10 Reasons not to follow this young woman on Instagram

(You may disagree, YMMV, etc.)

  1. It was hot yesterday, 95 and muggy. My dog Lenny and I were trying to enjoy the water in a section of stream that gathers into stepped, man-made pools designed to control the flow. We were in the second highest pooling area, and this girl — 11, maybe 12, years old, but I’m terrible at guessing ages — was two down, wading with the slow, deliberate steps you take when you want to feel the cool of the moving water against your feet. I wasn’t looking for conversation, and neither was my dog. The girl called, “Hi.” I looked at her, and she was waving shyly.
  2. We walked over to her. She said my dog was cute. Of course my dog is cute. Then she tried to get not only my dog, but me, to step into the water. (Lenny had by this time decided she was quite through with the water, and the sweat flood rolling down my neck was cooling me just fine, thank you.) She said the water wasn’t “that bad,” and that we were actually in the most shallow part. When I told her I was wearing shoes, she said, “Oh, I just take mine off.”
  3. I didn’t ask her what she was doing there all alone, because when I was a kid, I went all kinds of places alone. She told me, anyway. It turns out she and her friend had been picking up plastic from the water. Probably to bring home for an art project, I thought. Or to collect like sea glass. So I asked, “For an art project, or something?” No, she said. Just to get rid of the litter. I’m not sure what kind of kid makes a business of cleaning up litter. People go out of their way to dot fields and decorate streams with evidence of their own lives, empty burger wrappers and drained nip bottles left behind like shed skin — who were she and her friend to remove them?
  4. She said her friend, who had left right before I arrived, had filmed some of the removal. Her friend has her own YouTube channel, the girl said, and was thinking of posting it there. I imagine so others would see this shocking example of interference in the matters of others, but I don’t know how many would actually see it, since…
  5. …this girl didn’t volunteer her friend’s YouTube channel URL. Nor did she, when I asked if she was on Instagram, offer her account name unsolicited. It was like she was deliberately not trying to promote herself, even while aware of exactly how many followers she had on Instagram (“I have 200,” she said proudly, but not boastfully — more than I have, which is obnoxious). That she didn’t try to pester me into following her indicated to me that she might lack the levels of narcissism necessary to get ahead.
  6. Apparently, she doesn’t care much about others or their social media following, either. When she asked how many followers I had on Instagram and I answered “not many,” she didn’t give me a judgmental look or a sad “tsk” or anything.
  7. She has no tragic story that I know of. I didn’t ask, of course, but really the only reason to give a young girl a follow on Instagram for doing something like picking up littler is if she’s also overcoming adversity. Why should she get a boost at this stage in her life when it could have some real impact if all she has going for her is that she’s some do-gooder? Everything she needs to know about how to succeed, and more important, about her value as a female, she can continue to learn from the President of the United States.
  8. I’m of the mind that “it’s the little things — that don’t matter.” Only grand gestures, like raising money to cure cancer, giving a stranger a kidney, or using one’s own clothing to sew quilts for the less advantaged need apply. The sooner kids like her get the message that small acts are irrelevant, the more time they’ll save, time they can instead use to figure out what Big Thing they can maybe someday do in the future.
  9. Her Instagram posts, so infrequent that they’d hardly interrupt your regular daily scrolling, prove she’s learned little from the Kardashians. They’re nature shots taken while out hiking with a friend, a full-face shot of her hamster, or an insight or observation about a universal experience. She has no selfies — not a pout, a pucker, a fancy-hair “aren’t I pretty?” one in the lot — to try to get followers.
  10. She’s starting a new school year in a few days, and her best friend — the one who joined her in picking up litter, and who’s attended school with her since they were little— has moved to a different school because of its focus on the arts. At a time when bad behavior gets the most attention, when being mean, sexist, “sexy,” selfish, and otherwise awful leads to TV spots, book deals, and election wins, it would only misdirect her to send the message as she starts this new year without her friend that doing good things can attract the support of…well, anyone. It would be a waste of time to go to her page and click “follow.”
  • But, if you do want to give a follow to a smart, confident, friendly girl who could grow up to be anything and who, with her friend, took it upon themselves to try to clean up the park while cooling off in the water, here’s her Instagram again: https://www.instagram.com/_jon._.king_

Pasta Lover| Fiction Writer | Former adj. prof, journo, Stay Puff, cab driver, etc. | Co-host, ChildfreeGirls.com | KristenJTsetsi.com