“From a statistical point of view, he wasn’t as popular with everyone out there.”
A lifestyle blogger was widely criticized Monday after sharing a post lamenting the fact that photos of her son did not receive as much engagement on social media as those of her other children.
In an Instagram post celebrating her son’s sixth birthday, 35-year-old mommy blogger Katie Bower described how it “killed” her inside that little Weston’s photos never received as many comments or likes as those of his siblings.
“From a statistical point of view, he wasn’t as popular with everyone out there,” Bower, who runs the popular Bower Power blog and has more than 50,000 followers on Instagram, wrote.
In a post-script, the Georgia mother of five clarified that her anguish was motivated by concerns that her son might one day “see the numbers and have to learn that his value is not in online approval.”
Bower’s fears over her son adjudging his self-worth based on social media metrics might seem strange. But in technology- and smartphone-obsessed 2018, she might be more an (extreme) reflection of the times we live in than than a grotesque outlier.
Omg this Instagram mommy blogger is celebrating her sons bday by writing about how out of all her kids, he “statistically” performs the worse on her Instagram. And she’s worried one day it will ruin his self esteem pic.twitter.com/QpFfJwDOab
— Stephanie McNeal (@stephemcneal) November 19, 2018
Cultural commentators have extensively bemoaned the harmful impact of the ubiquity of modern tech and social media platforms. Many have argued that weakening community bonds have led us to look for fulfillment in the seductive ping of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter notifications.
In 2017, writing for The Atlantic, Jean M. Twenge detailed the troubling aspects of modern-day teenagers’ relationship to technology, which she encountered in her work as a psychologist.
”Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” Twenge queried in the headline. In the piece, she appeared to lean toward, “yes.”
But Twenge made clear that the most pressing technology-related problems don’t lie with older generations such as Boomers, or even the Millennial generation, which Bower belongs to: It’s in “iGen” teens, born between 1995 and 2012, where the dual threat of degraded community bonds and a life lived increasingly online really came home to roost.
These teens “have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.”
“The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health,” Twenge wrote.
And while these teens are physically safer than any others in history, there are other problems. “Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011,” Twenge noted.
“It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades,” she added. “Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”
So while many might find Bower’s method of dealing with her son’s Instagram popularity problem ridiculous or misguided, there is a kernel of truth lying somewhere inside those fears.