This post has been a long time coming. Months, if not years. Honestly these feelings of helplessness, sadness, broken heartedness at every scroll of any social media feed. I see her, a woman, cropped, filtered, perfectly poised, pouty lip, that eye staring back with some sort of seductive pleading. I see her at a bar with half-friends, just people to chase away her loneliness, to declare to the world she isn’t alone, she has a life. I see her kids, use to the interruption from their play, “Let me take a photo!” Click. Then back to her feed while her kids go back to their play, half annoyed at being bundled together for the shot. Just to prove that they are as perfect and happy as she thinks things should be all the time. I see her striving, trying, exhausted. I know behind every perfectly filtered, Starbucks gripping, Bible reading, #blessed, picture is about 15 other photos that didn’t make the cut. Maybe 10 minutes, 15 minutes, of click, check, delete. The discontentment begins to settle, “Why is it so easy for everyone else?” and then a quick makeup check, a bit more mascara, a tussle of the hair for volume and then a click, check, delete. Finally, a good one, perfect lighting (she’s tried all angles), a different filter, a little blur from the photo editor and she finally has a worthy one. She posts, she waits, she refreshes, she goes back to check. Counting the likes, checking who liked, getting angry if he didn’t like it yet, of course that one girl didn’t give her a like. Maybe she should block her? Maybe not, she doesn’t want to make things awkward. She checks frequently in the next hour. It will at some point consume her.
We are a selfie obsessed culture. While we have always valued self-expression and self-exploration and while selfies are nothing new. We have several painstakingly painted self-portraits handed down from history to prove that point. The revolution of camera phones and the prolific use of social media avenues has brought on a new decade of reverse camera angle art. There is something deeper, darker and more painful very thinly veiled behind a full feed of beautiful, gorgeous women that brings me so close to tears of ache. “You are more than a selfie,” has been uttered so many times as I scroll pass. With every thumbs-up and heart I give I give a true heart behind it, a hug, a reassurance. You are worthy. Far worthier than these likes. Don’t come back to this photo looking for your approval and validation. You are more.
You are more than the birds in the sky, the sparrow and robins, you are more than the stars in heaven, a carpet of flowers in a spring field, and all the value of the pearls of the sea. You are precious, a joy, perfect. Song of Solomon says there is no fault in you. There is no one thing mistakenly crafted or created, perfectly, reverently, fearfully you have been formed. All of you, not just your looks but your soul and spirit most of all. You were known by him before you were known to the world, before existence he loved and affirmed you. He has filled his thoughts with your splendor that outnumber the grains of sands on the beaches. He calls you his peculiar treasure, a saint, a daughter, a wife a mother. He is enchanted by your beauty, when you whisper your prayers He bends his ear from heaven to hear you. He has made promises to you, has established you and carries you. He leads you and your children, he makes a home for you near him like a nest. When you’re exhausted he covers you with this wing and when you’re lonely he turns to you. He desires to pour his love in your heart and blessings into your lap until they runneth over.
But this satisfying, soul quenching, heart healing love is so quickly traded in an instant the moment her feed goes dead, when she opens her page and only 4 new hearts appear-heart sunk, soul crushed. Suddenly, unlovable. Even amid a flush of likes, hearts and comments of affirming words they offer a quick rush to a lonely soul. It isn’t the likes we need, it isn’t the attention a few well-crafted photos provide, but a deeper longing our soul truly craves. Connection. Validation. To be seen, to be appreciated to be loved. This a humankind thing. God built in us to drive us to each other, to belong to one another and to build a life alongside others. God spoke it from his mouth, “It is not good for man to be alone.” The first and only flaw he made in this “It is good” creation. We were built to connect, to need others and we know we have others when we are attached, missed, recognized, encouraged, together. The moment that first fruit was bitten we drove a wedge between him, between us and we have been aching to bring it back, however possible, since that day.
Our social media world has driven disconnection while promoting interconnection. We are greater linked but lesser known. We are craving authentic, we are dying for vulnerable, we are longing for real. We will never find that in the selfie. Clinical Psychologist Lucie Hemmen on speaking of the rise of the selfie culture states, that when we “get so distracted by the marketing of ourselves, we can lose touch with our authentic identifies and struggle to build real relationship.” The very thing we crave, we drive away. She continues, “This false self-esteem alienates friends, family members and colleagues leading us to less supportive bonds.” What we create over time is shallower relationship and the eventual dreaded Unfriending, online and in person. Oh Sister! Break free.
What that photo doesn’t show is the woman beneath it. The grit and resolve, the never-ending heart that pours into your little ones. It doesn’t show your hopes, your dreams, the vivid imagination in the depth of you. It doesn’t tell the softness of your voice, or the command of your God given leadership. It doesn’t show the tenderness of how you care for your friends, or how quickly you respond to a call for help. It doesn’t show your loyalty or your concern. Your laughter is missed, your energy and your light is left unexposed. Your quick wit, your humor, your gentleness, your brazenness. It is only a flat shallow photo of a much richer you. Don’t put your value in that photo. Don’t count your worth in ticks of half-hollowed appreciation.
I know you’ve been rejected in the past, I know you’ve been hurt. Maybe it was a family member, a friend or a lover. Maybe you’ve been driven to a place of isolation, an invisible prison. Maybe you’re filled with envy, struggle to come to grips with your reality, denying that your life is really your life. Maybe you’re still holding a pain to the chest, afraid to let others close to see it. Maybe things are hard, really hard. Maybe you feel like you missed something or lost something you can’t get back to. He knows, he sees it behind those perfect, perfect eyes. You haven’t failed him; his arms are wide open. He’s waiting for you to turn to him because he knows you and has always. He affirms you, he speaks tenderly to you. In his perfect love, he will cast out your insecurities and fears. And in his love, he will hold you to him and quiet you in his presence.
Turn the phone off, go longer between posts. Experience in the moment the joy of doing real life with others, even doing real life on your own. Fight the urge to share it for approval until you can share it just for the joy of sharing. Don’t miss the moment of real life, of real experience. Disconnect and reconnect with a God who is wanting to romance you, to family that needs your presence. Feel the pleasure and validation of connection without a device driving you apart. Don’t just be, be together. A life lived authentic is the life lived well.
By Brandi Dailey
Executive Director, Thrive Single Moms