolate anyone, or make them feel small. Bentgen's visually stunning film is produced by Lisa Kjerulff and presented by Caviar, premiering exclusively here on Dazed.

Discussing the LoveYourz teens, Bentgen says: “their mix of positivity, anxiety, naiveté and hope for the future was infectious” and this shines through in a stunning visual piece. Each kid given time in front of the camera is fun, quirky and warm-hearted. Talented too: they are rappers, photographers, skaters, artists, designers and models, making it surprising that the movement initially kicked off with one young girl's Facebook post asking the question “who thinks they’re ugly?”. She received hundreds of affirmative replies and shared feelings of being “weird” and “trapped” spurred the young people to come together in support.

“What struck me about LoveYourz is how much more aware these young people are – of themselves and their reality – than I was at their age”

“My teenage years were beautiful and brutal” Bentgen says, but there’s a crucial difference for the director: “What struck me about LoveYourz is how much more aware these young people are – of themselves and their reality – than I was at their age. Teiarra was 17 at the time we filmed, and she would articulate her feelings about love, gender, relationships, and sexuality with such clarity and wit.”

Could this actually be to do with social media? The film centres around discussions on identity, gender and relationships – things that can prove difficult to navigate in a digital world – but #LoveYourz highlights an important paradox: just as social media can mess with mental health, it also provides salvation for those who feel like they don't belong to explore who they are and support one another. We are now constantly forced to reflect on what, of ourselves, we are presenting to the world. Maybe this is making us more self aware. 

Keep up with Nick Bentgen’s work here