FACEBOOK MAY have helped reestablish connections between long-lost friends, but for young people who have yet to fully develop their social skills, social networking has led some to become more isolated and socially inept when relating to others.

?Social networking has somehow kept a lot of children, including teens, from bonding with family and friends,? said former model Patty Betita. ?Instead of spending time with people, they spend more time living in a virtual environment.?

The US-trained Betita, who has been conducting self-improvement and confidence-building workshops among teens and pre-teens since 2004, has come up with activities to coax shy teenagers, particularly girls, out of their shells.

She will join colleagues such as Abbygale Arenas-de Leon, Marina Benipayo, Dino Santos and Joanna Salita in conducting a series of image enhancement and personality development classes starting on April 2 at Personi-fi?s training center on Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati (; tel. nos. 890-8062, 0999-731-9613).

Strengths, talents, interests

After finding out a particular girl?s strengths, talents and interests, Betita uses this information to slowly build her confidence.

In the process, she has also become friends with some of the children?s mothers. There was a woman from Daet, Camarines Norte, for instance, who brought her 12-year-old girl to Betita for one-on-one sessions.

The woman seemed desperate after a series of classes in a more established personality development school did little to improve her daughter?s fragile self-esteem. She wanted to try a more personalized approach.

?The girl is from a well-off family,? said Betita. ?During our initial meeting, I found out that the source of her insecurity was the fact that they were from the province. I tried to disabuse her of such a mindset. I think I succeeded because at the end of the program, her mom was so thankful to me.?

She also worked on a shy teenager who grew up in Indonesia and later moved with her parents to the Philippines. The girl had difficulty communicating with boys her age since she studied in an exclusive girls? school. Betita probably outdid herself. After the girl overcame her shyness, she went on to become a beauty queen.

While Betita will focus on personality development for teens, De Leon will tackle the same subject designed for adults, particularly those about to embark on a career or are simply out to improve their prospects of landing a better-paying, more fulfilling job.

Other programs are the art of modeling (Benipayo), communication skills (Santos), and personal imaging through hair and makeup (Salita). Each program is divided into eight sessions at three hours per session.

Apart from the art of modeling, which costs P24,000 (inclusive of photo shoots and actual photos for documentation), each program will set a participant back by P16,500. Each class will have a maximum of 16 participants to facilitate interaction between teacher and students.

Model wannabes

?My classes aren?t exclusive to professional models and model wannabes,? said Benipayo, a veteran model herself. ?Whether or not they end up as models, I think they can easily apply what they learned from me to their everyday work lives.?

Since competition these days is much stiffer, job applicants, particularly for frontline positions, have to stand out and present themselves well, she said.

?My course will not only tackle ramp and photographic modeling, but also visual poise and confidence-building. I want to open up their minds in exploring other options apart from modeling,? she added.

Personi-fi may be a new training center, but De Leon, its founder, owner and administrator, has been in business for almost 14 years now. Even before she won Miss Philippines in 1997, De Leon has been conducting seminars for a number of corporations.

De Leon also trained in Los Angeles as a makeup artist. One of her first protégés was Salita, who later went abroad to supplement her training. She and De Leon are among a handful of local makeup artists adept at applying airbrush makeup.

?Unlike seminars for corporate clients, the market for a permanent training center is younger and more diverse,? she said. ?That?s why I felt that there was a need to divide the class between adults and teenagers.?

The programs (except for communication skills) are admittedly centered on women, but De Leon isn?t discounting further diversifying her fledgling company?s offerings to cater to more men.

De Leon?s program will also tackle such basics as posture, table etiquette, social graces and power dressing. She will also touch on basic makeup, skincare and grooming.

?Based on the years I?ve spent doing corporate training, there?s really a desire for people to improve themselves, boost their confidence and enhance their public image,? she said. ?The programs we conduct are no longer limited within a certain company. They?re now available to the general public.?