1.03.2016

Teens on Instagram





As a mom of a teenager, it's my right and my duty to peep in on my child's instagram account from time to time - if you don't do this, I suggest you do!

Anyhoo, I am convinced of a pattern: the boys post differently than the girls.
Looking at male adolescent teen posts, I see a range of "here I am surfing" catching a fish, riding a skateboard, kicking a goal, hiking, shooting hoops, preparing breakfast. Even my son's least athletic peer posted a picture of himself walking sideways on a steep hill.
These are performance or action-related behaviors.
 
Nothing wrong there, in fact, it's great stuff; clean healthy fun. 
But girls do not post, or represent, themselves in the same way.
Instead, females posts with an emphasis on body imagery
There's lots of eye-ball closeups, cascading hair, legs on the bed, fuzzy socks on feet - and a large volume of backside/behind/bottom photos.

Girls also emote: I miss my bestie! Can't wait til you get home. I love you more than I can say. I have the very best Mom in the world! Couldn't have done it without you. You made my birthday perfect!

I'm not drawing any diagnosis here - just stating observations.
In our home, I've chosen to simply share such thoughts with my kids: any awareness is a step in the right direction, right?

And I can't be sure that I'm not speaking to a larger sociological issue that has been perfected, reinforced and socially modeled - hit repeat mode  (i.e. girls have learned at a very young age that their physical appearance trumps their athleticism, or that looks are everything‎).
Or, are these innate pro-species maintaining behaviors, predictable gender trends that differentiate masculine from feminine psychology?


Do we just, still, unconsciously value different characteristics from each gender, with all of our education and awareness, is it so unconscious that we still propagate gender stereotypes?
Are we unaware of our own affirming, or rejecting, ‎of traits? Can we overcome the initial (animal) response to a coquettish and seductive young female?

My unscientific, purely anecdotal, impression is that these dramatic differences neutralize post-adolescence. In other words, adults begin to post more similarly. Men in their 20's start to post their body-building pecs, Studley Dudley's appear more often, and young women begin to promote their educational or professional advancements.

I suppose by mid-age, we are even more similar than different. Maturity is the great leveler. We recognize in ourselves, and others, the more mature and meaningful activities, praising those collectively, either on Facebook or Instagram.

A nice balance of power, doing with being, settles in for those developing in a healthy and forward motion over the normal lifespan continuum.
 As we fuse towards gender-neutral characteristics (losing our sexual edges with the waning need to procreate and sustain ourselves) we begin advice-giving posting: recipes, positive affirmations, exercise tips, political tidbits.


While I don't "follow" my child on Instagram, I have eyes and ears doing some of that for me. I suggest a trusted Auntie, or another beloved adult, to be standing calmly nearby. In my case, my son's old sitter is more close in his age-group, and she follows his posts. She would be a gentle and non-reactive adult, unlike Me, as Mom,  to let me know if there was something off color. 

Like what, you might ask? Well, our family had an object lesson when a schoolmate, a teenager that we know and love, had posted a picture of a woman. Interesting comments arose online as she was a famous (gorgeous) model, in a bathing suit. The language devolved - the word I recall most clearly was "TITS."
My child was not a part of this language, but his thoughts were important to me as he observed, and potentially was learning from, his peers in this arena. 
He told me that because she was famous, he felt the language was acceptable. 
So, the take-away here is that we had an open discussion that allowed for my adult input - and not just teenagers setting the norm for themselves .
Establish your own Instagram account and make your own observations. 
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