By Alyssa Rachel Gross
Have you ever scrolled down Facebook and felt “icky” afterwords? There’s a reason for that.
We often feel the need to lead our lives glazing over the “cracks” in who we are. We feel trapped by the inability to express our deepest frustrations, failures, insecurities or weaknesses.
In an age of social media, all we can do is show our vibrant social lives plastered with smiles in the happiest of times. We’re linked in to each “like” we get and the subsequent hits of dopamine to our brains. We’re physiologically wiring our brains for the instantaneous and transitory need of external validation.
On the other hand, I look to Facebook, Instagram and other social media for inspirational messages, news and to share in the lives of my friends and family. In many ways, it’s helpful. There’s nothing wrong with sharing our moments of joy with our extended social networks.
However, for me, as someone who experiences times of “funks” or downright depression, social media is not always my friend. On some level, social media has taught me that not all parts of myself are acceptable.
What about those moments that we feel are not Facebook worthy? We dropped the ball at work. We failed on our diet. We didn’t stick to our commitments. We didn’t do what we said we’d do.
A few months ago, I shared on social media that I’d finally quit smoking. I was hoping that the social accountability would help me quit but it didn’t at least not long term. Do I take down the post declaring my abstinence from smoking? What about all the people I inspired or who cheered me on? What happens when people see me on the street with a cigarette? Am I a fraud? I didn’t share those sentiments.
Facebook amplifies this disconnect between the image we show to the world and the person we can be in quiet moments. Perhaps, that’s why most of us never slow down enough to think or be with ourselves in moments of solitude. The prospect is too scary.
Who are we when we are not crafting the perfect narrative of ourselves to share with the world? Is that person still worthy of love, acceptance and respect? Sometimes, it doesn’t feel that way when for the majority of the day we are plugged in to seeing the veneer of perfection in the lives of others.
Yet, we don’t have the option to discard with those parts of who we are, the less than perfect.
While, I’m content with who I am when my head hits the pillow at night, I usually have my smart phone in hand scrolling through the blue glow before heading to sleep. I drift off wondering if I’m really as good, as full, as I thought I was in comparison to everyone else.
What happens when we’re struggling personally but link into the perfection of others’ Facebook profiles? We might not love our husband or wife. We might feel that the demands of life are driving us to our wits end. We may be in a job that feels like it’s going nowhere. We might be experiencing feelings of depression. We may be struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction. The list is endless. Where do these “cracks” in our lives fit into the realm of our social images and persona?
We’ve placed Facebook and social media at the crux of expressing who we are within our social lives. It’s become a place wherein we present everything from the random thought, to deeply held beliefs, the birth of a child and even the loss of a family member.
However, this virtual “home” is missing the key component that allows us to be whole, unified, complete individuals – cracks and all. This limitation of social media is part of the breaking point at which we need to disconnect, unplug and step into the real world.
We may not need to shout all our perceived shortcomings to the world virtually or otherwise. But, we secretly harbor that knowledge that we carry them with us as elements of our personality. The dichotomy we are creating, often unconsciously, between our social media persona and the person we are in our daily lives leads to a fragmented view of ourselves between that which we can share with others and that which is deemed unacceptable.
Facebook has become our virtual homes; a lifeline to our social connections. Yet, home is not simply a location made up of news feeds, the glow of a smart phone or Wi-Fi service. Home is the place where we can truly let our guard down, warts and all. To be all of who we are and still feel a sense of love, acceptance and belonging.
We’ve become so adept at creating these rock solid social images. Concomitantly, it now takes twice the effort in order to be vulnerable and connect with our truest most authentic selves. Deep within this external façade there is a person, a real person, who exists. How do we respond to this cognitive dissonance?
As Naguib Mahfouz says, “Home is where all your attempts to escape cease.” That includes no longer running from the messy, confusing and downright conflicting parts of ourselves. Home is a feeling of completeness that resides within and manifests without. Don’t settle for less.
While social media can be utilized in a number of great ways, it cannot be the mirror defining who we are. In fact, it often points us in all the wrong directions into a pit of comparison, judgment and self-criticism by setting up unrealistic expectations.
A real home is imbued with the knowledge that even as a “cracked pot” you are beautiful and worthy. Flowers can and do grow within you. The sliver of ourselves that most of us present on social media cannot compensate for the need to find our own tribe, our own home in the tactile world. I am here to proclaim that “I am perfectly imperfect”.
Each day, there are demons of unworthiness, doubts and insecurities that chase after me. But, no longer do they need to define me. Let us compassionately and gently let go of those burdens; the expectations of others that we’ve come to internalize are simply not that important.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Alyssa Gross. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Alyssa is a thirsty soul looking to help create and sustain spirituality, mindfulness, and positivity within community. She invites you to come along. For future articles and features email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Instagram at @alyssagee00.