Instagram’s creators promote this social media tool with these words, “Bringing you closer to the people and things you love.” This phrase makes a great marketing slogan. It makes users and potential users feel like they are going to really grow in their personal and professional relationships. However, interacting with someone’s picture rarely (if ever) ignites a fiery relationship between two people. Could you imagine saying to a potential future spouse, “Hey, we are not going to spend any personal time together, but here is a picture of me that you can interact with, and I promise it is going to bring us closer together so that we will fall in love.” We have to admit that would be a pretty silly thing to say. Yet, Instagram seems to be promoting this same type of mentality through their social media platform.
As a father of two girls, I think Instagram’s platform is doing something far more dangerous to our young ladies besides promoting a false narrative. This social media outlet is capturing their souls. By capturing their souls, I mean that many young ladies are attempting to find their identity in the pictures they are sharing. Our young girls are coveting the “heart” while at the same time destroying their own spirits. They are valuing their self-worth in the number of followers, and we, as Christian parents, are just standing aimlessly by letting it happen. We are letting it happen because we have not truly sat down and thought about what Instagram in particular and all social media in general could be doing to our young ladies. My article is an attempt to, at a minimum, incite dialogue and discussion with other parents and our girls about this platform’s impact on their souls. Therefore, I want to expound how Instagram might be capturing the souls of our girls before our very eyes.
Three Points for Consideration
- Finding their identity in Instagram. Instagram is a platform that idolizes the self. Look at these three comments from their website with my added emphasis: “Express yourself in new ways with the latest Instagram features,” and “Connect with more people, build influence, and create compelling content that’s distinctly yours,” or “Share and grow your brand with our diverse, global community.” Do you see it? The implication seems to be about creating “your” identity, but implied in this freedom of expression is the idolatry of “self.” Our girls are picking up on this, and posting pictures to create their own egos. This mentality is anti-gospel. We must teach our girls that their identity is not trying to look like a model or post provocative pictures or show their latest life stage for a group of followers they barely know. We must show them their identity needs to rest in Christ, and Christ alone. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20a). Instagram feeds on the idolatry of “self,” and our girls are buying it. Therefore, we must fight against it.
- Coveting the “heart” to feed their image. Instagram has many ways to interact with content, but one of the most common ways is liking a post by clicking the heart button. This means our girls are finding their identity by what gets the most likes from their followers. This coveting of affirmation by the click of a “heart” on Instagram implies that their followers are actually influencing their identities. Our girls are monitoring what they are posting to get more likes, and thereby, seeking the approval of others to build up their idol, which is the self. Coveting the “heart” seems to impact the dangers of cyber bullying and certain disorders in our girls (Instagram has a policy for both of these threats that can be found here). When certain types of pictures–i.e. provocative, filtered, or life milestones are posted on Instagram, the “likes” fan the flames of the hearts to seek more “hearts” in the future by posting similar or more exposed pictures. Instagram is all about the image. The images of our girls are being fed by “likes,” and for many of our young ladies, this thirst for follower approval is becoming an obsession. Thus, this feature is capturing their souls by feeding the goddess of self-image with little “heart” buttons.
- Collecting followers increases their self-worth. Up to this point, we have observed that our girls are seeking to define their identity through Instagram, and their identity is being fed by the coveted “heart” button. However, one of the most dangerous aspects of this type of media, for our girls, is that it opens their lives to more people–many of whom they probably do not know. In order to feed the idol of self, they need more people to follow them to obtain more “likes.” Instagram knows the danger of such a diverse community of people on their platform because their policy states that users must be a minimum of 13 years of age to obtain an account. Parents, do you know the people following your young ladies? Instagram’s Community Guidelines acknowledge, “Instagram is a reflection of our diverse community of cultures, ages, and beliefs.” With such diversity, means people from all over the world can see the images our ladies are posting. Not only can they see their images, but people can also interact with those images to feed the identities of our girls. How many young ladies accept followers or have open accounts that allows all types of diverse people peeping into their lives? The idolatry associated with this form of media seems to expose our girls to a larger crowd of people that we probably wouldn’t want them to physically be around in person. Nevertheless, the idol must be fed, and our girls are open to a vast array of unknown followers.
Parental Guidance Required
When we as parents think about what this form of social media is doing the souls of our girls, we should seek all means necessary to remove the temptation and the social strain Instagram may cause. Christian parents should seek to discuss with their girls how their identity is not found in likes and followers, but rather in Christ. We should graciously remove such propaganda from their lives in order to guard their hearts from seeking to walk down the wrong path. Nevertheless, if you have reservations about such an action, I would highly advise you to review Instagram’s “Know How to Talk with Your Teen About Instagram: A Parent’s Guide.” While I may disagree with our girls using this type of media platform in the future, Instagram has rightly attempted to open the lines of communication between parents and their teenagers on ways to protect themselves in this social media arena.
After reading this post, I hope you will be more open to discussing this type of social media outlet with others in order to think about recapturing the souls of our girls and pointing them to Christ.