A sixteen year-old Target cashier is famous. A picture 2 teenagers took and posted on twitter catapulted Alex Lee into the spotlight, and many teens are noticing.
Alex accumulated over 737 thousand followers on twitter after the two girls posted his picture online. He has 2,300,000 followers on Instagram, and "Alex from Target" is searched on Google more than Justin Bieber. He was on The Ellen Show, and is likely to grace Target advertisements in the future. His girlfriend receives death threats by crazy fan girls, while at the same time being searched by teenage boys from around the United States. That's the influence of the social media. Without it, Alex is just a nice guy stocking shelves.
The story of Alex's celebrity rise tells something about teens. Youth culture has a pattern of objectifying people. Profiles on Twitter and Instagram are marked as "favorites". Tweets dominate breakfast, and "liked" pictures and comments on Facebook distract from homework. Students clamor for phones when a new post is up, double-tapping the screen in approval of a picture, pithy comment, or retweet. Never before has a generation felt so connected to people they've never met.
Ideas of people taint reality. The image of Alex From Target is glorified over the person. Slowly, all social media attaches worth based on followers or the number beside the heart icon under a selfie. People aren't people, they become an object, and reality is replaced with an image on a glowing rectangle.
It is likely that most students have heard all the trappings of social media, but haven't been educated in the good. Alex From Target causes teens to objectify people, and the result is hard to understand how social media can humanize.
A Christian view says that all people have worth because they're made in the image of God. So, Alex From Target isn't important, but Alex is. Following him on Instagram isn't bad, but viewing him as important because he's popular is.
So, as culture wrestles with value, it may be important to continue to use social media to support each others value by friending, liking and posting comments, pictures, and inspiring words that uplift. Not because it will be popular, but because it is true. Alex from Target is important because he is real, not because he is cute and popular. Social media is a tool, the problem with it is found in the hearts of users. It is likely time to put down the phone and pick-up a conversation.