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YOUNG PEOPLE ASK

How Important Is Online Popularity?

A teenager named Elaine says: “When I saw that my schoolmates had hundreds of online followers, I thought, ‘Wow—they’re popular!’ Honestly, I was a little jealous.”

Have you ever felt that way? If so, this article can help you avoid getting caught up in the quest for online popularity.

 What are the dangers?

At Proverbs 22:1, the Bible says that “a good name is to be chosen rather than great wealth.” So it’s OK to want a good reputation—even to want others to like you.

But sometimes a desire for acceptance turns into a craving for popularity. Could there be a danger? Onya, 16, would say yes:

“I’ve seen people do crazy things—like jump off a second-story ledge at my school—just to become popular.”

To get the attention of their peers, some people even film their foolish stunts and post them online. For example, a number of teenagers uploaded videos of themselves eating laundry detergent pods—small capsules that contain toxic substances—something that no one should ever do!

The Bible says: “Don’t do anything from . . . a cheap desire to boast.”—Philippians 2:3, Good News Translation.

To think about:

  • How important is online popularity to you?

  • Would you risk your health or your life to gain the attention and approval of your peers?

 “An illusion of popularity”

Efforts to become popular do not always involve going to risky extremes. Erica, 22, notes how some people use another strategy:

“People will post highlight after highlight of their life, making it appear as if they had an endless list of close friends that they constantly spend time with. It creates an illusion of popularity.”

Cara, 15, says some people use deceit to create that illusion:

“I’ve seen people stage photos that make it look as though they were at a party when they were really at home.”

Matthew, 22, admits to having done something like that:

“I posted a picture and tagged the location as Mount Everest, even though I’ve never been to Asia!”

The Bible says: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—Hebrews 13:18.

To think about:

  • If you use social media, do you resort to deception to boost your popularity?

  •  Do the pictures and comments you post really reflect who you are and what you stand for?

 How important are followers and likes?

Many people believe that the key to online popularity is to have an extraordinary number of followers and likes. Matthew, quoted earlier, admits that he used to feel that way:

“I would ask people, ‘How many followers do you have?’ or ‘What’s the highest numbers of likes you’ve ever received?’ To raise my follower count, I would follow random people, hoping that they would follow me in return. I developed a greed for popularity, and social media fanned the flames of that greed.”

Online popularity is like junk food—it feels good for a short time but does not leave you satisfied

Maria, 25, observes that some people judge their entire self-worth by the number of followers and likes they receive:

“If a girl’s selfie doesn’t get enough likes, she concludes that she’s ugly. That’s a wrong assumption, of course, but many people in that situation would react the same way. In a sense, they are cyberbullying themselves.”

The Bible says: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.”—Galatians 5:26.

To think about:

  • If you use social media, do you find that it causes you to compare yourself with others?

  •  Do you place more importance on a follower count than on developing genuine friendships with people who care about you?