. . . follow them on social media.
As a rule, I do not become friends with anyone under the age of 18 on Facebook. I realize that Facebook’s own guidelines aren’t that rigorous, but it’s just something that’s served me well over the years. Ordinarily, people younger than that aren’t interested in “friending” me, anyhow, given that I’ve definitely achieved old lady status compared to them. The one time this has come up repeatedly is with nieces and nephews.
I just always waited until they turned 18. It worked.
Recently, we went on a vacation and caught up with my husband’s extended family in Massachusetts. It was fabulous. We stayed with his cousin, who is a decade or so older than us. Her kids are, for the most part, in their very early twenties.
It was so neat to spend time with all these extended family members and, wanting to continue those connections after the trip was over, I both sent and received numerous friend requests in the days immediately following.
And I messed up.
Confusing names after having met SO many people (– especially GIRLS!… oh my goodness, there were SOOO many girls!!!), I accidentally accepted a friend request from a thirteen-year-old.
I realized my error almost immediately, but I really didn’t want to “revoke” friend status and, frankly, I knew I could always hide some of my own stuff from her, so I decided to let it stand. I’m also friends with her father and eighteen-year-old sister, so I figured it’d be fine.
Once I had done that, I felt somewhat obligated to accept the (longstanding) friend request I’d received from my thirteen-year-old niece.
I’m now friends with a whole smattering of girls and young ladies, ranging from thirteen to twenty-two.
IT HAS BEEN SO EYE-OPENING.
Good golly, I wish you all could see these young ladies, because they’re beauties, every last one. One, a 5’9″ willowy blonde who’s a basketball superstar. Another, 5’5″ with dark, spiraling curls. Then another, this one 20, with rich auburn waves and clear light blue eyes.
The thing is– none of that really matters. It’s superficial (other than the athleticism I mentioned, but anyway…)
Here’s why I even bring it up.
Is what they post.
And advice like this. Geared toward women about to turn 21. (Yes. TWENTY-ONE.)
I see these things, zipping on by as I scroll on through, and I feel staggered. My gut reaction is to immediately push back. No! This isn’t truth! Don’t fall for it!
But I watch their online dance. They bond over these things. Over their shared distaste for their own bodies. Over their dismay at not being what they think they should be.
These girls come from good homes, with loving, attentive parents.
I’m convinced that criticizing their meme choice isn’t the way to make a difference.
I’m also convinced that leaving, “You’re beautiful! Stop this nonsense!” comments on them isn’t the way to change their minds.
But it’s become increasingly important to me to model edifying, encouraging self-talk. To praise the many amazing talents and facets of these young ladies (– and, yes, including their physical beauty. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that as part of the whole package.)
I want them to know that, while it’s normal to feel unsure and insecure and inadequate, it’s important to know that those feelings don’t define you. And it’s SUPER important to know that — brace yourselves, teens–
THESE ARE NOT THE BEST YEARS OF YOUR LIFE.
Let that pressure lift right off your shoulders. Feel the sweet relief knowing that life gets BETTER. Turning 21 doesn’t mean you fall apart. Turning 30 doesn’t mean you stop having fun. Turning 40 doesn’t mean you’re old. So relax.
I never wanted to have teenage friends on Facebook.
But I’m really kind of glad I do.
Turns out, they’re teaching me a lot.