Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Who, Exactly, Is Being Influenced?

Anyone my age would likely tell you if you asked (or even if you didn’t ask) that they grew up in a much simpler age.  For my television viewing as a kid I had three stations from which to choose, and one of those was mostly “snow.”  Internet?  Cable TV?  Career choice?  Oh, sure, doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher, fireman, policeman, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker.  Huh?  What’s a systems analyst?  Or a software engineer?  Or a chief information officer?  Or IT security specialist?

And an “influencer” was someone who could manipulate others.  Perhaps a salesman.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week as two news/feature articles came to my attention.  In the first one, from the Wall Street Journal, an anonymous mother was interviewed about the social media account she and her young teenaged daughter set up during the pandemic to share with family and fellow dance students pictures and videos of the girl’s dancing.  It was also a means for the mother and daughter to pass time and bond during a socially restrictive time.  The mother soon began to notice a disturbing trend in the data on the account dashboard.  Yes, they were—much to their delight and surprise—getting offers of free apparel and sponsorships.  But 92% of the account’s followers were adult men, and some of them were starting to send inappropriate messages and pictures.

The mother blocked as many of the inappropriate users as she could keep up with.  But she felt that she faced a dilemma.  The particular social media platform she was using promotes content based on engagement from the audience, and the men she was blocking tended to be the ones who lingered the longest on the pictures and responded online.  How would her daughter ever become a social media influencer, earning tens of thousands of dollars a year, paying her way through college, and in the process losing this opportunity for mother-daughter bonding if mom continued blocking all these men?

Her eventual response was, “You have to accept it.”  I don’t think you’ll need a WSJ subscription to access the sad, disgusting, disappointing story at this link.

On the heels of reading that article, I saw in multiple news outlets that the surgeon general is “demanding” warning labels be placed on social media apps due to the risks they pose to young children and teenagers: depression, social isolation (ironically), potential for sexual abuse, and suicide.  Use of social media is nearly universal in this age group, and according to one Gallup poll they spend about five hours daily on these sites.

I am not going to engage in a debate about appropriate levels of government oversight of social media platforms, free speech, etc.  What I will say is that there is no cure for stupid and only very tough cures for greed.  And I’m not talking about the minors, I’m referring to the adults.  Are we selling our souls and our children’s safety for thirty pieces of silver?  Where is the conscience?  What happened to our moral compass?  Yes, the men ogling the young girl’s pictures are monsters.  Will we sacrifice to them that which should be most precious in life to us?

Until next time,


“They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded—nor did it enter My mind—that they should do such a detestable thing." Jeremiah 32:35 NIV*

*Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission.  All rights reserved worldwide.