I went to a dance competition a few nights ago, to meet up with an old friend and watch him perform. Not being particularly interested in dance, I was mainly interested in getting to hang out with him before he left town the next day. Much to my surprise, not only did I enjoy watching his performance, I loved all the dancing! It was ridiculously entertaining and inspiring.
Shortly after I arrived, feeling a sense of delighted surprise that I was really enjoying watching something new, IT happened. By "it," I mean a feeling I get much too frequently -- the nearly-automatic urge to transcribe my experience into a snappy, hip, humorous Facebook status update!
I whipped out my phone and pressed the "Facebook" button. Then, I paused. 'Why am I doing this?' I asked. And I realized while I always thought of this habit as stemming from a desire to let my friends and acquaintances know what I am up to, it is really just a way for me to seek their validation. 'Am I cool enough? Important enough for them to notice? Am I doing things that other people care about? Are people going to pay attention to me? Will they comment?'
I realized that my insecurities did not, in fact, fade away at some point in the last few years. Though I know myself well enough and am sufficiently comfortable in my own skin that I no longer feel a need to pretend to be someone I am not, there is still a significant part of me that wants attention and accolades. I had a thought once, mostly joking but with a kernel of truth, that nothing is real until it is on Facebook. Until people know about it, until I have shared it with the world, does it really matter?
Well, of course unshared events matter. And I posit that unshared events matter more than those thrust out for public consumption. We -- okay, at least I -- tend to share things that portray me in a positive light: intelligent, philosophical, funny...even self-deprecating stories put forth the image I want to portray to the world. I am far less likely to share events, feelings, and actions that cast me in a more negative light. But in reality, we are most human in our brokenness. Humans are not perfect, and any attempt to portray ourselves as such lends a sheen of inauthenticity. I am not advocating for myself or anyone else to "let it all hang out," so to speak; I think society needs people to wear masks to function smoothly. The problem arises when we are no longer able to remove our masks and be fully authentic.
Will I stop posting Facebook status updates? No. But will I be more aware of times when I am truly just seeking attention and validation? Yes. The more I seek validation from others, the less concerned and aware I am of my interior life. Conversely, when I am God-centered and focused on making myself righteous in His eyes, my need for outside validation decreases.