As if cyber bullying, Photoshop fashion and teenage self-esteem struggles weren’t big enough issues, there’s a growing and disturbing trend hitting the Youtube scene.  Scores of young teens (some as young as 11, and mostly girls), unsatisfied with their perception of themselves, are taking to the world of Youtube to ask the question…”Am I Ugly?

Recently Time Magazine and The Globe and Mail ran articles to shed light on the trend, and to garner viewer input into the validity of such drastic measures.

An Ugly Trend: Teens Turn to Youtube to Evaluate Their Looks
“Am I ugly?”  Teens turn to Youtube trolls for the answer

As you can imagine, those posting the videos received varying degrees of support, and ridicule from their simple, yet powerful question.  Some see it as merely asking an innocent question of value, while others see it as a vain attempt to validate the ‘Hot or Not‘ question.  The scene goes like this: a young person, presumably one struggling with their self-image, poses in front of a webcam and asks the question.  The videos are usually short and to-the-point…and then the video link is posted online (facebook, myspace, social media networks) where they await comments from friends and anyone else who happens to find the posted vid.  The question itself is not the disturbing aspect, rather the means in which the question is asked.

The fact that some of the teens can be young as 11 years old signifies something is definitely amiss. Does YouTube need to monitor these videos more closely, or is it part of the need for greater parent vigilance when it comes to their children’s online activities? When every action is anonymous, commenters playing on the insecurities of young tweens is exactly the last thing the Internet needs. ~Erica Ho- Time Magazine~

Hohkie Doodle…what has our world come to!?  Not that asking the question is alarming, but posting it online in the hopes of finding the affirmation you’re looking for from mostly strangers…it just breaks my heart…not to mention the doors it opens for creepers and predators.  It might not be a viral ‘sensation’, but there’s enough of these videos online to suggest that self-esteem/image is still a lurking struggle that teens and pre-teens are fighting a tough battle against.  The rash of ‘Am I Ugly?’ videos prompted one college student to record her own video as a social experiment looking into “the struggles a girl transitioning into womanhood must go through.” With her hair hanging in her face and a messy bedroom in the background, she asks viewers to “Leave a comment. You can be honest. Am I pretty? Am I ugly? I can take it, you can tell me.”  After ‘coming clean’ and revealing her online experiment, she had this to say to those earnestly posting this kinds of videos;

No one in middle school thinks they are pretty. Even the girls that you think are perfect are also insecure. … The sooner you start loving yourself the sooner life gets easier. … Now get off the internet and go eat ice cream!!!!” ~Wickedlemons1 (youtube handle)~

IMO, what these young people need is not online affirmation and attention, but consistent and real-life love and engagement from their parents, family, friends and social networks (no not online, but actual social structures…like christian community!).  For those of us that have watched the teen years go buh-bye, we know all about the pressures to fit in, to be validated, to belong, to be wanted and valued.  And if we’re honest, if we had youtube around when we were in middle/high school, we may have been tempted to air our insecurities online too.  But when you go looking for love…or in this case, value…in all the wrong places, you end up with a less-than-accurate perception of identity and worth.  Even well-meaning folks posting affirming comments online may be gaining their perspective from the wrong sources.

Instead of posing the question of value online, what if these young people sought the opinion of someone who really mattered?

Family is a good place to start…friends can be a sounding board too…but what about the One who actually created us, knows us best and whose opinion is perfect and without an agenda?

Imagine pulling up a chair next to Jesus and asking Him; “Well…Am I pretty? Am I ugly? You can be honest.  I can take it, you can tell me.”

Here’s what kind of responses you could expect to hear; (*paraphrasing is mine)
*I made you in my image…I don’t make mistakes! (Gen. 1:26-27)
*I formed you together from birth, and everything about you is beautiful and perfect! (Psalms 139:13-16)
*Even though you mess up from time-to-time, I still love you a tonne, and in fact I value you so much I died for you! (Rom. 5:8; John 3:16)
*Even when you feel like you’re less than you really are, my grace will lift you up.  But it’s okay…because no one has anything at all if they don’t have Me…so be content with how I made you! (2 Cor. 12:9)
*I’ll always love and value you…I’ve been drawing you to Me for quite some time! (Jer. 31:3)
*When you accept Me as Lord and Savior, I live inside you…and I don’t just choose to live any old place!  You belong to me, and that’s a big deal! (1Cor. 6:19)
I see you as royalty…a pretty special someone with value way beyond what this world can offer or understand.  Don’t sweat what others think, because I made you to reflect who I am…and I know what I’m doing! (1 Pet. 2:9)

The bottom line is this…WE ARE PRETTY STINKIN SPECIAL TO GOD!  Jesus places a value on you that 10,000 bars of gold can’t measure up to.  So if you’re struggling with your worth because of put-downs you hear @ school/home…stop buying the lies.  If you’re searching for affirmation from everyone and anyone, other than God Himself…put down the camera, stop asking the wrong people, and find a quiet place and close your eyes and ask the Lord what He thinks (reading and claiming those above verses as truth won’t hurt either!).

Once you find out what He thinks, it won’t matter what anyone else thinks…and hey…you can even go and eat that ice cream!

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