Sera is 16 years old. She lives with her mum in a small unit, attends the local school, and every Friday night you can find her at youth group. Sera wants to be a model or, if that fails, an actor. She avoids homework by watching countless makeup tutorials on YouTube. She’s currently complaining about a pimple that’s appeared on her nose overnight and carefully applies some Cover Girl concealer in preparation for her shift at McDonalds.
But take a look at her Facebook wall and Sera, or Zeraphina as she calls herself online, is a completely different person. Selfie after selfie depicts a sophisticated young woman well beyond her tender age. Perfectly arched eyebrows. Delicate collarbones. Flawless skin.
There are styled photos too. In her latest, Zeraphina is sipping what appears to be a cocktail wearing a bikini by a swimming pool. In another, she’s “shopping” at Burberry, gently touching a scarf as if contemplating a purchase. Gone are the pharmacy brand cosmetics. Instead there’s a carefully placed Chanel lipstick alongside MAC foundation and a Louis Vuitton Wallet (a gift from her Grandmother).
Not one to shy away from her faith, below the photos are carefully crafted captions such as “He died for me” or “Living free in His Grace”, hinting at a Saviour but not so much as to detract attention from an on-trend outfit.
In a world where approval is seemingly vital, social media is the new calling card of teenagers and a strong presence can cause popularity to soar. It’s no surprise when you consider celebrity influence. Selena Gomez has a whopping 130 million followers on Instagram – that’s over five times the population of Australia – and Kylie Jenner can cause a product to sell out in a few hours simply by posing with it.
For teenage girls the message is strong and clear. Look perfect. Get likes. Gain followers. Build streaks. Do all of these well enough and you’re finally worthy of love and adoration. Sadly, it’s the same lies we’ve always fought, except that this time it’s a battle waged 24/7 and is accessible in the palm of your hand.
How do we infiltrate the complex world of social media for teenagers and remind them that they are loved for who they are?
One positive voice is Like Her TV, a YouTube channel with empowering videos aimed at girls in High School. Covering topics as diverse as sitting exams and changing friendship groups, Like Her TV dives into conversations that teenage girls are already having and reminds them of their identity in Christ. What’s striking is the honesty of the young girls who openly talk about everyday challenges – a refreshing alternative in a landscape full of duck faces and thigh gaps.
Like Her TV is a valuable resource for youth pastors who want to learn more about the difficulties girls face as well as providing a great space to point their teenagers to for reassurance and inspiration. And that’s something definitely worth hitting “subscribe” to.
Words by Brisita Rojas