Last week Time magazine ran an article entitled “The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram.” As a mom of teenagers I believe the writer is right on in her assessment of how this photo sharing app is being used as a “barometer for popularity, friendship status and self-worth.” In fact, the only thing from the article I would suggest otherwise is it’s not just girls and it’s not just teens! Middle school boys and elementary kids are using Instagram in the same way as teen and tween girls. For that matter, adults do too!
Read the article for yourself (linked above) to see just how Instragram “likes,” “comments,” “tags” and “posts” are status indicators. Some points won’t surprise you, but in most cases what is happening is in such subtle ways it goes undetected from what meets the eye from the photo alone.
Time magazine’s behind-the-scenes exposure of Instagram pics is a great wake-up call to parents, but in order to truly help our kids we have to go to the heart of the issue – their heart.
Our kids are looking for affirmation, worth, recognition, popularity and attention. And through their social media behavior we see these desires ruling them. This is idolatry.
Idolatry is anything and everything we turn to looking for what only God can give.
When our teen is talking about how many “likes” she got on a post or how many “likes” in comparision to someone else, it’s more than that. It is an indication she is being ruled by how others view her or her desire for attention.
When our teen is posting TBH (“to be honest” for those not up on your texting lingo), he may be bored but more likely he is looking for his significance in what his peers say about him or in how many followers respond.
In both cases and countless more, our teens are looking to others’ affirmation to build them up. Depending on how that goes it leads them to thirst for more or sends them into a depressed funk.
We must help them see and discern their hearts!
It is likely they don’t even realize what is going on deep inside them. Certainly they don’t see how it’s rule over them is determining their thoughts and actions. And as long as they are focusing on getting more “likes” through an artsy pic, being seen with a particular person, at a cool event or thinking about the perfect ‘on point’ comment or stewing over a friend’s more popular post, all they can think about is self.
The inwardness of self means they have forgotten, or maybe have never known, who God says they are. Our kids need to be told that the King of the Universe set His love upon His children in eternity past and declared us holy and righteous. They need to be reminded that the Creator of all things made them fearfully and wonderfully in His image. They need to see that His opinion of them is the only one that matters.
Until they rest in His love and who He is for them and until they trust He alone can fulfill, give security, bring contentment and peace they will continue to look outside of Him to be filled. But with hearts prone to wander, this is not a one-time conversation or reminder. It is a continual realigning of our hearts and those of our kids with the Word of God. His truth coming to bear on every situation, every day, because in an instant Satan’s lies become more real.
I urge you to make talking to your kids about the idolary going on in their hearts (manifested through Instagram or anywhere else) a regular conversation. Even if you think they are secure because they are a leader, have lots of friends or look a certain way, probe deeper!
If you know your own heart then you know we all struggle at times with basing our worth on how others view us. And we, like them, need to see daily the lies that creep in and rock our foundation. Lies that unless replaced by the truths of God’s Word will only intensify the ways in which we and our kids seek to be filled.