A note from Mary Margaret West: As women who lead girls, we’re all aware of the ups and downs of social media. As Cassie points out, it’s not going anywhere, so we would be wise to engage well and better understand where girls are and who they’re following.
I was in middle school when I created my first instant messenger username, and in high school when MySpace came on the scene. I carefully chose the perfect song for my profile to express my teenage-girl emotions. Social media and I have grown up together, but now, this generation of teens have never known life without it.
Social media brings another temptation for teens. Whereas, when I was in high school, I struggled with placing my identity in academics and cheerleading, today’s teens now have the extra temptation to put their identity in social media. Their identities can be quantified – they know how many “likes” their posts receives and strategically post at certain times (yes, there’s a “prime time”, usually in the evenings). They keep up with Snapchat streaks far better than their homework, and to be “left on open” is the worst of insults.
There’s also a newer component to this – spam accounts. In teenager world, the rule is only one post per day. Therefore, they create spam accounts where it’s acceptable to post multiple times and to post pictures that aren’t them at their best. Personally, I believe some of them are created to hide parts of their social media identities from parents and other authorities in their lives.
So, what do we do with all of this? Do we insist our teens delete their accounts? No, I don’t think that’s the answer. Social media is here to stay, and in and of itself, it’s not a bad thing. We have to equip our girls to use social media for the glory of God. We must teach them their identities aren’t rooted in numbers of followers, but in being daughters of Christ. We speak the truth in love and make them aware of this potential idol.
This starts with us. We need to be sure we’re wielding this tool for God’s glory and model how to do this.
Here are some practical ways:
- Don’t use social media to tear down, vent complaints, or engage in arguments.
- Post Scripture or things learned from the Word.
- Comment on others’ posts with compliments or encouraging words.
- Use social media to share memories, not gain likes or followers (this might mean posting a picture where we don’t look perfect or not posting at “prime time”)
- Don’t keep up with the numbers of likes or followers
- Don’t use social media during meal times, when spending time with people, at church events, etc. Basically, be present.
- Unfollow accounts that cause discontentment, and follow accounts that encourage in the gospel (For example, I unfollowed many clothing boutiques because of covetousness in my heart).
How beautiful would it be if we stormed the internet for the glory of God and brought our teen girls alongside us? May we as student leaders and moms firmly root our identities in Christ and teach these girls to do the same. May they see themselves as more than an Instagram profile, but as chosen by Christ to be presented as holy and blameless before the Father!
Cassie Pattillo is a wife to Jack, and mama to Hunter (4), Isaac (2), and is in the process of adopting from India. Jack is a student pastor, so she loves serving alongside him and investing in teens’ lives. She is passionate about biblical literacy along with writing and teaching about Scripture. She is also a big fan of slow mornings with a cup of coffee, a good book on the beach, and Gamecock football. Connect with Cassie: Blog // Facebook // Instagram