Here’s the thing Instagram, you and I, we have gotten to know each other over the years. Between you and me, I even prefer you to Facebook, with your artsy pictures, selfies, amusing memes…you are more streamlined, less verbose. I like that about you. Keeping it simple, with pictures of my friends, of their families, of their trips, their projects, I don’t even mind pictures of their food. Overall, I don’t have many complaints. But, see, I am an adult who has come to understand the social media world, I know not to care too much about you.
I have that luxury, because I’m not a teenager.
So for me, Instagram, you aren’t a lifeline. You aren’t a popularity contest. You aren’t a rate system. I don’t need your approval.
I lived through that time in my life without your watchful eye.
For kids today, things are different. Social media is a game-changer for them.
You started off innocently enough, I know that you had good intentions, I do. You can be an amazing way for people to connect, to express themselves in a way that some may not do otherwise, and that has value. But let’s face facts, you have a dark side. You can be a little snarky. A little opinionated. A little hurtful sometimes. You like to show people what they are missing out on, with your squad goals…and for kids who are living in a world based on likes and inclusion, well, if you aren’t in that picture, aren’t part of that squad, well that can hurt. You also make it easier for some to comment in a way they typically would not outside of your venue. These smartphones act like cloaks…kids hide behind them. Social media is some tough stuff to navigate for anyone, let alone for kids who are just figuring themselves out, getting to know themselves, getting to know this world around them. And in that way, you are a little threatening, a little overwhelming.
You have a lot of power, a lot of influence, Instagram. You mean too much to them, they are too dependent on you, and what you think of them. They want you to like them, to approve of them. And frankly, now that my kid is part of your world, you scare the crap out of me.
Your reach is a little too wide. Think about it, these kids pick up 300 followers in the blink of an eye…and when I look at my kid’s friend’s followers list, some of them are over a thousand. I am amazed a teenager knows 1521 people! I think hard to see if I know 1521 people. I do not.
I realize that 1521 is unimpressive when your celebrities have millions of followers. Comparatively, 1521 seems low. But with these kids, well these numbers, they mean too much. And I don’t particularly want my kid subject to 1521 eyes, to 1521 opinions. I don’t want his self-worth to fluctuate based on comments on a post, or how many people like it, or don’t like it. Because that is the dynamic here, Instagram.
Which is why, and don’t take this personally, but I didn’t allow my kid access to you for a long time. We just weren’t ready for you. You were too much of a slippery slope. I knew as soon as he had a place with you, that others could reach him in a way that I wasn’t ready for…I was afraid of their voices being louder than mine. I still am.
But the time has come, and he’s joined your ranks. And even though his Dad and I have had many talks with him, and even though we have set parameters and made rules, there will be bumps. I’m bracing myself for the inevitable ups and downs that you, and adolescence, bring to the table.
So meanwhile, I’ve got my eyes on you Instagram. I’m watching you like a hawk. Because you don’t know my kid, or how he has a kind and trusting heart, not a mean bone in his body…and even so, his dry and literal sense of humor will undoubtedly cause some bump along the way. He has a lot of life lessons to learn and there are many rites of passage ahead, and some innocence lost.
I know that, I do…But turning him over to you is hard.
Understand, if I close my eyes, it feels like just yesterday that I rocked this not-so-little-anymore kid, the one that made me a mom, reading him Guess How Much I Love You from memory while he turned the pages. This is the kid who I would ask “How much does mommy love you?”, and he’d reply “all the way up to the moon, AND BACK,” every time, without fail. And some days it’s hard to believe how quickly the time has gone.
I’m still reeling a little…trying to learn to let go a bit, so be patient with me. Understand my fears, they are coming from a good place. I’ll do my part, I’ll watch out for him. But I have to ask you Instagram, please don’t hurt my kid.
He’ll learn soon enough how tough life really is. I don’t want it to start with you.