We have all experienced it, the random follow request, the obscure DMs, the hacking of accounts and the confusion of seeing someone you don’t know on your feed. While social media, like Instagram, is fun to keep in touch with friends and trends, at the end of the day it can get real creepy, real quick. I mean we really should not expect any less, Instagram’s platform encourages all ages to participate. However, it would be pretty weird if kids and adults played together on a playground. At the end of the day isn’t that what social media has become, an internet playground to meet, interact and connect with others? So why are we so okay with the lack of safety precautions on an app, like Instagram, that connects underage children to adults they would not otherwise interact with? Well, it would be one thing if these age groups lived cohamormously on a platform like Instagram, but we are all aware of the creepy interactions that occur between underage and overage users.
Everyday users open follow requests to find new strangers. While some of these strangers seem normal and close in age, it is imperative users remain hesitant. Today, it is too easy to steal other people’s photos and create catfish accounts that are composed of someone else’s photos. Some users think about these possibilities and decline these requests out of precaution while others throw caution to the wind. In an effort to gain followers as a status symbol, many Instagram users allow anyone and everyone to follow them or even make their accounts public. Instagram why are you letting kids that are underage have accounts that can be public to anyone and everyone? These public users also receive direct messages from various “profiles” of old men asking a myriad of inappropriate questions. Emily Less, of Kinnelon, New Jersey, received a sugar daddy message that read, “Hello, I’m Eric from California. You’ve got a really nice page and I’d love if you could become my sugar baby. Let me know if you are interested.” These “sugar daddies’” requests have become more popularized and unfortunately normalized.
Less said, “My social media platforms are family friendly and messages like this one makes me second guess the way I portray myself online. These men try to flatter you by complimenting your page and acting as though they took the time to appreciate your posts, but if this man really did do all of that he would see that i’m a confident young woman who does not need an older man handing me money.”
These messages depict older men promising an exchange of money for messages, phone calls or feet pictures. And while these tasks seem innocent to young teens, they are all acts of exploitation. Most users are wary of these requests and brush them off, but younger users are more inclined to agree to these requests especially for a cash reward. Sophomore at Fairfield University and Morristown, New Jersey native, Mia Ferriso said, “Sugar Daddies are so mainstream that it is not even weird if an old man likes, comments, and DMs you saying something inappropriate out of nowhere.” This is where Instagram gets dangerous and interactions happen like this 24/7 on such a vast social media network.
At the end of the day, it has become normalized to be objectified. Look at how many of these social media influencers, make their living off of simply looking pretty and posting about it. And the even greater problem is that young teens look up to influencers that seemly throw caution and privacy to the wind. With all of this in mind, I think it is appropriate and important to look at the effects of social media on the most empathetic generation yet.
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