I’m not going to write a post and pretend like this has nothing to do with me. It does. This is just as much a reminder to myself as it is to anyone who reads these words. The thing is I think when something is important it’s worth repeating because it’s typically the blatantly obvious stuff that seeps into our subconscious, and somewhere along the line we accidentally fall victim to bold-faced lies about who we are and the world around us.
No arena today does this better than social media. Almost everyone is involved in some part, and it’s quite easy to get sucked into a false world where acquaintances are friends, and even enemies appear to be friends. Faulty perceptions persist, and folks speak a little more freely behind the comfort of their computer screen. Myself included.
Personally, I enjoy social media platforms. I think they’re fun, and I think they’re a great way to reconnect with old friends, or stay connected to long-distance friends. It serves as a wonderful area to spread prayer requests or other important news. Sometimes we’re probably all guilty of over-sharing, but isn’t it wonderful also to know you’re not alone in certain problems you may encounter. For these reasons I love Facebook, and Instagram is really fun too.
So when is social media not the greatest thing since sliced bread? Well, apart from consuming more of our time than is healthy for personal relationships, it also tends to arrive on our newsfeeds absolutely shrouded in falsehoods. There are certain lies social media tells us that can have a detrimental effect on our person.
Here’s just three.
1. Everyone’s life is perfect. So when do you take a picture of your kid? When they’re throwing a fit? How many shots do you take looking for that perfect pose where everyone is smiling angelically? Do you hesitate to post a picture that shows a dirty living room in the background?
Deep down we have to admit that most of us post the highlights of our life. We share the moments of celebration, the job promotions, and the understandable bragging posts of our kid’s accomplishments. Not many folks share, “well, Billy got an ‘F’ on his report card,” or other honest things that disappoint. We share how good God is when things are going right, but not many people say, “I’m so bloated and pissed off today I want to shoot my spouse.”
We share exciting news, but frequently keep to ourselves how we over-drafted our checking account or screamed at our kid for simply doing something very kid-like.
Everyone has bad days, but most social media posts show only the good stuff, the picture-worthy stuff, and the stuff that makes us look better. And since all we see come across our newsfeeds are vacation photos and yummy meals we assume everyone else is always going to the beach, and they cook like a gourmet chef to boot.
We know better, but somehow forget in the avalanche of perfection before us. After all, no one shares a photo with the caption, “hey, I gained thirty pounds over the holidays,” or a picture of the dinner they just burned. Nope. Everyone is losing weight and making the perfect roast while Timmy brings home all ‘A’s’ and the husband buys flowers for no reason at all.
You inadvertently wonder, “why doesn’t my husband buy me flowers?” You feel jealous over that woman’s perfectly dressed children who are always smiling, and you wish you could afford a vacation some time this year. On social media couples are always smiling, gardens are without weeds, and birthday cakes get better and better each year.
You’re left thinking, “man, I wish my life was that good.” You don’t mean to think that way, but seeing so much greatness becomes a competition unaware.
2. People are perfect. Did you see that selfie? Her make-up is flawless! Does she ever have a problem with her roots showing? She must have a live-in slylist. Why do my pictures never come out so complimentary?! I wish I was more photogenic. Or worse, I wish my body looked like that! Yet instead of being inspired to do something for ourselves, to make ourselves feel better, we’re left deflated and disheartened.
We see an onslaught of perfect, pouty lips, and hair that is just right. Does anyone take a bad picture anymore?!
Now you know darn well that every selfie you see is just like one you’d take yourself. In other words, that perfect picture before you is take number twenty-seven of a series, and it’s been edited out the wazoo. It has a very complimentary filter applied, and it could have been altered using apps that reduce wrinkles and dark circles too.
So why do we alter our photos? We do it so they’ll look better. Like everyone else’s does. Again, we know the reality, but we get so caught up in what society says is normal and beautiful that we strive to share a better version of ourselves rather than an honest one.
We use wraps to make our waists smaller, filters or apps to enhance, and discard photos that seem too real. “My nose looks crooked, my teeth are yellow, and I have a double-chin.”
The truth is no one looks good all the time. Everyone wakes up looking like death, and some angles are simply unflattering. You just don’t see those. They get deleted.
3. I am less perfect than those around me. Follow with me now. I’m trying to follow this false perfection theme that social media secretly instills. The truth is that no one is perfect, but it’s easy to forget that looking through Instagram. You can easily get tangled up in the lie that obtaining pretty close to perfect is possible just by watching the other guy.
Before you realize it you’re basing a portion of your self-worth on what social media says, and you will always fall short by this comparison. You’ll post a photo and check back frequently waiting to see who gives it a thumbs-up. You know you’re more than how many likes your post receives yet you may feel downtrodden when not that many come your way.
So-and-so always gets like 200 likes on a picture, and I just got 40. What does that mean? Rather than accepting it for what it is (aka, pointless) you may actually think it has something to do with you. “I knew I should have used Valencia instead of Sierra!”
Am I funny? Am I pretty? Am I well-liked by my peers? The last place to receive these answers is social media, yet that is where we often look.
Everyone’s life seems so happy and blessed. Their marriages are filled with love, their kids are brilliant, and their house is so much bigger than mine. Facebook has become the new way to keep up with Joneses, and for too many young people without a true sense of who they are, it’s a way to measure their worth. It’s a place to worry about what others think, and a yardstick by which to compare your own happiness. It’s not reality; it’s a false reality. It’s a big fat lie that refreshes every few minutes placing the most popular version of perfection at the very top.
When it comes down to it we can use social media, or we can allow it to use us. We can keep it real, or we can try in vain to keep up. We can be happy with our life, or we can wish for someone else’s. We can make our own rules, or let it rule us. At the end of the day social media is what you make it. It can be a blessing, or it can be a curse. Really, it’s all up to how you see it as it comes across your newsfeed.