Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Need for Flattery a.k.a. Instagram Insta-mush

A few days ago I tweeted the following "If I had a fiver for every Instagram pic I've read with comments: Y SO PERFECT? and response: STOP, THAT'S U. I'd be rich!" Being the mother of teenage daughters I kept seeing these type of responses over and over on Instagram. A girl posts a "selfie" of herself and all her friends immediately start commenting with sweet talking, bootlicking, puffery that strokes the girl's ego. Oftentimes, said girl immediately says back "oh no, I'm not beautiful...that's you." So that both egos can be mutually gratified at the same time. The above post is one my daughter put up and all her friends immediately told her how good she looked. My first thought was "That's so sweet of them" but then I started overthinking it and it bothers me. 

Why do we take selfies? According to wikipedia, "Instagram is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service with over 100 million active users as of April 2012." What is the draw? It seems like it is our innate desire for flattery that makes us take selfies. I know selfies aren't the only thing that people use Instagram for but if you look at teen girl usage, you are going to see a lot of selfies. 

What do our teen girls need to know about this? There is a fine line between a compliment and flattery. There are times when a complimentary word can make a difference to a person's heart to encourage them but empty flattery should have no place in our lives. 

As a woman, I need to teach our girls not to be self-seeking in the flattery department. We have to guard ourselves from self-flattery first. In Psalm 36:2, we are warned that if we believe our own flattery of ourselves we convince ourselves that our sins will not be found out. The bible also warns us in Psalm 29:5 that people that flatter us usually do it for selfish gain. I can't help but think that is what I am sometimes seeing on Instagram lately. "Let me tell you how beautiful you are so that you will tell me how awesome I am!" I doubt this is a conscious decision...I doubt these girls are thinking "I need a pick me up, I think I will go on Instagram and comment on a bunch of girls photos so that they will say sweet things to me." But it is a slippery slope. 

When my youngest daughter was in middle school, her older sister came to me somewhat worried because she said her little sister would put up a picture of herself on Instagram and if it didn't receive enough "likes" (whatever number that was in her head), she would take the picture down. I was shocked. It gave me an opportunity to talk to both my girls about seeking appropriate ways for applause. It also gave me a chance to talk about "self worth" with my girls and how it should not be tied to social media.

But folks, to some kids...it is. We as parents, teachers, leaders, mentors, have a responsibility to our girls to help them see beyond the number of likes they have on a page, the number of puffed up comments, the need to get dressed up and take numerous selfies until we get just the right photo to post. My desire is for my girls to become Proverbs 31:30 girls - "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised." I want my girls to find their worth in Christ alone. For some kids, their Instagram addiction is making good grades or being a star athlete or a great musician or ______________ (fill in the blank). The evil one will always try to get us to see our worth in something other than Christ.

In teaching digital citizenship to students we have a responsibility to show these young ladies the power social media can have on their lives. Does that mean no one should ever take selfies? No, I don't think so. What it means is, we need to examine the depths of our heart as we post to make sure we are not posting for self-serving reasons that are driving us (and maybe just maybe, I'm also talking to me).

The Trouble With Free Apps

One thing I love about the school that I teach at is that we are always trying to keep our price point low for the parents considering Christian education. I know I'm a bit biased, but I think we have done a great job at giving a well-rounded, academically challenging education at a value that makes other private schools in the area shiver.

Naturally, when we chose to go 1:1 BYOT in the middle school this year, we looked for less expensive app requirements for work flow solutions. Students were taught how to use RenWeb, Google Drive, Moodle, and Evernote. All these apps/options were low cost to the end using student. We told the students they could use the free version of Evernote if they wanted to do so.

Day three of the school year showed us we had made a bad choice. Evernote's free version 60MB monthly upload allowance was being met after three days due to teachers using pdf files for student notes. All of a sudden, students couldn't access their notes because they weren't saving anymore. We had crying overachieving eighth grade girls and frustrated teachers. What we thought was a simple, cheap solution to be the "virtual notebook" became less so immediately.

The paid version of Evernote is $50/year with multiple device access and the information is all kept in the clouds. Evernote has an amazing search capability along with a great way to share your notebooks with others. We also suggested that students could use another pdf annotator or note taker with annotator and then have the students save their information in their google drive (since Notability is device based, not cloud based). Students adopted a solution immediately and the little bump in the road was avoided in their eyes and we have moved forward.

Lessons learned:
A) The free versions of apps are much like the old marketing ploy of "bait and switch." These app creators have to do something to make you want to buy their app instead of just using the free version. Be aware when you adopt a free app that the "rules" may change along the way.
B) Things like this will happen. Technology is fluid. If Moodle ever decides not to be an open source learning management system, we will have to rethink the usage of it. We have to be flexible when using technology.
C) Kids bounce back quickly and respond and adjust, teachers start saying "go buy a notebook this isn't working." We could learn something from our students in this situation.