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Facebook is building an Instagram for kids.
This sounds like the worst idea ever! Right? Wrong.
Social media is here to stay. This is the way of our future.
We can choose to let these platforms take over and create more avenues to construct irrational levels of perfection and false senses of reality—or we can take control of them and use them as tools to be and do better, online and off.
You could argue that our generation is more disconnected because of the ways that we often find ourselves relying upon our devices and becoming codependent upon the notifications, and the validation they present. But the reality is, people have been craving human connection long before social distancing was the way of our world. We are more connected than any other generation.
Our devices could actually have the power to connect us on an even deeper level with ourselves—with humanity—and with real people who we otherwise perhaps never would have met in real life, in our communities and in our immediate surroundings.
Our kids will eventually have access to these platforms. But you need to take notice that how they use these platforms will be a direct reflection of how they are presented.
And so before we even consider how we’re rolling them out to children, we should be taking a look at how we are using these platforms ourselves. Because if you are afraid of what these tools might do to their self-esteem and to their social skills, perhaps it’s actually you who is using them wrong.
Before Facebook was a thing
I grew up in a town where there was no one who looked like me, loved like me or dreamed like me. I was bullied. And this was before MySpace reached high schoolers.
Things could have been so different, had I had someone real like Sienna Mae to look up to and feel seen. To understand that there was nothing wrong with me and that beauty came in so many different forms because the only thing that I wanted to be was everything that I wasn’t.
Make social media a place where you feel seen and heard, where you feel included and feel true community.
And that is actually something that TikTok is doing so well, and where Instagram could take note: basing recommendations not just on who you like and who you follow, but what you’re watching the most and who you’re paying the most attention to. In that sense, you are getting recommended content and creators who align with who you uniquely are, and you’re also guaranteed to get recommended content of people who could not be more different. Instead of typically surrounding ourselves with an echo chamber of what we already know, it’s refreshing to have diversity of thought and also a platform that actually makes you feel better after using it.
Lessons from YouTube
YouTube removed likes from programming, and the platform introduced YouTube for kids.
We’ve started paying attention to some of the more meaningful metrics that actually matter in terms of progress: watch time, comments and even conversion. And now kids have access to production, which used to bear a much bigger price tag.
Is there room for error? Yes.
Is there room for bullying and bad behavior? Yes.
Are kids still going to try to sneak into the adult version? Yes.
And that is life.
Social media isn’t the problem. But it can be a solution.
An informed moth to a controlled flame
You can look at social media like fire when you set up a bonfire. It can bring people together; it can keep you warm. It can cook you food, or it can also burn a house down. It can be that dumpster fire that you so dread. But ultimately, you are in total control of that fire.
Regardless of whether or not this buildout actually happens and whether or not you give your kids permission to use it, how are you going to show your children how to use that fire? You can hide the matches, but that’s not the only way to start a fire. You can ignore the heat, but they’ll find their way there.
Take a look at so much of what kids have done to use social media for good, and as a tool. By creating a platform that is more safe and welcoming for kids, we are giving our future generation the tools to be able to make social media better.
Make social media a place where you feel seen and heard, where you feel included and feel true community, when perhaps your real-life community couldn’t be making you feel any more alone and disconnected than you do.
Imagine how different your relationships, on and offline, could look if only you showed up with the creativity, curiosity and wonder from when you were a kid.