Facebook and the Edited Me

font-533232_1280The world of Facebook has its own language and culture. And lies. To someone new to social media, it’s like touring around a foreign country. You’re not sure what to consume, where to go, or who to talk to. And to make matters worse, you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not.

As a rule of thumb, I suggest this: assume at least a tiny lie lurks behind everything you see. If Facebook is anything, it’s the land of opportunity for presenting to the world an edited version of ourselves.

Inside scores of smiling family photographs is a couple who’ve been sleeping in separate beds the last few months. Behind many boastful status updates about successes at work is a soul plagued by self-doubt and on the verge of career collapse. Optimistic, life-loving memes are posted right after popping the day’s antidepressant. A wife puts on her wall a picture of the dozen red roses her husband bought her, but doesn’t mention it’s been two weeks since she discovered he was sleeping with his secretary. A pastor praises the work of his congregation on their Facebook page, but edits out the fact that he gets drunk after Elder’s and Voters’ meetings because he loathes this hellhole the Lord has stuck him in.

We teach our children to be careful what they post on social media because, once it’s online, it’s online forever. And that is sound advice. But we also teach—by our actions if not by our words—to be careful to post on social media only the edited version of yourself by which you want to deceive the world into thinking you’re better than you know yourself to be.

We’re seeking affirmation (“like” what I post), or love (PM a flirtatious message), or praise (comment on what a great job I’m doing), or attention (remark how I look pretty in this picture), or sympathy (tell me how sorry you are). Lurking behind so much of what we do on social media is the attempt to control what others think of us. We crave all the things above—affirmation, love, praise, attention, sympathy—but we know they can’t be ours unless we project just the right image. So we Photoshop our lives. We recreate ourselves online to be better, stronger, smarter, prettier, holier, or even more pitiful in order to elicit the responses we desire.

Whether we realize it or not, all these online, self-editing actions are nothing more than our admission that we believe that we are so deeply flawed that no one will love us just as we are. They will love us only if they see our good side, only if we are successful, only if we are happily married. These “only ifs” unveil a fundamental truth about us: we spend our lives in pursuit of that which is unattainable, all the while ignoring the fact that God pursues us with a gift he has already attained.

We pursue other people as god-like figures. We crave their acceptance and affirmation of us. We long for their acknowledgment, their love, their embrace. And so, online and offline, we wear our masks and do our self-editing to attain that goal. And when it comes, because we know that they accept and affirm only a fraction of who we really are, their response never really satisfies. We’re always wondering, “Yes, but what if they knew the real me? They wouldn’t like me then. Therefore, I must continue to edit, to Photoshop, to lie, to control my image in order to achieve the acceptance I desire.”

While we are pursuing this vain goal, God trails behind us with the very gift we desire already in his possession. He sees through the smoke and mirrors of social media; beneath the masks we wear everywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom; around the lies we concoct to make ourselves appear happier, healthier, and more successful than we are. He sees us as we truly are. All the self-hatred and self-love, the ugly envy, the doubt and despair, the dead relationships, the nasty fights, the pills and booze. He sees it all. And he loves us nonetheless.

But he loves us in a weird, God-like way. He loves us into death and back into life. He is a God who kills and makes alive. He finds us ugly and hurting and hateful and mean, and he wraps his arms around us and falls with us into a watery grave. There with him, in him, embraced by him, we drown. We die. We die to self. And in the shock of a lifetime, we open our eyes outside the watery grave, standing alongside our Lord, as newly resurrected people who are the apple of God’s eye.

The Lord with whom we die is Jesus, the Son of God. In that watery grave we are crucified with him. We die and are buried with him. We rise and live with him. And in so doing, who he is becomes who we are. He is the Son of God; in him we become the sons of God. He is beloved of the Father; in him we are beloved of the Father. He is holy, righteous, perfect; in Jesus we are the same.

All we sought to achieve by controlling our image was in vain. The image that brings true peace and contentment in life is not one we achieve but one we receive. It is the image of Christ, likeness to him, that we receive in the watery, crucifixion grave of baptism. There, in Christ, we are accepted, affirmed, loved, embraced by the Father. All of who we are—not the edited us—is enveloped in the Son of God, dies with him, rises with him, and lives with him. And that is no virtual reality.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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7 thoughts on “Facebook and the Edited Me

  1. I stopped reading facebook a while a go- feeling like I can’t live up with my single, working mom role with the loss of dreams.

    Thanks for this powerful article. You’ve touched more lives than you realize with your words and observations.

  2. Dead Mann on said:

    One in every three photos taken on cell phones is a selfie. Most social media is vapid, self-centered, and self-worshiping drivel that does not really qualify as social because there is only one person praising and puffing himself up as not only his own idol but to get others to go along with him in his worship. You might even bribe others with likes so they will return the favor… Meanwhile in spending our time on this destructive fad, we sacrifice any real relationships. No body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, mannerisms, accents, and no reality of all the things that make a real person are exchanged in this fake world where we present not what we are but the fiction of what we want others to believe about us. We do not connect with others, learn with and about others, enter the lives of others, or have to actually show compassion or interest in others or any of that uncomfortable personal business that might mean we lift a hand to help another. We are far too busy fabricating what we think we should be and there’s no time for others. In the end we are continuing to isolate and the result is that we are more and more self-centered and are losing respect for others. We are charged with loving our neighbor, but instead we are crawling inside our own heads, fabricating faux relationships that have no meaning or substance, and through neglect doing damage to a great many, including ourselves. Satan must be dancing a jig, being able to take away through fantasy and isolation, both our connection with God and with our fellow man. I know people who have no friends they have ever met face to face. I know a woman who comes home from work, stocks up on snacks, turns on the tablet, tells her daughter to go away and not bother her, and settles in for an evening on line with her ‘virtual’ friends. People who sit in a room and post things about themselves for people next door who they do not spend time with. And much more. The common point among all is an addiction to electrons, a continuing isolation, a lack of real social interaction, and the creation of their own private universe where they are god and controller. All they need to achieve this is to dismiss reality, ignore and dismiss the God that actually is in control, and fade away into a place where responsibility and the need to demonstrate love of God and neighbor have work-arounds. At the same time, we have become so addicted to these devices that there is now a name for the fear (nomophobia) that develops in some 70% of people if they misplace or are otherwise not in possession of their electronic devices. We steal from our employers with near impunity as we constantly text and call and post and search all day long on company time. We risk our lives and welfare as well as that of our neighbors as we use them and try to drive at the same time and fail miserably. But at least when at the scene of the crash if we find ourselves hurt but still alive we can post the event and interact with the EMS people and police and doctors and nurses – unless they are too engaged with their own social media posts and perhaps getting a nice selfie with the victims!

  3. Yes, this is why I left Facebook. Not all have to do that, but I was tired of exactly what you are saying. I love your line about falling into the watery grave, and the great message of God’s unconditional love of the unedited me. Thank you.

  4. I prefer not to post the evil me I am rotten enough as the good me.

  5. We really can’t win though, can we? On the one hand, people are attacked on Facebook for posting too much personal sorrow and reality (aka “dirty laundry”). On the other hand, if we try to stay positive through severe trials, post good thoughts and Scripture, and joyful family moments amid the sadness, we’re called fake. Our family has been through hell and back in the last few years, but I prefer to emphasize the blessings in our lives and the good things our children are up to. Is that being fake? Is it any more fake than smiling at church and dressing nicely even though there are severe issues we are wading through? I don’t think so. Motivation is the issue. If you’re trying to live a lie, stop. If you choose to focus on the blessings rather than the rampant problems in all of our lives, that is not hypocrisy. And I would add that Facebook can be used as a tremendous encouragement to others who are suffering and going through heartache. Social media is no more fake than a Ladies Aid meeting at church 50 years ago where things could look really good on the outside, masking an ugly or tragic reality on the inside of us.

  6. Sharon Walters I on said:

    Hi my name is Sharon Sallis I from Texarkana Texas I just want to know if my name is in the Book of Life

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