6 Surprising Ways Female Students Repurpose Instagram

Teens are switching to Instagram as their go to APP.

No big deal? Isn’t it just pictures? Actually it’s a lot more than that and every student knows it.

For teen girls, it means at least 6 things that I suspected but was still surprised to learn this week, when Kathy Jimenez, our graphic artist and web designer sent me this article.

 Instagram Take Over

The first thing that I learned is that instagram is by far the go to app among teens. CBS reports that “In  a recent  survey, analysts examined how kids’ social media preferences have changed over the last six months. They found that Instagram has become even more popular, with 76 percent of teens currently saying they use it — up 7 percent since last spring!”

 What Teens Girls Have Done

“Girls have quietly repurposed the photo-sharing app into a barometer for popularity, friendship status and self-worth.” Writes, Rachel Simmonds co-founder of Girls Leadership Institute and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls”

Here’s how they’re using it

In an article for Time, Simmonds describes how female students are using Instagram.

  1.  To Know What Friends Really Think Of Them -If you like a girl’s photo, she’ll leave you a TBH comment. For example: “TBH, ILYSM,” meaning, “To be honest I love you so much.” Or, the more ambivalent: “TBH, We don’t hang out that much.
  2. To Measure How Much a Friend Likes You –girls can create a like scale from 1-10. Simmond says, “Girls hope for a “BMS,” or break my scale, the ultimate show of affection.”
  3. As a Public Barometer of Popularity: According to Simmonds, “the number of tags you get is a public sign of your popularity. How many photos you’re tagged in is important,” says Charlotte, 12. “No one can see the actual number but you can sort of just tell because you keep seeing their name pop up.”
  4. To Show BFF PDA –Another way female students will work the system is by listing their friends on their account. They “ use Instagram biographies – a few lines at the top of their page” — to show who they are closest to. Showing the world that you are loved means so much to a teen.
  5. A Way to Retaliate –What a painful public way to exact revenge! I shall remove you. It is enough to strike fear in the heart of any teen, not just the insecure one!
  6. A Personal Branding Machine. MIT has studied digital media and how teens construct their online identities. Instagram allows teens to market themselves to project the look that they are going for. Simmonds explains

In a 2011 survey, 74% of teen girls told the Girl Scout Research Institute that girls were living quasi-double lives online, where they intentionally downplayed their intelligence, kindness and good influence – and played up qualities like fun, funny and social. On Instagram, girls can project a persona they may not have time, or permission, to show off in the classroom: popular, social, sexy. Cultivating a certain look is so important that it’s common for girls to stage ‘photo shoots’ with each other as photographers to produce shots that stand out visually. (Plus a joint photo shoot is more evidence of friendship.)

 All is Not Lost –Join In

Parents, youth workers, and educators could be discouraged by how superficial and potentially dangerous this online exposure is for girls’ healthy development. It looks like it would breed anxiety, insecurity and a constant need to upgrade their image and it does for many. But all is not lost.

A recent Girl Scouts survey discovered that  92% of teen girls prefer their face-to-face friendships over social networking friendships. They have this to say to teen girls:

Face-to-face interaction enables you to establish who your “real” friends are and ensures that you won’t get too caught up in the online social networking world. Your real friends can see you for who you are inside, rather than simply for what you look like. Remember, there’s a whole world outside of social networks. Go out and live it  

To all of us who don’t see or use Instagram this way it is probably time to get involved with our daughters and our students in this strange hang out. We can gain a greater awareness and maybe understand our children or students on a different level. Hopefully this will open up important conversations that can be very helpful.

Please Comment

What are some ways that we can use Instagram to connect with and  help teens?

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Ron Powell

ronpowell

Ron Powell is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com