Dear everyone I’m connected to over social media, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. (But what’s new? Isn’t that all I ever do?)
I’ve realized that I’ve relied on you all too much. For the “like.” For the “heart.” For the comment. For the validation.
Having a bad day? Post a picture of myself looking like I’m not having a bad day and feel better.
Feeling down? Post a picture of myself, get some likes, and feel better.
What I thought was a love for social media because it helped me feel connected, and what I justified as “necessary” because of my blog’s outreach has become a selfish, unhealthy… addiction.
And so starting today my social media will have a lot less pictures of myself. Maybe it will include pictures of my friends, of the beautiful scenery around me, or an occasional update to my abroad album to keep all my memories in one place, or no pictures at all. You see, I realized I have nothing to prove. I know what I look like. I don’t need to dress up and take a picture of myself in the perfect angle and prove to the world that I might look just a little bit better than I know I do.
I know I have friends. I don’t need people to like and comment on my pictures to prove that.
I know I am living life to the fullest. I don’t need to post pictures of my life all the time to prove it. I know I am feeling joyful and complete and I don’t need to publish that to people who are scrolling through.
This isn’t me passing judgment. This isn’t me assuming that you use social media in this way, too. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you take advantage of its awesome features, like being able to connect with old friends and getting news updates and invites to cool events. I’m talking about myself here. Because, yeah, I do use social media for those cool things, but I mostly use social media for things that are dangerous for me. I mean, have you looked at my Instagram? I post all the time! I clearly seek validation every 48-72 hours. So don’t think I’m choosing to make a change as a statement that everyone else needs to make a change, too. There are plenty of people who use social media for work or for genuine, healthy enjoyment. But not me, folks. Not me.
I do love updating my closest friends and family with what I’m doing, and love being able to allow them to see my shining face of pure bliss in certain pictures, and I’m not giving that up. Because there’s nothing wrong with that. When it becomes a problem, for me at least, is when I post these pictures with the ulterior motive of wanting them to make me feel more okay, more popular, more attractive. So, for that reason, if you want to be added to my personal photo stream of my favorite pictures over the next 8 weeks– and, like, for the rest of life, you can private message me and I’ll add you to the stream. But I don’t need to be plastering myself on people’s pages and seeking affirmation from everyone who crosses my path.
From a faith perspective, I’ve also realized I’ve used social media in a way that makes me quite distant from God. I go to Instagram to feel better, not to God. I go to Facebook to check my likes to validate that I’m beautiful, instead of going to the Truth rampant in the Bible that I am beautifully made. I seek validation– confirmation, affirmation, admiration–from the world, not from God. And I desperately want you guys to know how dangerous this has been for me. It has meant that I’ve done things that aren’t Hope things.
I’ve made decisions I’m not proud of, out of insecurity and uncertainty because I got used to running to the world to solve my problems instead of running to God. And what happened is that the world stopped solving them. Because the world can’t solve my problems. No matter how hard I try to find someone out there– or something– to solve my most inner sin, I can never find the solution. I think in a twisted, deep-seated, embarrassing-to-admit way, I thought social media could be that thing that solved my problems. But lately I’ve felt on my heart that it really can’t, and today I’m proclaiming once and for all that it can’t. No amount of Facebook likes, no amount of Instagram followers, are ever going to make you feel enough. Only God will. And I say that with such desperation because I don’t want you to ever be in a place I’ve been.
My sophomore year was miserable. I sought validation from everything– from boys, from a good GPA, from lots of friends, from involvement in every club, from lots of blog readers, from social media. And none of these things were enough. I reached rock bottom. Rock. Bottom. I wasn’t myself. And anyone could tell. My parents were worried sick. I wanted out. From commitments, from school, from friends, and, drastically, shockingly, and terrifyingly, sometimes maybe even from life, too.
You know, as a Christian who has always grown up in a Christian home, I’ve been told millions of times that God is the only person who will ever fulfill me, who will always be there, who will truly lead me on the right path. Intuitively, I know that. For so many years, my heart bled those words, too. Those words bled onto my sleeve and I’d proclaim them so passionately and urgently. I’d want everyone to know that, no, you don’t have to compete so much. You don’t have to freak out so much. You don’t have to stress so much. You don’t have to plan so much. Because God has you. The King of the Universe is holding you in His hands and hugging you so tightly and never, ever letting go.
But the part of that that I always let myself forget is that to really experience that kind of love, that kind of support, I have to accept it.
I have to hug Him back. I have to let that love wash over me. Because only when I let His love fill me up can I love others. Only when I let His love fill me up can I love myself.
Guys, it’s become more clear than ever that this past year I haven’t been loving myself nor letting God love me.
And, more than that, I’ve been doing a lot of talking without a lot of doing. I’ve heard so much theology– so many sermons, so many encouraging Christian-focused discussions, read so many verses– that sometimes I just spew out things that aren’t even from my heart. They’re just words that have been stored up in my head for ages. And the problem with that is that I can TELL you all about my faith. I can TELL you all about how to have one, too. But am I doing the talk? Sometimes, yes. But for most of my sophomore year? No.
I can talk the talk that having a relationship with God requires surrendering to Him, but am I really surrendering myself? Am I actually giving God the pen and telling Him to write my life? No. I’ve been controlling everything. I’m trying to apply for 25 internships instead of praying about the few that He actually has laid in my path. I’m trying to make a 4.0 instead of understanding that He has called me to use my gifts of love and friendship to pour into others in much of the time I instead spend studying. Surrendering means I step back and ask, “Hey, God, what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? Who do you want me to be?”
That’s hard. It’s reallllllllly hard. Sometimes I want to say, “screw it I’m doing my own thing.” I did that pretty much all of sophomore year. And you know what? My sophomore year sucked. Because I tried to control EVERYTHING and did not let God guide me. I didn’t turn to Him and let Him hug me. I didn’t turn to Him and ask Him where he wanted me to go. I lived a Hope first and God second or third life. Instead of a God first and Hope second life.
One of the scariest things about being a Christian is that when you realize, I mean really truly realize, that Jesus suffered his entire self on a cross for you and for me and for everyone, you can’t help but realize, I mean really truly realize, that being a Christian means you must sacrifice, too. It’s scary because it means my life is no longer about me. My future is no longer about me. And even scarier? I have no control over ANYTHING in my life. It’s terrifying. I NEED control!!!! I want to make a plan for the next ten years, know who I’m gonna marry, know my job and where I’ll live and who my friends will be. I want to control it all. To make it about me. To make my life MINE. But by being a Christian, I’m saying goodbye to the control. Now why in the world would I want to do that????
But that’s just it. Because even though it’s terrifying, it is so FREEING!!!!!!! It’s so BEAUTIFUL! It’s so JOYFUL! It changes my life FOR THE BETTER! It makes my life have so much LESS PRESSURE because this life is so short in comparison to an eternity in Heaven. Now that this life isn’t about me, I can have new eyes. It’s no longer such a big deal that I didn’t get that internship, because God doesn’t want that for my life. It’s no longer such a big deal that some boy doesn’t like me because the God of the world created me, created a beautiful plan for my life, and is hugging me all along the way. It doesn’t matter that life is hard because eternity will be perfect. Literally perfect. It doesn’t matter that I have a lot of schoolwork because my degree doesn’t come with me to Heaven. Instead my soul does. And I want my soul to radiate Jesus’ love and light so brilliantly that when I get to Heaven people put on sunglasses. (Lol, total joke and not Biblically sound at all. But having a nice little chuckle to myself over here.) It means that I don’t need to put all this pressure on myself to learn everything, to do everything, to be everything. Because God already is. And because my life is about Him now, I can focus on telling others how cool He is and how He keeps me from having to be stressed or worried or overwhelmed. And then they can tell other people. And then suddenly there’s this chain reaction of changed lives. And then one day there will be no more hate. There will be no more politics. There will be no more violence. There will be no more human rights violations. There will be no more stress. There will be no more insecure 21 year olds seeking social media to make them feel better.
So, what’s my point? My point is to let you know that there is a better life out there. There is a better life than seeing the world through dark glasses, through pessimism, pain, suffering and self pity. That’s the point of my blog, actually. To let you know that Hope is alive. But I don’t want my own dangerous choices of obsessing over social media to get in the way of you knowing that this better life is out there and that I am trying to live it.
So I want to live this better life. So you can see it. So we can live it together. So we can tell others about it. And right now that really isn’t happening when I keep liking and posting pictures.
Maybe liking and posting pictures doesn’t have the same effect on you. Maybe you’re able to internalize these pictures as distorted images of reality, as small gestures that have no real relevance to your life, as ways to let the world know what you’re up to… But that’s not how it works for me.
So from now on I won’t be posting pictures of myself. Because who am I kidding? You know what I look like. You know who I am. I have nothing to hide. I am a messed up, confused, directionally challenged, frizzy haired, big-eyed, dorky smiled, but loving, passionate, thoughtful, determined, strong woman. And no quantity or quality of pictures will change that.
I’ve calculated that I spend about nine hours a week doing picture-related, self-absorbed aspects of social media. Now that I’m giving this up, I’ll have nine more hours to invest in real relationships. Nine more hours to invest in my relationship with the Lord. Nine more hours to live a life that better reflects who I am and who I want to be. I want to pour into you and love you better than I have been loving you. And with these nine more hours a week, I can.
With these nine more hours, I can truly reflect and examine my life for other dangerous choices I’m making that are creating distance between God and me.
Maybe this post made you think. Maybe you think I’m crazy. I am crazy, so better you learn that now than later. But honestly I’m not writing this just for you to read. In fact, I’m mostly writing this for myself. Because in being this honest and public, I’m challenging myself to surrender. Surrendering is letting God work through me instead of taking control myself. If I was really controlling right now, I’d be changing my profile picture to me in a really cute dress. Because I thought I looked great. And I freaking love the dress. And I’d love some external validation for that. But instead I’m posting a picture of me in a skydiving jumpsuit with one of my best friends. Because in this moment, I felt more than ever that if I go splat on the ground, I’d want to be remembered for how I surrendered to the Lord. I’d want to be remembered for how beautiful it is that this friend has been by my side for 12+ years, loving me and guiding me through every major event in my life. Like skydiving. I want to be remembered for loving, for surrendering, not for my social media presence.
This weekend this friend had a little intervention with me. He probably won’t admit it was an intervention, because he’s too kind and humble for that. But I know it was. You see, my friend knows who I want to be. He knows I want to surrender to the Lord. To live a life where I stop controlling everything. And he also knows who I am right now. Someone who is controlling everything. Present me and future me haven’t exactly been aligning, for the past year, and I’ve tried to hide that. And until this weekend, I thought I was hiding it pretty well. But this friend saw right through that. Not in a judgmental way. But in a worried way. Because he feels and knows the joy of living a surrendered life, and he was worried I wasn’t experiencing it.
I’m so thankful for this life I have to live. Where I can be friends with someone who has the courage to say I love you but I expect more of you. I’m so thankful for this life I have to live where I can jump out of a plane and not be concerned about death. I’m so thankful for this life I have to live where I can freely write what I feel and what I Hope.
I’m posting a picture from us skydiving, but it’s not the skydiving that I’ll remember this weekend. It’s the person right beside me who had the courage to say what I hope any best friend could say to me: you have the capacity to be more. So live that way.
God is calling me to do more. To be more. So I’m going to surrender and let Him.
TL; DR: you might not see many pictures of my face on social media, but I’m still me. In fact, I’m a better me. Because I’m letting Jesus shine through me. 10/10 would recommend. (And if you do miss my face too much you can message me and I’ll add you to my photo stream. So that together we can love and support each other. And point each other back to the One who provides the best love.)
Recommendations for today:
1. Think about where you get your validation
2. Think about where you wish you got your validation
3. Consider getting rid of things that keep #2 and #3 from being the same answer.
4. Hug your best friends
PS: if you want to know more about what it means to accept Jesus into your heart, I’m always here for the conversation! And it’s my favorite topic. Ask me to get coffee once I’m back on campus or skype me at a random time (#timechange) or just message me. Lots of love ~~