The Abercrombie Shift: Is It Time to Scrub Your Social Media?

Today is a good day for families because big brand — Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) — is hitting pause on its marketing and inspiring us all to think a little bit more about the authenticity of our social images. A&F, known for its highly-sexualized marketing that targets teens has scrubbed its Instagram feed and is starting over. According to reports A&F’s distinctive marketing with images shirtless, six-pack-stacked, models (aimed at teens and young adults) is morphing to a more “authentic” and “inclusive” market, sans the sex factor. Translation: Most of us.

The digital takeaway is big for families. Just look at the Wall Street Journal headline that announced the shift: Abercrombie & Fitch Tries on a New Attitude: Friendly. Sexy is out, inclusive is in, as retailer’s ads redefine what ‘cool’ teens look like. 

Social media is marketing at it’s finest hour for big brands. What they curate and project often becomes a reality to young minds scrolling and looking on. Social media images and messages (blasted consistently) project the possible, the what if, the ideal, and the often out-of-reach images and lifestyles that cause people to purchase. But for younger minds — my kids and yours — social media brings with it emotional battles no tween or teen is designed to handle. This makes A&F’s big announcement an important conversation in the family realm.

5 Ways to Hit Reset on Your Social 

  1. Just do you. Growing up too fast and looking way too sexy on social media gets old fast. Hopefully, A&F’s brand shift will encourage teens to enjoy the modesty and adventure that comes with being young. Talk to your kids about their unique personality, their one-of-a-kind contribution to the world, and distinctive qualities that set them apart. Help them think and talk this through with questions such as: What are your actual values? What do you believe to be true of you? How would you describe yourself? What do you truly enjoy doing with your free time? What are three words you’d like people to say when they think of you?The best teacher of authenticity your kids have? YOU. Be real online. Be true to what you post and let your kids see the rewards and true friendships that come from being real with the content you communicate. Kids learn how to be bold, passionate, imperfect, humble, and honest from their parents. Your attitude, outlook, tone, resilience, and compassion matters because your kids are social sponges. They may act like they don’t see what you post but they do and they are getting their social nods from watching you.
  2. Authentic sticks. A&F is hoping its shift from exclusive to inclusive (or mean girl to reformed friendly girl) will encourage millennials who dropped the brand to rethink the relationship. A&F has redesigned its logo, website, and messaging for broader, more mainstream appeal. This big brand move highlights a critical conversation for teens who have gradually abandoned authenticity online and gotten off track. The message around the dinner table: Everyone gets off track once in a while, but everyone deserves a second chance. Encourage kids to go through their social media feeds and delete or revise  anything that isn’t an authentic representation of who they truly are and who they aspire to be. Just scrub it — everything from captions to photos that reflect poor clothing choices, sexual facial expressions, and even locations. Teens may not like losing all those precious likes, and seemingly awesome party poses but the feeling of clean, true, posting will soon outweigh the pain of the perceived social hit.
  3. Set, protect the tone. Have you ever heard the saying, ‘It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it?’ Well, tone is also critical online. Anything you have shared online gives others a collective snapshot of who you are, what you value, and what kind of interaction they might expect from you. This online reputation is critical as you build relationships, pursue your goals, and seek employment. Being genuine and having integrity online impact your digital footprint. What you share is as important as how you share it. Tagging: It is also important to make sure you are not included in tweets, posts, or photos that can loop you into an image that is not you. Pay attention to your settings and promptly remove tags that others could interpret in a negative way. Encourage kids to keep in mind that they are leaving a permanent print of their personality which can be easily found in the future by peers, teachers, employers and friends.
  4. Respect Others. Honoring others online and showing respect for ideas is not only a matter of integrity but it’s also the law. Copyright laws govern how to share and cite content created by others. The respect you show for the rules of social networks, other people’s opinions and ideas, and the respect you show for school policies and the law . . . become characteristics of your digital footprint.
  5. Think before posting. Once your child has scrubbed and established fresh feeds, encourage them to think before they retweet or share someone else’s content. Here are a few questions to consider:
  • What is this person’s agenda?
  • What do I really think about this thought or opinion?
  • Is this a value I share or am I just following my friends?
  • Am I re-posting this photo or tweet impulsively?
  • Can I trust the person sharing the information?
  • What’s the other side/opinion on this issue?
  • Would this post helpful to the people or community I care about?
  • Do I need to add a personal comment to clarify my position on this post?
  • Am I exercising my best judgment or someone else’s?
  • What would be the advantage/disadvantage of adopting this person’s point-of-view?

Has your child taken steps to reset his or her social media? What have been the challenges? What have been the wins? Please share!


Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family and @ToniBirdsong. (Disclosures).

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