grace, Growth, parenting, Teens

Encouragement for Living Life in an Instagram World

The headline immediately stole my attention. On November 9th, news broke that Instagram will be removing the “like” feature from posts for some users. This particular announcement was timely for me. Just one week ago, my husband and I allowed our daughter, who is rapidly approaching 16, to get her own Instagram account. It was her very first social media experience, and we juggled all the emotions.

We struggled with balancing our desire to keep her safe and emotionally protected with the knowledge that she will be a legal adult in less than 3 years and, frankly, we want (need) to extend the leash a little bit. As much as I’d still like to cut up her food at dinner and help her tie her shoes, I’ve faced the fact that she’ll soon be navigating this big scary world and we want to give her the road map to be successful in it. And that includes helping her navigate social media.

Because as it turns out, social media wasn’t just a fad after all.

When people mention social media and teenagers, there tends to be some negative emotional baggage associated with it. Specifically regarding teens searching for their value in the number of likes their posts have or their attempts to become an “influencer” at the expense of their very soul.

It all feels a little dramatic, until you realize that it’s absolutely true. And truthfully, teenagers aren’t the only victims of the social media craziness. It has an effect on all of us, whether we want to admit it or not. There’s something warm and fuzzy about getting that little red notification that someone likes something you said or did.

The idea of removing the like option is likely to create lots of feelings for lots of people.

This Bloomberg article addresses the removal of the like option and explains that, “What we’re hoping to do is depressurize Instagram a little bit, and make it a bit less of a competition …The idea is to try and reduce anxiety and social comparisons, specifically with an eye towards young people.”

While I truly appreciate the sentiment and the intent behind the movement, I have to wonder if this is simply like putting a band-aid on a gaping head wound.  Our human hearts will always seek approval. And the desire to be liked is as old as humanity. There’s so much talk about social media and its impact on our psyche. And it certainly has compounded things. But really, it’s just the nature of humans. Always has been.

Grasping for Likes Since the Dawn of Time

After winning an Oscar back in 1985, Sally Field famously exclaimed, “You like me! Right now, you like me!” in her acceptance speech. She was an award winning actress armed with a mile long list of previously successful projects, yet she continued to assess her self-worth by the simple acknowledgement that she was liked by others.

I’ve experienced these same feelings in all stages of my own life.

It was 1989. She was the most popular girl in school. Everyone knew her name and every girl wanted to be her. She was on top of the latest fashion trends, and was the first at our school to own pink Guess overalls. She also had white Keds that were actual Keds. You know, the ones with the blue rectangle on the back of the heel? I had similar white canvas shoes. Mine, however, were purchased at Payless. I grew up in a middle class family and we did just fine, but name brand shoes for still-growing feet had no place in the budget.

I remember daydreaming about ways to fashion a tiny blue rectangle on the back of my shoes, just so that I would feel liked and accepted. I desperately longed for those pink overalls with a small, upside-down triangle on the pocket.  I put so much value in the opinion of others, to the point where I almost felt shame walking through the halls of my school with my rectangle-less shoes and my generic acid wash (not pink) jeans.

I wanted to be liked. I wanted to belong. My value was based solely on what others thought of me.

It’s 2019 and if I’m being honest, not much has changed. As adults, we still seek acceptance from others. And not just on social media.

I sometimes sit quietly in conversations, choosing not to verbalize what is racing around in my head just in case someone disagrees with me.

There was that one time when I bought an entire outfit based on the latest trends on Pinterest, yet it sits abandoned and ignored in my closet because I never actually felt confident enough to wear it.

And are things any different when it comes to our careers? Sometimes we turn ourselves inside out to garner praise and accolades when secretly, we are burned out and exhausted from the attempt to be simply be SEEN.

Regardless of the circumstances, it is our very human nature to seek approval of others and place our value on whether or not they’ll like us.

I have to wonder why this is such a universal truth for us – at all ages. Why is it that we have this internal, innate design to be liked, to belong, and to feel worthy?

We Were Created to Belong

Maybe it’s because, at the core of who we are, we have been created to belong. We belong to a God who loves us unconditionally. He truly likes us despite our flaws and imperfections. He loves us deeply and intimately and has created a perfect home for us where we will always belong.

He already has a seat at the table waiting for us, regardless of our performance or behavior or if we have a blue rectangle on our white canvas shoes.

And the good news? Our soul longs for what actually already belongs to us. While we’re hanging out here on earth, our soul can’t help but search for what can only be given to us by God.

We already measure up just fine in the eyes of the God who created us. We already have perfect acceptance and it can only be found in Jesus. That unconditional love and acceptance will never be found here on earth. While we desperately seek to find acceptance from the humans around us, maybe we simply need to remind ourselves that we already belong.

Is that going to be easy? Um, nope.

We’re still going to struggle. We’ll still strive to be liked each and every day. We’ll still put our value in what others think. We’re still human after all.

But hopefully we can also pause occasionally from our exhausted efforts, and simply rest in the knowledge that our ultimate worth is already defined. We are each abundantly loved just as we are.

I definitely like that.

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