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Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Social media and the older set

While I’m plenty sympathetic to young people who say Instagram makes them feel bad about themselves through body-shaming and general taunting and bullying, I have yet to see even a paragraph about what it does to us older folk.

Where’s your fancy pants research on THAT, “Wall Street Journal”? Hmmmmm? Who is creating charts and graphs and endless documentation about how WE suffer?

We’re on Instagram, too, young folks. But I’m sure you already know that. You fled Facebook when everyone’s mom discovered it and now we’ve followed you with a metaphorical dirty towel we just found on your bedroom floor to not just Instagram but even…TikTok. Not even Snapchat is a safe space. We’re there, too. Don’t mess with us. We had a PARTY LINE when we were growing up. Which, now that I write it, sounds like something fun but it sincerely wasn’t. We shared a phone line with three other families including my teacher, who would rudely interrupt my private call while I was twisting the curly phone cord and rehashing the day with my bestie because we had not seen each other in an hour and a half. #stillrememberherphonenumber!!!

You want to talk trauma? How about note-passing? Sure, now the kids just text their insults and drama during class but back in olden days, a penciled smackdown could be delivered via sweaty folded note passed clumsily from desk to desk.

That said, I do think kids today have it worse because of the awful immediacy of social media platforms. You can’t do anything boneheaded, harmful or future career-ending without worrying about the wrong people seeing it. We did stupid stuff all the time but there wasn’t a dozen or more cell phones capturing the moment and uploading it for the world to see. That rather blows.

I get we should swat social media for damaging the fragile psyches of teens (and younger!) but shouldn’t we give equal time to older users who also are made to feel “less than”?

What am I talking about? I don’t know. I’m all jacked up on Miralax and bone density meds. Where was I?

OK, let’s start by sharing how we feel when we see gorgeous photos of an Insta friend’s weeknight dinner. No Old El Paso taco kit for her. Something involving poultry cooked in a clay pot with unpronounceable side dishes is more like it. I should feel inspired, not diminished but…

I’ve come to dread her posts almost as much as that TV commercial that starts “Hi! I’m J.J. “Dy-no-mite” Walker here to tell you about a new insurance plan…” The lush photographs of satiny soups (“It’s Fall, Y’all!”); the craft cocktails that look worthy of a magazine shoot (“It only takes a minute to char-grill the basil for the perfect smoky garnish! (#seizetheday #imbetterthanyou #imeanobviously) …While it may not be as devastating as realizing you will never have Kylie Jenner’s, well, anything, it still leaves me feeling inadequate, lazy and, oddly, basil-resenting.

Responding to allegations of harm being done to teens, Instagram has announced it will delay a planned roll-out of Instagram just for kids 10-13. Good idea. Because you know an Instagram for babies and toddlers wouldn’t be far behind. Which begs the question, how young is too young to be an “influencer”? Do we really need babies doing that backward peace symbol thing with their tiny fingers to denote coolness? I think not.

In the meantime, I remain gobsmacked at how much money the young influencers with millions of followers “earn”–high six figures and beyond for doing as near nothing as you can  imagine. Unless you think “best duckface” is really a thing. Show me something I can respect. Like Kylie changing a tire. That would be #awesome.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected]

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