Chances are, few of our kids knew the name Addison Rae Easterling just 19 months ago. But now, less than two years later, anyone with any youth culture awareness at all knows that this 20-year-old TikTok celebrity with 70 million followers and counting, along with 5 billion views, is now an influencer and popular role model for children and teens.
(editor’s note: This post is the featured lead article in the March 2021 edition of CPYU’s Parent Page. Click here to learn more about this monthly resource and to subscribe!)
A competitive dancer who started uploading her dance videos to the short-form TikTok video app back in the summer of 2019, she soon dropped out of college as her following grew and she decided to focus full-time on growing her cross-platform social media presence. Now, she’s making millions of dollars through endorsement deals and merchandising. Just last month, she graced the cover of Glamour magazine, and now her acting career is taking off.
Today’s social media-saturated world has made it possible for any kid – or adult – with a smartphone to devote time and energy to the pursuit of online celebrity status. More and more chase the dream of becoming the next Addison Rae. But they don’t realize that once one “successfully” grabs the brass-ring of a following, fame, and fortune, the empty God-shaped hole they thought such status would fill never fills up at all.
A recent Addison Rae interview with yahoo!life features this headline, “Addison Rae reveals mental toll of having 70 million TikTok followers: ‘A lot of it has to do with body image.’” While celebrity-inspiring kids might ignore or write off the disturbing realities that occasioned the headline, we should all – young and old alike – be paying attention. Read further in the interview and you’ll find that Addison Rae has sought the help of a therapist to help her navigate her own continued issues with body image, identity, comparison, and self-worth. It seems like her gnawing emptiness isn’t going away.
Among other issues raised by Addison Rae’s “success”, we need to be thinking and talking about how technology and social media are controlling and shaping (mis-shaping) us. . . and what we can do to appropriately use the good gifts of technology. In effect, how we can take control of social media rather than giving it permission to take control of us?
Perhaps one of the greatest battles we and our kids face each and every day of our lives is the battle over where to place and find our identity. And while we dabble endlessly in trying on identity after identity in an effort to emerge from the “fitting room” and be embraced by affirming/accepting eyes, there is, ultimately, only one place to find that for which we were created. It’s through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the only One who can fill the God-shaped vacuum.
In Paul Tripp’s devotional book, New Morning Mercies, I found this little poem that’s simply titled, “Identity.” I encourage you to read it, ponder it, and have your kids do the same.
No need to search for
No need to grasp for
for my life
for what I do.
No need to hope for
that sense of well-being
for which every heart
No need to hope that
someone or something
will make me
or give me joy.
I no longer need any
of these things because
has connected me to you
and you have named me
(Are you looking for a helpful resource for teaching teens about identity? Consider using Kristen Hatton’s book “Face Time: Your Identity In A Selfie World.”)