I entered adulthood during the social media revolution. Facebook was just getting started when I started college and within a few years it seemed like everyone was on it. Fast-forward less than 10 years and networks like Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are popular among people of all ages.
The middle school students in my ministry do not use Facebook—Instagram is clearly their top social media choice. If you want to interact with middle schoolers in the digital world, Instagram is the place to do it right now. And while Instagram is a fun place to visually chronicle your life, a mom recently highlighted one of its significant drawbacks.
Instagram is a double-edged sword. It’s a great way to keep tabs on your friends, but unfortunately it also allows you to see all the things you’re missing out on. When I was in middle school and my friends had a Friday night get-together and I wasn’t invited, the only way I would have known I had missed something was by word of mouth. For middle schoolers today, they can easily see the things they’re not invited to because they see their friends posting pictures of each other all over Instagram.
I’ve found myself getting insecure as a 27 year-old adult after seeing certain people’s pictures on Instagram. I can’t imagine what that’s like for a 12, 13, or 14 year-old who is in a more fragile and uncomfortable stage of life.
What can you do about it? The easy option would be to have your middle schooler delete his Instagram account, but that’s probably not realistic. If he complains about not being invited to something once or twice, you can help provide perspective and tell him it’s okay to not get invited to every single get-together (although to him it might seem like a big deal).
If his frustration persists over time and Instagram reveals his friends are repeatedly leaving him out, it might be time to begin asking tough questions. Ask your son if he really wants to be friends with people who seem to not want him around. Or you could encourage him to gracefully confront his friends and ask them why he is being left out.
Social media is here, and it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. Every social media platform has benefits and drawbacks. The challenge for you is to help middle schoolers utilize things like Instagram in a way that leverages its benefits without being consumed by its drawbacks.