Back in the day, if you wanted your child to be a star, chances are you had to pull a Jed Clampett and tell yourself “Californy is the place you ought to be.” (Sorry for that “Beverly Hillbillies” throwback.) Now, there’s another way to reach the masses with your kid’s talent without ever having to leave home: social media.
There are legions of parents out there who are ambitiously dedicated to making their children “instafamous.” This term is derived from the Instagram app and to be instafamous is to have hordes of followers on social media.
Usually an aspiring instafamous kid has a social media account “managed by their mother” and features lots — I mean thousands — of photos of the child. When you’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, you know when you see pictures of a kid that feature an otherworldly, soft focus glow from the use of the Mayfair filter (because studies show that photos using the Mayfair filter get the most likes) and seem most certainly photoshopped that this child is probably on the instafamous track.
(I’m now going on the record as saying that if you believe the natural beauty of your child isn’t good enough, so you feel compelled to photoshop, blur and enhance the image of your 4-year-old, you have problems and need to immediately seek professional help.)
I admit to being bewildered by parents who shamelessly court followers for their children on social media. Is there an upside? I mean how is your darling cherub ever going to usurp a celebrity’s kids in likes and follows? And what’s the end game, besides people thinking you’re crazy?
Yes, crazy because everyone knows that for the most part, getting your kid instafamous is more about you and your ego issues than your 8-year-old giving a flip about whether or not the last photo you posted exceeded 1K in likes.
My daughter is a competitive dancer (think athlete plus artist) and that world seems to breed mothers who are intent on gaining instafamous status for their child. For one thing it’s easy — you’ve got loads of impressive dance pics of your kid and there’s enough going on in the dance world — from “Dance Moms” to “So You Think You Can Dance Kids” to buoy a parent’s hope that her child could be the next big thing. There’s also the lure of getting a dance apparel contract for your child, which seems to be predicted on social media followers and is step one in the “I Want My Kid To Be A Star” handbook.
What scares and confounds me is that these parents seem to be oblivious or choose to ignore the frightening fact that a lot of social media love comes from creeps. One dance studio in Kansas had a huge security concern after some zealous wannabe instafamous moms hustled their kids so much that “strange men” starting lurking outside the dance studio. And a young dancer “who made it” has mega fans like a prison inmate who has the child’s likeness tattooed on his face.
We live in a hyper-vigilant society where we won’t let our kids play outside in their own yard or ride their bikes around the cul-de-sac without an adult present. People call the police when they see a child walking home from school alone.
So, I’m perplexed how there can there be such a huge disconnect for some parents who wouldn’t let their kid run down the street to the neighbors’ home but are actively wooing and inviting the worst of humanity into their child’s life via social media.
Is another Instagram follower worth it? You can’t Mayfair filter or photoshop the ugly out of that question.
Reach Sherry Kuehl at snarkyinthesuburbs@ gmail.com, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and snarkyinthesuburbs.com.