Eavesdropping on the Seventh Grade ‘Instagram Show’

Excerpt from this article:

My daughter taught me the unwritten ground rules [of Instagram]. First: It is crucial to have a respectable ratio of “followed” to “following.” I watched as my cutthroat child threw several bodies off the lifeboat to correct the ratio.

At first, she posted mainly pictures of our cat. Boys were “liking” girl posts and girls were “liking” boy posts. While school life was a different world, in Instagram land, boys and girls were desegregating themselves and becoming (virtually) approachable. “Look,” I would show her, “Theo posts pictures of his cat, too.” (Boys. They’re just like you and me!)

Gradually, “The Instagram Show” became a giant downer. Now when my daughter checks her account, she spots photos of real-time sleepovers and birthday parties where girls she thought were her friends are having fun without her.

…During summer break, the photos hailed from France and Greece. My daughter stayed home with a broken arm. She posted pictures of her sky-blue cast and paid way too much attention to how many “likes” and comments she received. Her scrutiny was meticulous: She pointed out all perceived slights. One former best friend had “liked” a post immediately prior to hers and the post immediately following hers. Clearly, this kid was icing her out.

Instagram is a genius at the art of exclusion: It lets you see where you are not. It can also obliterate, erasing you from where you were. To be in a photo and to not be “tagged” is to be rendered socially invisible. Commenting on a party photo, my untagged daughter wrote, “I was there too!” If she had asked for advice, I would have told her to curb the vulnerability.

And then there’s the bioline, which can be used for good or evil. There, below your pic, you add a quote, a motto or a private joke between select friends. While the seventh-grade boys were still using the bioline to provide just the facts their (school, their sports, their favorite teams) girls soon deemed this an appropriate place to list their BFFs followed by a bunch of super-cute emojis.

…All too soon, boys’ names, or their initials, joined the BFF lists in the seventh-grade girls’ biolines. While the girls used emoti-hearts, the boys, I noted, wrote “taken by” before a girl’s initials.