It got to her. After watching the rolling feed for months, the Kylie Jenner ads, the people she knew from primary school and posting the odd photo herself, Lulu finally got the Instagram slap. I say the word finally because of the stats. Clinical studies are repeating themselves at the moment. It’s being reported that 1/4 teenage girls in the UK have mental health issues. Within these studies, Instagram is being sited as the worst form of social media in terms of contribution to poor mental health. So what do we do about it? Oh, nothing in our house. Until now, we’ve trusted Lulu to manage the vagaries of social media herself. She’s smart, we tell ourselves. She’ll learn to navigate it. Duh.
Then a month ago during the half-term holiday, we were in London visiting my mum. My brother brought his twin sons, seven-year old Louis and Henri from their home in France to stay. My cousin’s daughter Chloe lives close-by to my mum in Brentford. So all in all, it was cousin-tastic.. and what a time those cousins had together.
One night, I thought Lulu had knocked Henri out. They were play fighting and we heard a big thud against the living room wall. Henri was down, on the floor. We were just surrounding him when he sort of shook himself and wobbled to his feet. ‘I’m fine,’ he said. ‘Let’s keep fighting!’
Lulu shook her head in relief. ‘Awesome! Let’s go!’
I loved watching these guys together. After all, who needs friends when you have cousins I thought? Well…
It had been the boys’ birthday right before we came. I brought them kites and, thinking we could fill some time in the park, I brought a couple of kites to spare. The weather in London at the beginning of November was just a little bit too nice though. There was just enough wind to get them up but then they dipped lazily. Everyone valiantly tried. After a few sessions though, the cousins had enough. They gazed around instead at the magnificent trees in Osterley Park.
‘Let’s climb!’ With this, they ran off together.
Was there a reason that I was the only grown-up in the group? I shook my head. ‘I’ll put the kites away.’
Lulu went too with the phone in her hand. Once I’d caught up with them, I noticed she wasn’t so happy any more. Something had changed.
‘What is it Lu?’ I asked.
She shoved her hands in her pockets. ‘I didn’t get tagged again.’
Ahh. Instagram. That snakey a-hole. I’d heard her say this same thing before. The no tag situation.
‘What happened this time?’
‘Nothing. Except that this time I’m actually in the photo.’
Ouch. For right or wrong, I tried to cling on to logic. ‘Maybe they forgot to tag you?’
Her eyes welled up. ‘Nope. I wrote to them and they didn’t change it.’
So, Lulu is in the photo and she still doesn’t get tagged. I give up. That’s gotta hurt. This photo is part of her going to town on the weekends. She’s been doing it for a while now. She’ll meet a girlfriend and then they’ll meet up with a group of kids and they’ll all hang out together. Like mall rats without the mall.
The cousins came into a circle and hugged her tight as Lulu cried. ‘You don’t need friends, you have us!’ And with this, Lulu cried some more. She cried because, even though she can hang out in town and have a good time with her friends, they all go to school together. Without her. That seems enough to make up the tagging difference.
It was nice to see the cousins support her. But, even though Lulu cheered up, I dragged my own feet home. I can’t compete against Instagram I thought. I can’t stop Lulu going on it and seeing what people are up to. She says she enjoys doing that and I believe her. I like people too.
So, what is the answer? For happiness and health as much as for grades and future potential? Urgghhh. The answer’s been staring me in the face for months. Taunting me. Ok, austerity you bitch. It’s time.