Social media has become an influential force in the lives of young people, with platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube dominating their daily routines and shaping their opinions, behaviours, and aspirations. At the forefront of this digital phenomenon are social media influencers; individuals who have gained substantial followings and have significant influence. While some influencers offer positive and constructive content, it is crucial to critically examine the impact they have on young minds, and the invaluable role that parents and teachers play to keep the balance right.
The Power and Pitfalls of Social Media Influencers:
Social Media influencers possess a remarkable ability to captivate the attention and admiration of young people. With carefully curated contact and relatable narratives, they become role models and sources of inspiration. These influencers often project an image of perfection, promoting materialism, unrealistic beauty standards, and shallow values. One such example today is Andrew Tate, a controversial figure in this context has been known to propagate a hedonistic lifestyle focused on self-indulgence and objectifying women. Such negative influences can warp the perception of young minds, leading to distorted values and harmful behaviours and run counter to biblical values or humility, respect, and honouring God in our actions.
Distorted Beauty Standards and Materialism:
One concerning aspect of social media influencers is the perpetuation of distorted beauty standards. Through filters, editing apps, and strategic angles, they create an unattainable perception of beauty, leading to body image issues and an insatiable pursuit of perfection. Furthermore, social media influencers often endorse consumerism and materialism, showcasing lavish lifestyles that are out of reach for most young people which only serves to cultivate feelings of inadequacy, discontentment, and a relentless desire for more. Young people need positive influencers who prioritise character, relationships, and eternal values over material possessions. It is crucial that we encourage young people to value their uniqueness and prioritise character development over conforming to superficial ideals. As the Bible reminds us in 1Peter, true beauty lies in the inner qualities rather than the outward appearance.
The Role of Teachers and Parents:
Amidst the concerns surrounding social media influencers, we must recognise the invaluable role of teachers and parents as positive influencers in the lives of young people. Teachers, as educators and mentors, have the power to shape minds and characters. They inspire and equip young people to navigate the world with wisdom and integrity. Within the context of the structured educational environment, teachers provide guidance, encouragement, and support; nurturing critical thinking skills which foster personal growth and character development.
Parents have an even more profound influence. Proverbs 22:6 instructs parents to train up their children in the way they should go, teaching them values, ethics, and faith. Parents play an essential role in instilling strong foundations and helping their children navigate the challenges of life. They provide love, support, and moral guidance, helping to shape their children’s character and values.
Teachers and parents offer personalised guidance, face-to-face interactions, and a nurturing environment that social media influencers often lack. They provide individualised support, address specific needs, and offer stability in the lives of young people. Moreover, teachers and parents can help young people navigate the digital landscape, developing critical thinking skills to discern the impact of social media influencers and differentiate between truth and falsehood.
Finding a balanced approach:
To mitigate the negative impact of social media influencers, it is crucial for young people to develop critical thinking skills and discernment. Rather than ‘banning’ the platforms all together, which may instead result in interaction being done in secretive ways, young people should be encouraged to question the motives and authenticity of those they follow online. Partnering together, school and home should prioritise media literacy, teaching young minds to recognise the dangers of excessive reliance on social media and the importance of a balanced perspective.
While social media influencers can exert a powerful influence over young people, it is essential to critically evaluate the messages they promote. The Bible encourages discernment in choosing our sources of influence, cautioning against falling prey to empty words and deceptive values. (Ephesians 5:6-11) Teachers and parents have a profound role to play in shaping the lives of young people, providing them with the moral compass and tools needed to navigate the complexities of the modern world. By empowering young minds to think critically and promoting positive influences, we can help ensure a healthier and more balanced approach to social media and the influencers that inhabit it.
So, what about you? Who or what are you ‘following’? Who or what are you being influenced by?
Written by Karissa – Assistant Principal Secondary