She flips through the photos she has just taken. The ones of her smiling her big toothy grin, her nose is too long and her teeth are not straight; but she finds one she likes, crops it, applies a filter. She posts it on her three Instagram accounts. One her mom knows about, the other two neither of her parents know about. She waits, checking her phone impulsively to see how many hearts and comments she receives. She cannot help herself, her fingers flying, her hand twirling the phone in her pocket until her class is over and she can check again. She walks down the hall alone, looking at her phone. Waiting to see her numbers go up, but they are low — lower than the last post and lower than her best friend who always gets at least 60 likes and comments. She is dejected. She knew it wasn’t a good photo. Someone writes a snarky comment. She sinks a little lower. She feels stupid, ugly and alone.
A different she artfully crops the photo she is taking in that restaurant in New York; smug in the knowledge that all of her foodie friends will know where she is. She doesn’t think twice when she hands over her credit card to pay for the extravagant meal, even though she knows the splurge will set her back a couple of months. The photo is priceless and has her grinning as she walks outside. She doesn’t even look up from her phone as she steps over the man sitting on the street asking for change.
Yet another she carefully applies her makeup, not too much just enough, and snaps her picture, alone at her desk. She is supposed to be writing but she can’t find anything to say. Her depression is weighing her down and frankly it took all of the energy she had just to get out of bed. Her thoughts are dark but her photo all light and smiles. Her posts are so frequent and consistent that not even her closest friends know how depressed she is. How most days she can’t manage to get dressed.
What a beautiful life you have, so carefully curated and artfully filtered. Look at all of the places you go and the home that you live in. Look at all of the reasons we are offered to feel less than.
But when the smoke clears and you have a moment, look within. If you discover there’s an emptiness there, you are not alone. So many are empty there. In the place where our confidence should lie is a fragile very breakable sense of self that needs some attention. If it is not within, no amount of likes or comments from anyone else will put it there for you. You need to do the healing and the hard work yourself. Return to yourself. Love yourself. Life on social media is just smoke and mirrors. Let’s get real.
In the forward to Frank Ostaskeski’s beautiful book, The Five Invitations* is this quote by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.:
Chances are until you have experienced that one great loss, this will read to you as more ominous than catalytic. Like grief itself, these types of statements can’t fully be absorbed and understood until you experience them yourself.
We can get attached to who we think we are. We can be downright stubborn about it. Our identity seamlessly and completely intertwined with what we do. What we do becomes what we are. But what if what we do is taken away from us in the blink of an eye? Who are we then?
In the words of Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu: