As a youth pastor, one of my goals is to reach students through social media. Instagram happens to be my biggest marketing tool. Our youth group page alone reaches over 3,000 people every week. With that large of a reach, it helps me see what all of my followers, and those I follow, see. The Instagram “explore” page is a huge tool where I get to see what my followers are “liking” and who they are following.
I love it as a marketing tool.
There’s a big problem though. I’m increasingly aware of what my students are liking and who they are following and it’s not good.
As I was driving to the office this morning, I was thinking about the Golden Globes that were on last night and when I got to the office, I watched Oprah’s speech about women in Hollywood in light of all of the sexual harassment and abuse that’s been exposed this year. While I’m no fan of Oprah for many reasons, it was a good speech to hear as we look back on a year full of exposed debauchery. However, here’s what came to mind as I thought of Oprah’s speech: the #MeToo movement will never end. As much good as this movement has done in exposing many cases of sexual abuse and harassment, this movement will never end.
Hearing all of the stories of abuse coming from Hollywood, we might think to ourselves, “I bet all these men have the fear of God in them now and will never abuse anyone else again.”
I hate to say it, but it will happen again.
Here’s why: While Hollywood may be getting expose right and left, social media isn’t. Take one look at the “explore” page on Instagram and you will see it filled with unnecessary sexualized pictures and videos. You might ask yourself, “my kid doesn’t follow anything inappropriate, so why should I be worried?” You should be worried because your kid might not be following anything like that, but do you know who your kids friends are following? What about your kids’ friend’s, friend? You don’t. And it’s important to know because all of the pictures and videos that show up on the “explore” page come from accounts you follow, accounts your followers follow, and accounts your follower’s, follower’s, follower’s follow. (That was a mouthful). You can’t control or even monitor that.
Instagram has the right idea; they want you to follow and see accounts you might be interested in following and that’s okay. The problem is that Instagram’s “filter” is much less religious than yours. In other words, a naked man or woman is not okay and will be deleted. But a near-naked man or woman is “art” or “comedy” so it will not be deleted.
Just one example: on December 31st, famous YouTuber, Logan Paul, with over 12 million followers, posted a vlog (video blog) of him touring Japan. Part of his trip was him going to the suicide forest at the base of Mount Fuji. This forest is known to be a “dark” place, so many YouTuber’s go their for the edgy-ness so they get more views. While in the forest, Logan Paul came across a deceased man who had hanged himself. Instead of turning off the cameras, he continued filming (even laughed about it), and continued to talk to the camera about what he had seen. All the while, the deceased man is still hanging in the background for viewers to see. Something to keep in mind, Logan Paul’s largest audience is 8-12 year olds. EIGHT TO TWELVE YEAR OLDS. This should anger you.
The video has since been removed by Logan Paul after severe backlash, but YouTube made 0 effort to remove the video, even after 6+ million views and a spot on the “trending videos” list. Which means YouTube doesn’t care. If it makes them money, they will keep it. This is a cause for concern because it leaves many other inappropriate, gruesome, or graphic videos still up for viewing.
(LifeWay Christian bookstore and resource center writer Christ Martin wrote about why you shouldn’t let your kids watch Logan Paul or Jake Paul.)
As a parent, you’re probably mainly on Facebook. Facebook has been the social media giant for a long time, but anyone under 18 isn’t on it. It’s all Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube now, which you might have, but you probably “don’t use it like the kids do.” You’re not always seeing what they’re seeing, but I see a lot of it. I see enough of it to feel the need to remind you to be aware of what you’re kids are doing, or seeing, when they’re on their phones or tablets.
My take is that at some point, hopefully within the near future, social media will be exposed just like Hollywood. The #MeToo movement has exposed many people who are tragically guilty. If our social media already looks the way it does, I don’t see any hearts changing because of this movement. Things might change in Hollywood, but it’s still the same on social media. While we may have a brief lapse of accusations, more will come in the future.
One last example: there are hundreds of accounts with millions of followers that post simple comedy videos. These videos are usually meant to be funny and relatable, like spilling a bowl of cereal after your friend scares you. But where these accounts take it too far is when the “friend” in the video is a girl wearing a obviously inappropriate outfit (usually a sports bra and spandex) meant to drive viewership up. There’s no reason a simple, funny video has to become sexual, yet 90% of these videos are that way.
The Bible calls us to “be holy” and to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” We can’t do this if we’re not killing sin and be vigilant of where our sin is coming from. Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are not safe places for teenagers struggling with lust. So, be watchful. Be a parent that’s in the loop. I know technology and social media are changing every day. It’s difficult. But in the end, you will be glad that you took the time to make sure your kids are spiritually and mentally healthy. It was a lot easier when parents could walk into a room and see what was on the TV. It’s a lot harder when it’s a 6-inch screen.