On Instragram, teenage girls and the social media charade
My friend Lisa came over on Sunday and with her, her two teenage daughters, ages 12 and 15. Whilst we were enjoying a G&T over our catch up, the girls went off to their usual favourite past time of taking photos of themselves and posting them on Instagram. You could hear their commentaries in the background “here, here, make it look like I am jumping really high” or “try to make my hair look really long” and “oh no, my bum does not look good like that”.
My friend just rolled her eyes in desperation and it was painfully obvious that she had long given up trying to interfere and stop the charade. My husband looked at me quietly and I could see that he was thinking “thank God we only have boys…”
It made me think of what a difficult age the teenage years for girls can be and how most of us women at that time have struggled to larger or smaller degree with confidence and self esteem. It was difficult enough then without the existence of social media, today it seems to me the challenge has increased exponentially because of social media.
I carefully turned to my friend and asked:
“Have to spoken to your girls about Instagram and other Social Media?”
“Yes kind of”, she said “I have the security settings on and all that. They have private accounts that only their real friends can see. And they know not to communicate with strangers and not to provide any personal information”
“Yes, but have you challenged their own behaviour and how much importance they give to how they portrait themselves on Instagram?”
“I tell them off a lot for being on it all the time. Still it just seems to become worse and worse.”
We launched into a conversation over what we could do to open our youngsters´ eyes to the reality of Instragram and Social Media, so it could become an enjoyable part of their lives, but not the obsessive and compulsive conduct that we are seeing displayed more and more in our kids.
We ended up sitting down with their daughters and having a surprisingly open and positive conversation about the following:
- How Instagram (and other social media) are addictive and they are designed to make you addicted, constantly checking for likes and followers
- That having a large followers base is by no means a reflection of the true value of an individual, and certainly not beyond his physical attributes. By it’s pure visual nature, Instagram supports physical beauty above every other value and that is not the way to become the strong, smart and independent young women we want them to be.
- How it is the the culprit of the “fake it” movement. Most people portraying their perfect lives and homes and bodies are telling stories that are JUST NOT REAL and you would be a fool to think otherwise. Some of them have entire teams of professionals behind them; make up artists, photographers creating this virtual reality.
- How it will produce a false sensation of being popular and socially accepted through the amounts of followers and likes which is (again) fake.
- How people with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers have entire teams behind them to promote their BUSINESS and ultimately sell you something.
- And finally how Instragram or any other Social Medial should never be source of your comparing yourself to others and feeling less or bad about yourself. That you should really question why you continue to follow those accounts that make you feel bad and simply unfollow them. Follow somebody who really interests you, who makes you think or laugh or who takes beautiful photos or inspires you otherwise.
I saw them leaving later in the afternoon and felt good about our chat. Yes they will still be on Instagram and by no means will the problem go away. But I hope that this conversation may allow them to sometimes stop, take a step back and judge for themselves whether they want to keep participating in the social media charade.