MOTLEY — Six years ago, 12-year-old Sivert Klefsaas didn’t think much of it when his mom asked if he’d be willing to accept her money if he stayed off social media for a while.
The challenge ended up changing his life much more than he or his mom anticipated.
By now, Lorna Klefsaas barely even remembers the short radio segment she heard in the car about a “16 for 16” challenge, where parents offered their daughter $1,600 to stay off social media until she was 16. Having three daughters who had already experienced the highs and lows of social media, Lorna decided to ask her son what he thought of forgoing social media for a few years.
“I think I was in my room, and my mom just called me into the kitchen, and she basically said, ‘Would you ever want to stay off social media until you’re 18 for $1,800?’” Sivert said during an interview May 3. “And I was already off it at the time, so I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’”
Fast forward to the early hours of Feb. 19, 2022, and the Motley teen was $1,800 richer and had Instagram on his phone.
“I downloaded it right away in the morning. I called my sister up, and I said, ‘Millie, I need some help with the first post,’” he said. “… I wanted it to be pretty good, make a decent first impression, so I called her up, and then we talked over it, and I posted a picture of when I was like 6 or something.”
“Yeah, it was cute,” his mom chimed in.
Just days after Lorna posted on Facebook about her son’s accomplishment, the interview requests came flooding in. Pretty soon, Sivert was featured on KARE 11 and its various NBC affiliates, “Good Morning America,” “World News Today” and various other news outlets throughout the world.
The Klefsaases got messages from people all over the globe, showing them the various stories featuring Sivert.
A Vietnamese student, who had done a foreign exchange program at Staples-Motley, sent a picture of Sivert in his local paper.
“So we have the article in Vietnamese, we have it in Japanese, we have it in Spanish,” Lorna said. “… It got crazy.”
It got so crazy that pictures of the Klefsaases made it into People Magazine even though they never spoke to anyone from the outlet. People from all over were scouring Lorna’s own social media accounts for photos to use with their content on Sivert. The family laughs about the fact that a picture of Sivert and one of his sisters made it onto a couple platforms, with his sister identified as his mom, despite only being five years older than him.
While she can find humor in the situation, Lorna said it also reminded her of the power of social media and just how easy it is to lose control of your own story.
As the media requests kept coming and coming, Lorna told her son they could stop whenever he wanted to, but as the majority of the experience was fun, they kept going.
Perhaps the culmination of the weeks of attention came April 28, when Sivert’s segment on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” aired.
“It was awesome,” Sivert said. “Great experience all around. It was so much fun.”
The mother and son duo flew out to Burbank, California, in March — courtesy of DeGeneres and her team — and got to stay in a nice hotel with all their food paid for, an expense account for Sivert and personal dressing room at the studio.
“It was a whirlwind, but it was super, super fun,” Lorna said. “… That’ll be hard to top.”
But Sivert was in for more than just an all-expenses paid trip to California and a stint on national TV.
DeGeneres not only provided Sivert with content for his second Instagram post — a selfie with her — she also had him perform social media challenges he may have missed over the past six years. She promised Sivert another $1,800 for each of the three challenges he could complete in 45 seconds. He successfully caught whip cream in his mouth after flicking it from his hand through the air on the first try. He flipped a plastic water bottle in the air, getting it to land upright in three attempts. But he couldn’t quite figure out how to blow a plastic cup from inside one cup to another.
The two completed challenges amounted to $3,600, which DeGeneres decided to round up to $10,000 to go toward Sivert’s college tuition.
“It was crazy,” he said. “I mean, that was so helpful and so beneficial and so unexpected, too. Like, I mean, it was so cool. Like, she didn’t have to do that.”
And that’s how $1,800 eventually turned into $11,800.
But DeGeneres didn’t stop there either. She presented Sivert with another $5,000 to put toward the charity of his choosing.
He decided on Special Olympics, an organization that has always been important to Sivert, who is a three-sport athlete himself.
“Sports have had such a big impact on my life that I just want, like, other kids that can’t play traditional high school sports to have the same experience,” he said.
Sivert will continue sports in college, playing football at University of Northwestern-St. Paul, where he plans to study business marketing and make the best of his $10,000 from DeGeneres.
He still has most of the $1,800 from mom as well, after spending some on a plane ticket to South Carolina to visit his sister. A TV and other dorm essentials may be in the cards, too.
And of course now he’ll have Instagram to help document college life, along with Snapchat and TikTok to stay in touch with friends and up to date on the latest trends, things that were harder during his middle and high school years.
“I’m sure there’s still things that I missed out on that I probably don’t even know about,” he said. “But, I mean, in the end it didn’t really impact my life a whole lot.”
Sivert knows he probably missed out on some connections with kids he met at camps or other activities over the years by not being able to exchange social media information. While he looks at that as a minor setback he’ll get over, Lorna sees it as a funny insight into the teenage mind.
“Don’t you think that’s funny that the kids think that if they can’t exchange Snapchat handles, there’s no other way to stay in touch?” she said.
But now that he has social media, Sivert said he’s enjoying himself.
“It’s definitely super fun. Like, I can totally see why people like it,” he said. “I mean, I was never against social media. I don’t think social media is evil.”
But does it live up to all the hype?
“No, no it doesn’t,” Sivert said.
While he’ll continue scrolling through TikTok, Snapchatting his friends and following sports accounts on Instagram, Sivert’s late start to social media has taught him a valuable lesson.
“I guess the biggest thing would be like, don’t find your value on your social media accounts,” he said. “In the end, does it really matter? No. I mean, I’m more of an in-person connection kind of guy than online. Obviously I haven’t spent that much time online … but I think it’s gonna be tough to beat an in-person relationship.”
And it’ll be tough to beat a selfie with Ellen DeGeneres as well.
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at [email protected] or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .