Monday, April 16, 2018

Social Media and the Assumption of Perfection



I hear it all the time. I'm sure you do too.
The words will vary, but the same idea is expressed in people everywhere:


Everyone's marriage on Facebook is perfect.
Everyone's house on Pinterest is flawless.
Everyone's body on Instagram is toned and beautiful.

Everyone seems to have this perfect life... but me.


It's usually from women that I hear these comments. It always makes me really sad that they're so discouraged, but it also usually confuses me.

Mostly because... it's just not true!

In fact, believing that anyone, let alone everyone, has it all put together is a flat out lie.
Everyone's house is messy.
Everyone's marriage is hard.
Everyone's job has it's challenges.
Everyone struggles with parenting.
Everyone has financial burdens.
Everyone has family drama.
Everyone battles with their body, whether it be the way it looks or the way it functions.
Everyone gets lonely and questions what their calling and purpose in life is.

We know this to be true for ourselves, yet why do we have this constant pull to believe the lie that everyone else's life is perfect? How can we have such a double standard in our assumptions about people?

I would guess that it starts with the fact that we are all more likely to share the positive highlights and experiences from our life than our negative ones. 
So the whole picture isn't ever painted. But is that really so wrong?

Social Media is just not the place to share our deepest struggles.

It's not the place to talk about how much you hate your job and that your boss is the worst.
It's not the place to break down about how your in-laws are making your life a living hell.
It's not the place to lament the sorrow that comes with being a Christian married to a non-Christian.
It's not the place to share how every friend's new baby announcement feels like a fresh cut in the midst of your infertility.
It's not the place to open up about your struggle with pornography or your eating disorder.

I'm not saying we should never be real on the internet because I think we can and should be, and I definitely think there's a time and place for opening up about hard things.

But Social Media is not a safe haven for those spaces of your heart. And it was never meant to be.

We need to be sharing those things though. 
But the right place to do that is within face-to-face Gospel Community.

There is not one issue in our life that God does not care about and isn't using for His glory and to draw us closer to Him. And we need each other to speak those words of truth into our lives when we are too blind or weary to see it.
Being in genuine, transparent fellowship will mean sharing your life and your heart with people who are doing the same with you. And there is no room for facades in deep, vulnerable relationships.
With all of that truth exposed, there is also no room to believe lies about perfection in others.
Because how could you possibly convince yourself of those lies when you are holding a friend who is weeping over their miscarriage? When you are bringing meals to a friend who is chronically ill or has debilitating anxiety? When you are praying for a friend who is unemployed and bogged down with debt? When you are listening to a heartsick parent worry for their addict child?

Being that deeply invested in people keeps us from slipping into self-absorbed pouting that "everyone is doing great but us". We have all been sucked into that pride before, but I think that we can fight it.

Authentic, gospel-driven, face-to-face community is where it's at.  It's dinner.
Social media is dessert.
Which is great and fun and delicious in moderation, but it's not meant to sustain or fulfill you. 
And it definitely is not healthy to live off of.

That's what I sometimes think is happening here with a lot of our comparisons and made-up standards of perfection. That maybe we're disappointed and discouraged because we're treating our online communities like actual communities. When they're not, and they're not supposed to be.

But the way that we view life and people is so heavily shaped by our experiences and our communities, that if we are looking around at others and feeling super depressed about it all... maybe something needs to change. 
Whether it's the people we keep company with or our flawed perspective.
If your actual community is never willing to get vulnerable and transparent... maybe you should find a new community that doesn't hide behind seemingly perfect homes and pretty smiles that say "Everything's fine!!"
And if you are the one who prefers to stay guarded and autonomous and to not show people your mess... maybe you should let that go. You'd be amazed and overwhelmed at how beautiful relationships become when you drop the BS.

But I think that if we all got over ourselves a little bit and looked around, beyond what's on the surface, what we would actually see is a bunch of normal people who we are all in this together with.
Not a bunch of people who are a threat to our identity and that we need to compete with.
But people who are on their own hard journey that God is walking them through, and who could use our encouragement and support.

Do we consider often enough that most positive posts on facebook or instagram are probably as simple as someone just taking a minute to appreciate and delight in a beautiful moment in life?

Can't we just let them have that and root for them in it?

Can we find joy alongside our sisters who run marathons and have gorgeous homes and bake fresh cinnamon rolls every day and whose kids win awards and who go on glamorous vacations with friends and who throw parties and have successful careers?
Because we know that for all of the wonderful and spectacular in life, there is just as much stress and heartache?

I think we can.

We can be confident women, who fight those lies of comparisons and perfectionism that try to steal our joy and poison our friendships. 
We can be women who pour ourselves into our face-to-face communities and breathe life into other people's souls. Being there for them during the bad and cheering them on during the good.

So that in addition to our real-life fellowship, we can scroll through our feeds with peace and contentment. Delighting with our sisters in what brings them joy.


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