The Instagram aesthetic—that Kardashian-influenced, sharply contoured, and, most problematic, ageless version of artificial beauty—has crept its way into younger and younger demographics—but it's not the kids' fault.
Travis Barker has called out the "predatory" behavior of Echosmith's drummer for inappropriately messaging his tween daughter.
Alabama Barker, 13, recently made a point to share screenshots of the 20-year-old musician, Graham Sierota, sliding into her DMs on Instagram. In 2016, he began messaging the young girl repeatedly (his "Hi" went unanswered at least three times) and introducing himself with, "By the way I'm Graham from echosmith and I think ur beautiful." Alabama commented on the screenshots, "So once again I am bringing this to your attention because I'm a 13 year old girl and he is 21/20 super creepy."
To be clear, Sierota began messaging Alabama when she was only 10 years old and he was 17. After apparently keeping up with the child's Instagram account for three years, just last month Sierota invited her to a BBQ party he was hosting at his home. Alabama responded on July 21, "Ur like 40." To which Sierota responded, "I just wanted to say i really like ur music and sorry for messaging and I'm 20." As Alabama succinctly reminded him, "Ok but u understand I'm a child?"
When The Blast reported on the highly inappropriate exchange, Travis Barker spoke out about condemning the behavior: "When I found out a 20 year old man was trying to get in touch with my 13 year old daughter by filling her Instagram messages with party invites and compliments I was disgusted," the Blink-182 rocker, 43, said. "That's predatory behavior and there is nothing cool, normal or ok about it at all."
Sierota has issued a brief apology and made his Instagram account private, claiming, "I had invited Alabama to my parents' big family BBQ along with many other people, and it wasn't until she responded that I realized her age at which point I apologized to her." He added, "I'm really sorry and feel very badly about this. I didn't realize she was a minor and assumed she was my age. I made a careless mistake and this is a big lesson for me. I would like to apologize again to Alabama, her dad Travis, and her family."
In return, Alabama extended forgiveness of the drummer and posted a plea to move on from the issue. She wrote, "He is very sorry about the situation and regretful. I forgive him and would like all of this to be over."
Travis Barker' Instagram and Graham Sierota
However, after exposing the exchange, Alabama received messages of warning that "Graham has a history of contacting underage girls," as one message read. How a signed and working musician could be unaware of Travis Barker's daughter's age, especially after following her Instagram for three years, isn't clear.
But sadly, Alabama's recent Instagram post has been flooded with comments either defending Sierota or condemning Alabama for appearing older than 13. "If my 12 year old daughter dressed like you and wore makeup like you, she wouldn't be allowed out of the house, let alone showing off on social media," one commenter noted. "Are you even old enough to be on Instagram? If so, make it private instead of putting it out there for older men to google."
To say nothing of the Instagram aesthetic that has indeed creeped its way into younger and younger demographics—that Kardashian-influenced, sharply contoured, and, most problematic, ageless version of artificial beauty—the toxicity of social media already threatens children in terms of their self-esteem, mental health, and communication skills. Let's not also blame them for the predatory behavior of "older men" who "google" them. This was a child who was made to feel uncomfortable by an older, male stranger who messaged her online, and the blame lies with that male's ignorance, with culture, and not with a 13-year-old girl.