I don’t quite have a teenager of my own yet, thank the Lord. But I have friends with kids in the midst of those blessed years, and I have those cool cats at church that I get to hang with too. I’ve been hearing more and more about teens having a “spam” account on Instagram, and I was intrigued.
When wind of this started passing, (haha, get it! Because, teenagers.),I wanted to be in the know.
Teenagers today have only known a world with social media. Because it’s always been there, it has a different luster for teenagers than it does for their parents. 40-somethings remember the excitement of receiving a friend request from that guy they almost went to prom with all those years ago. Facebook became the instant answer that question that always brought a screeching halt to all the conversations from the days of ole. Conversations that started by piecing together a memory (Oh my gosh! Remember that one football game senior year…!), moved to the name game (Yes! What was his name? John? Josh? No?), and ended with the question that nobody could ever answer (Whatever happened to James, anyway?). But to these teenagers who have only ever lost touch with someone when their BFF’s phone got taken away by the ‘rents, social media has taken on a life of its own and been given a purpose that would make Mean Girls everywhere proud.
As the pendulum swung from connected only by a landline to connected 24/7 right in your hand, teenagers who have only known the upswing have felt the dread of the rise. Because social media has always been in their world, these kids know the lingo and the unwritten rules that go with it. Did you know that these “rules” for Instagram include things like “If your picture doesn’t get more than 11 likes in the first 30 minutes, then you need to take it down because it sucks” or “If you’re really her close friend you will comment how beautiful she is in every picture”? There’s also this understanding that you shouldn’t post pictures too often, and you better have a filter on that selfie.
Adults have complained. Adults have held seminars about how to work with these teenagers someday. Adults have reminded teenagers what it used to be like when they hung out with the neighborhood kids all day and just came home when it got dark. But teenagers have found their own way to live in this social media world and yet still have the off camera camaraderie of the neighborhood bike club. Enter the Instagram Spam account.
This shows my age a little, but when I first heard about Instagram Spam accounts, I thought it was the account you give out to people who are going to send you spam. It’s not. Instagram Spam accounts are a way for teens to “spam” (send things others many not want) their friends with as much unfiltered selfie love as they see fit, judgment free. Spam in this case isn’t something bad, it’s the warning to their inner circle that these pics are unfiltered, dumb, silly, and are just for fun. There are no “rules” to the spam account. The name alone implies that the teenager will post as many pics as they damn well please. They aren’t looking for likes or comments; they just want their inner circle of friends to have a glimpse into their real lives. Spam accounts are this next generations attempt at separating a public face from a private face. These kids had a cell phone camera in their face since the kindergarten Halloween party when their parents did video of the entire school parade and then posted it on Facebook. They don’t want to always be “on” and they have never known how to have fun “off camera.” But they’re trying.
Teenagers have accepted that their social media lives are here to stay. They’ve also found a way to play by these crazy rules for society’s sake, and still find their people to share a private life with. Teenagers want to be real and vulnerable and have close friends who really know them – and they will do those things on their own terms.
So whatever negative connotation you have about teens and iPhones and social media, just stop. Give these kids a chance and they will prove to you that there is good to come. They want to be present and real, and they are blazing a trail to do that in a social media world; the only world they’ve ever known.