As many of you may or may not know I am the Pastor/Director of Music at my church, see this previous post for more details on that.
Anyway, I’ve been busy working on the church marketing and put us on Instagram! I’m on Instagram too btw hehe. So I was looking for people for the church to follow and started scrolling through the Explore part of Instagram and I just started crying 😦 . Has anyone else noticed that there are soo many pictures of half naked pretty young celebrities with quote “perfect” bodies?
Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being slim, I myself am a UK size 8 (US size 4), which is why I feel like I can say this with a fair degree of neutrality. I do not think that it is good for young people to have prolonged exposure to imagery of half naked celebrities who they are never going to be able to look like. There are very simple and practical reasons for this, for example, some of them will not look like their heroes because they are simply a different ethnicity.
When I was a child in the 90’s (don’t let my youthful appearance and high-pitched voice fool you I am actually a 26 year old woman) we didn’t have any of this. Hate to break it to you kids but when I was a child there was no: Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat (whatever that is…) WhatApp, Twitter, YouTube, Broadband (when we wanted to connect to the internet which was only done for my father’s work it sounded like this.) etc… in fact, until 1998 THERE WASN’T EVEN ANY GOOGLE! Dun dun dun!
Consequently, I did not grow up with the constant ubiquitous invasion of celebrity scrawnyness straight to my little hands and underdeveloped psyche like modern children. I feel like this allowed me to grow up with a bit more of a balanced perspective on regarding body image and social media. Modern children and young people don’t actually understand that people constantly posting pictures of their butt’s and abs is not normal, in fact it’s weird, it’s bizarre and super off putting… Yes, the images were always out there but they were not beamed straight to children’s eyes through personal devices and websites/apps because such technology didn’t exist. In fact, another shocker, not many people even had mobile phones. Children certainly did not have phones. My father only had a mobile phone because he had his own business which operated in Central London but before that he just had a pager.
Working with children in schools and in the community and learning how they think has lead me to conclude that by allowing children and young people to bombard themselves with these images, we are robbing them of their childhood. Here’s what we can expect from the mindset of a child:
I want lots of people to like me> popularity and self are currently defined by likes and followers online > how do I do that? > hmm this person is super slim and half naked > they have lots of likes and followers > lots of people must like them… > I want lots of likes and followers too > I should do what they do then people will like me
They will think “maybe if I was a little slimmer people would like me better”. They don’t think maybe its photo-shopped? Or taken at an angle that makes them look slimmer? I know this because I am a hobbyist photographer, I recognise the techniques, the children won’t and even if they do they may not even care…
Here’s an anecdote from my life:
I used to wonder why when I went into clothes shops why the clothes never fit me like they did on the manikins, until one day, I saw the back of a manikin and saw that the clothes were pinned in such a way that they looked flattering on the manikin, to encourage people to buy the outfit.
The above anecdote illustrates what’s going on on social media and why we need to be careful. The clothes were never going to fit me like they did on the manikins, unless I got them altered. I realised then that I’ve literally been lied to by every shop I’ve ever been to for my entire life…
Oddly enough, it was not the young women that made me cry it was the images of muscular men. I noticed that the imagery insinuated that success, virility and popularity were linked to how massive your abs were, not how massive your heart, honour and respect are. Men feel worthless sometimes too but they generally don’t vocalise it, which is something that really concerns me about men, I really wish that more of them would speak up and get the help that they need 😦 . It can actually sometimes be quite hard for young men to put on some muscle. In my experience, 99% of the time young men are actually quite slender, I literally only know 3 or 4 guys under 30 who have visible muscles. However, social media makes it look like there are a lot of ab-u-lous guys. There really isn’t. Now, I know this because as I said before, I am an adult, I appreciate that you need to give the guy next door some slack lol. Young people are not being told this. Guy’s starve themselves too in order to achieve what is celebrated as perfection and girls are encouraged to love a certain body image, which encourages men to buff up and it’s a cycle of shame. Another thing that’s happening that I find incredibly upsetting is the amount of guys having profile pictures that obscure their faces because they just don’t think that they are attractive enough for people to see them head on. They have been taught that beauty and handsomeness look one way and if you’re not that well no one should even look at you.
Here’s the facts of life, celebs and athletes are paid to train. Athletes especially are buff as A CONSEQUENCE of needing to be fit for their job. Your day to day average Joe doesn’t always have time to train. He’s too busy commuting, trying not to get sacked and trying to stay a float financially. So going to the gym to beef up isn’t a priority, it cut’s into a man’s limited, therefore precious, free time with his family and unless they are a model, having big abs is not going to help them pay their mortgage, (if they can actually afford a house), so it’s not a priority. We should teach our children and young people to appreciate and love those hard-working guys in our lives who do really selfless things, so that everyone else can eat, at the cost of their physique. After all the Bible does say:
[1 Timothy 4:8 NLT]  “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
I’m not encouraging laziness, I’m merely pointing out the realities of real life that makes the lack of appreciation for ALL body types an unrealistic world-view to have to grow up with. No one ever said that social media was for children. It isn’t and should be viewed under adult supervision and guidance.
It is not healthy to let children view social media unattended. We need to start protecting our children better. I have experience of dealing with young people who have starved themselves or lowered themselves by wearing inappropriate things in order to get the same level of attention as their heroes. Unless we teach children and young people about self respect, beauty and proper health and nutrition, they are just going to learn from social media, which may or may not give them a positive message. Ladies, if you just want an insta-hunk and dismiss everyone else, I’m warning you, you will miss out on someone special. We need to teach our young women that what’s inside is important. Yes one does need to be attracted to the person one is with, you need a physical/sexual (sexual only within marriage not outside of it!) connection with the person but what is equally important is that you have emotional/intellectual compatibility as well. It’s ok to have abs and it’s also ok to not as well but we need to teach children and young people that, before we unleash them on social media. Besides, the guy can’t stay 20-something with a metabolism the speed of a concord forever…
How does this fit in with my faith in Jesus Christ?
I too have struggled and still struggle with my self image but I believe that Jesus made me and us all and that Jesus thinks that we are all very beautiful 🙂 If that persons face is good enough for Jesus then it’s good enough for you. He is not telling or asking you to date them, just to not discriminate against them because of how they look.
[Galatians 3:28 NLT]  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Social media is a good marketing tool, I am on it myself, I post selfies but I also keep my clothes on too! Please use social media wisely and watch your children when they are on it. Teach them that what you want at the end of your life on your Instagram is something that looks a little like this 🙂
Lots of love and appreciation
“Galatians 3:28 (NLT) – There is no longer Jew.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 31 Oct, 2016. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/gal/3/28/s_1094028>.
“1 Timothy 4:8 (NLT) – Physical training is good but.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 5 Nov, 2016. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/1ti/4/8/s_1123008>.