An epidemic exists in online social media circles – an epidemic that cannot be ignored. Most likely this has been going on from the first formation of social networks and I have been totally blind and oblivious to it until recently. In fact, such attitudes have been circulating since the fall of man; however, the advent of social networking and quick photo-sharing has heightened its expression.
I speak of an epidemic of insecurity. Probably very few would recognize it as such or apply that label to themselves – but it seems to be the underlying, lurking, unseen factor behind the phenomena. It manifests itself in several areas, but the one I would like to address is that of ego-building photo-posting.
We have all seen it: a friend posts a new photo of themselves on Facebook. The photo may contain a smiling face with perfectly-applied makeup and a classic hairstyle. It may contain a baseball cap, an unbuttoned button-up shirt, and a “cool look” that includes a very serious face. Or the photo may contain just a hint of a smile. Or perhaps the friend is looking at the camera from an interesting angle. Perhaps the subject is wearing a new shirt. Whatever the composition of the photo, the effect is the same: lots of comments.
“So beautiful,” “cool pic 8)” “Such a beauty!,” “awesome pic,” “You look amazing,” “This is one incredibly beautiful woman,” “Aww… :D” “so cute,” “aren’t you just adorable,” “Great look,” “I like your face. A lot.” “You are attractive,” “You look beautiful!! <3,” “Love the [haircut, shirt, beard, you name it]!!!” “you are so gorgeous!!” This is only a very small sampling of the typical comments when a picture is posted.
So why do we post pictures like that and write comments like that? Why do we spend so much time telling people how good-looking they are and enjoying comments like that ourselves? What is with the fixation on appearance?
I am not saying there is anything necessarily wrong with complimenting someone else. Nor am I saying that you are necessarily to blame because all your friends think you are good-looking and tell you so on every picture of you. What I am questioning is the attitudes and motives of society as a whole – and that also comes down to motives on an individual level. Our culture bombards us constantly with pressure to be engrossed with our physical appearance. Our response when we comment on social networking sites indicates how that propaganda has penetrated.
Stop to think about it. Why spend all your time talking about physical appearance? True, a positive physical appearance can be a blessing – and humans naturally are attracted to beauty. We like to look at pleasant things. However, why is that theONLY thing that we seem to be able to think of when we see a new picture of a friend?
Why don’t we see more comments talking about true beauty – beauty that really matters? Can’t there be one comment on true beauty for every ten on physical beauty? Better yet, why not dispense with the physical comments almost entirely and focus only on real beauty – the beauty of God and of Christ within a person. Unfortunately, when someone updates their social networking site with a well-thought out, meaningful, encouraging, spiritually-uplifting, truly beautiful status, it typically gainsvery few comments – certainly nothing like a new photo of a face does. Even when someone does mention inner beauty, it is often simply tacked on to a comment that was motivated by noticing and mentioning physical beauty.
The problem is that our eyes are tuned to the physical world. We are much more sensitive to the physical realm than we are to the spiritual realm. This is exactly opposite of what we should be; we ought to be quick to perceive spiritual beauty and truth.
Physical beauty fades. We like to ignore this fact, but we cannot hide from it forever: our physical bodies grow old and change their appearance. Why do we want to spend so much time on something that is temporal?
What is your motivation? Where is your heart? What is your attitude? Do you desire the attention of others? Are you seeking the praise of men more than the praise of God? Think about it: do you really want that kind of attention? Do you want to be praised only for what you look like? What will happen when your looks change?
Indeed, our culture has an epidemic. Mainstream America remains engrossed with outward appearances. However, you can choose the course of your own life. You can choose whether to spend your time perfecting your appearance to others or perfecting your inner character through relationship with God. You do not have to follow the dictates of the culture. Do not neglect your appearance – we do need to portray ourselves to others in a manner worthy of the One who created us – but do not make that your focus. Learn to see inner beauty more quickly than outward beauty. This can be accomplished only through spending time and thoughts on God and His word – the process of sharpening our inward senses occurs from within. It is well worth your while, for it will last for eternity.
The next time you are about to make a comment on a social networking site, stop and think about it. Are physical things your focus? Have you perceived the beauty of Jesus Christ first? Is there a way that you can phrase your comment to make it spiritually uplifting while conveying your compliment to your friend? Perhaps you can step into God’s invitation for you at that very moment and engage in social networking with Him. He wants to be a part of every area of your life – even your comments. When you are walking hand and hand with Him, all you say and do is directed by Him and used for His glory! If He wants you to comment on physical appearance, your comment will accomplish His purposes. You are not dependent upon others to assure you of your beauty; you have the assurance of His perfect acceptance and love of you. Rest in Him as He opens your eyes to more and more of the beauty of Jesus Christ in everything!
After all, He looks with perfect vision upon you – the real you, with all faults, imperfections, and wrongdoings – and He sees you as you were designed to be: one with His Son – and He says that you are beautiful.