Winners Announced

Unplugged: Op-Ed Competition

Opinion — Living life without an audience.

* This Competition is now closed. You are welcome to write to the prompt and read other writer's published writing.* 

Given the opportunity to unplug, would you? This month we're partnering with Thrive on Campus to bring you our Unplugged Op-Ed Competition.
The popular YouTuber and comedian Bo Burnham had this to say about social media in his most recent Netflix show, “Make Happy”: Social media—it’s just the market’s answer to a generation that demanded to perform, so the market said, ‘Here, perform everything to each other all the time for no reason.’ It’s prison. It is horrific. 

Then, after a pause, Burnham advises his audience, “If you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.” 

Imagine for a moment your life without social media. What would it be like to walk through your day without Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and all the rest? Would you feel lonely? Relieved? Bored? Freed?  What do you think, dear writers? Does social media do more harm or more good in your world? In a 500-800 word op-ed, speculate on how life would change if you (and your peers) lived “without an audience”. Do you agree with Burnham’s assertion that one can be imprisoned by social media? Or is it, instead, a window to liberty, empathy, opportunity, even democracy?
Op-Ed Guidelines
  • MAKE IT PERSONAL: We want to know what you think. It’s always tempting to check out the research and opinions that are already out there before crafting your own response. But before you consider what other people think, carefully contemplate your chosen topic and jot down any ideas that come to mind, as well as any emotions that surface.
  • INVESTIGATE YOUR OPINION: Why do you think what you think? Can you identify the people or experiences that have influenced you in forming this opinion? Your friends? Your family? School? The media or the culture in which you live? Exploring the root of your opinion demonstrates to your readers that you have thought deeply about the issues at hand.
  • BACK UP YOUR IDEAS: Once you have a sense of what you want to say, start collecting evidence. Look at the existing research on your topic, find persuasive quotes from reputable sources, and/or identify experiences from your own life (or anecdotes from people you know) that demonstrate the validity of your perspective.
  • WELCOME CHANGE: As your knowledge deepens, your ideas will likely evolve. This is a good thing! Be open to your perspective becoming more complex and nuanced.
  • TAKE A STAND: An op-ed is your chance to weigh in on a social, political, or cultural issue. Most essentially, an op-ed asserts an opinion. So be sure to include a clear thesis statement that unequivocally states your central argument.
  • CAPTIVATE YOUR READER: An opinion piece should be a riveting read. Make sure your writing is thoughtful, reflective and clearly structured. Think about starting the piece with a story or anecdote that hooks your reader. Make sure your argument is compelling and watertight from beginning to end.
  • MAKE IT UNIVERSAL: As you share your opinion, keep in mind that your goal is to persuade your audience to listen up. Oftentimes, the most compelling op-eds are both personal and universal. Try sharing an experience from your life that supports your opinion, while also explaining (or showing through examples) how this topic impacts people on a broader scale.
  • GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT'S DUE: Don’t forget to cite your sources. 
** Check out the sample outline under “Resources” for more tips on how to write a stellar op-ed. 
Forms of Persuasion 
Some readers might be convinced by hard facts and statistics. Others might be persuaded by an emotional anecdote, or a story from your own life. Writing a compelling op-ed often requires looking at the topic from multiple angles—each perspective helping to solidify your argument, while convincing readers to listen up. Here are some different strategies to try out as you craft your argument. You might focus on two or three, or perhaps all forms of persuasion will come into play in your piece.
  • Personal Experience: The writer describes an experience he or she has had.
  • Expert Opinion: The writer draws on the opinion of an expert—someone trained in a particular area, or someone who has relevant personal experience.
  • Example: The writer provides an example that supports a larger idea or pattern.
  • Analogy: The writer compares the situation to another similar situation.
  • Facts and Statistics: The writer uses facts or numbers to prove their idea. Often this information comes from other sources, such as books, newspapers, or websites.
  • Logic: The writer uses reasoning or logic to argue their point.
  • Emotion: The writer makes an emotional appeal to the reader.
Who is Eligible?   
Young writers ages 13-18   
500-800 words 
Guest Judge: Marina Khidekel
Marina is Thrive Global's Editorial Director. Previously she was senior deputy editor at Women's Health, where she edited award-winning wellness features and oversaw the campaigns and partnerships around them. Before that, she was deputy editor of features and brand extensions at Cosmopolitan. She has held editing and writing posts at Glamour, MTV Networks, Brides and CosmoGirl, and was also the founder of Undrrated, a viral email newsletter where notable creatives such as Misty Copeland and Phoebe Robinson shared their under-the-radar culture, food and style favorites.

About Thrive on Campus
For our latest competition, we’ve partnered with Thrive on Campus—a special section on Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global—focused on student mental health and well-being.
  • Best Entry: $100 (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog) 
  • Runner up: $50 
  • Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)  
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?*  
  • Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.       
  • Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.       
  • Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, May 20th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and education professionals.
*The winning piece will also be published on Thrive on Campus website (parent/guardian permission required).
Key Dates  
May 14: Competition Opens   
May 20: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)       
May 24: Reviews returned to Writers   
May 30: Final Submissions Due 
June 7: Winners Announced   
Upcoming Competition     
Our Fantasy Writing Competition opens June 3rd.
Stay tuned for more details!   


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Check it out...

​Shreya Mapadath Reflects on Winning the Thrive Unplugged: Op-Ed Competition!

July 9, 2019

The discourse around social media use often focuses on the negatives. But when it came to writing about the topic for our Unplugged: Op-Ed Competition, Shreya Mapadath decided to draw from her own experiences, focusing on the evolution of her relationship to social media.  Shreya’s fresh take earned her the top prize from Thrive on Campus Editor Marina Khidekel. Today we’ll learn more about Shreya’s perspective on this hot button issue and her reaction to being published by Thrive.


Unplugged: Op-Ed Competition Winners Announced!

June 7, 2019

To further explore the complexities of the social media era, we partnered with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global to create the “Unplugged: Op-Ed Competition.” Your thoughtful essays challenged the Write the World and Thrive communities to think critically about the drawbacks and the benefits of using social media and the role it plays in our everyday lives. Today, Thrive Editorial Director Marina Khidekel shares which of your thoughtful op-eds earned prizes for Best Entry, Runner Up, and Best Peer Review.

Read About the Winners on Our Blog