October 15, 2012

It was during my morning ‘scroll’ the other day that I happened to come across almost two hundred pictures of an acquaintance's acquaintances and her debaucherous evening out (that sounds like a storybook title).  200 pictures taken in probably 4 hours.  50 per hour.  Approximately 1 picture every 5 minutes, which struck me as utterly ridiculous.

Seems to me there are more pictures being taken on any given night than there is actual fun being had.  Maybe I’m the one missing the point and the fun is IN the taking of the pictures, and the whole night out is centered around what would look good on film - wait, what am I saying - I mean, online.  I mean, why in the world would any sane person want to document the heck out of each and every thrillingly boring millisecond of their lives? 

I can’t imagine it’s to keep everyone else abreast of their lives – nobody wants that much of a look into any but their own life and besides, aren’t all their friends out with them?  Maybe it’s due to the desire to be famous, greedily licking up any bit of “airtime” they can get their hands on?  Maybe it’s because they love the look of their own faces, and have to get themselves into as many pictures online as possible, because “I’m just so darn good-looking – I’m doing the world a favour”?  Or perhaps the excessive picture taking and sharing is an attempt to justify the decisions being made – to drink excessively, to carouse with all manner of strange men (and women), to cause havoc to the general public and even to go so far as rioting and looting.  “After all, everyone is doing the same things – and posting the “proof” on Facebook – and if it’s ok for them, it’s ok for me”.    

I couldn’t figure it out, so I went to my ‘people’ – the students I work with - to get their opinions, and what surfaced made sense.  It made sense and made me terribly heartsick.  “They do that for attention” or “It’s a disordered attempt to feel accepted, popular and loved”, I heard.  One particularly astute student felt that this behaviour is only the logical product of the breakdown of the family, which I couldn’t disagree with.  Those who don’t feel loved at home search for it anywhere they can possibly get it, and online attention is so easy to get.  Is the self-esteem of the general populace that low, even after all those self-esteem building exercises done in schools these days?  I’ve heard that even radical feminists are disowning their “own” because young ladies these days are distinctly lacking in the self-respect department, but I had no idea things were this bad.  

I suspect the reason is deeper than just narcissistic tendencies or attention-seeking.  I suspect this behaviour stems from the desperate longing that we ladies have to be seen and known, to be sought after and found to be ‘enough’ just as we are.  And when nobody steps up to give us the unshakeable foundation that we not only desire, but require to be stable and strong, then we ladies go after what we instinctively know we need wherever we can find it.  Enter ten thousand online, “clothes-optional” pictures of me readily available for anyone and everyone to build me up.  And it doesn’t take a doctorate in psychology to know and understand that looking for love, acceptance and attention online is a very bad idea, and often leads to devastating results. 

Yet there is always hope because God is always waiting to tell us how much He sees us, desires and loves us and it is His love that we human beings desire, and require, first and foremost.  As Benedict XVI wrote in his Apostolic Letter written for the Year of Faith, which began October 11th, “The ‘door of faith’ (Acts 14:27) is always open for us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church.” 

So what are we doing, as Christians, to invite the lost and lonely back to Christ? It used to be that teenagers and young adults had a whole community upon which they could depend; not just their immediate families, but youth groups, church communities, pastors, priests and fellow pew-sitters.  We’ve lost that for the most part, but it’s not too late to find it again.  Maybe during this year dedicated to faith, we could work at sharing and renewing faith within our parishes and circles of friends.  Invite one person to come to church or young adult group or even just smile and welcome those we see at church and beyond.  It may be the first time that person has been smiled at or welcomed and sometimes it’s the difference between life and death.  I had a high school friend who admitted to me one day that she contemplated suicide throughout her high school years, and the only reason she didn’t go through with it was because of my friendship with her.  First off, I had no idea she was suffering that badly, and secondly I treated her the same way I had treated all of my friends.  We have no idea the pain that some are living through, but we also have no idea how little an effort it takes to alleviate some of that pain.  Lets take that small step, shall we? 

"Be gentle to all and stern with yourself."
~St. Teresa of Avila 


  1. Sarah, What a wonderful, thoughtful and beautifully written post. Dave told me that they had a whole workshop for the gr. 7 girls at the school on what to post online and what not to post as a result of the Amanda Todd suicide. So very, very sad. I also think that a major, possibly overlooked, factor is sexual abuse. The stat thrown around 10 years ago was one in four girls have been sexually abused. Has that increased? I don't know, but it certainly leads to the girls-gone-wild phenomenon. I always remember a girl in highschool who was terribly permiscuous breaking down at a party (while drunk) and crying out for everyone to hear that her grandfather had sexually abused her for years. Did anyone really hear? I only heard secondhand and I still feel such pain when I think of how she was abused by her family, the guys in her life and the party-goers who allowed her to be shamed. I think that the whole thing is pretty disgusting and heartbreaking at the same time. Girls are targeted from the moment of conception til natural death.

  2. Excellent post, Sarah. What also disturbs me about the "photos are the event" phenomenon is the way in which artificial contact is replacing real contact. I read recently that even bars are going out of business because people are sitting at home Facebooking one another! Weird.

  3. Elena, it just breaks my heart to hear that. But you're absolutely right. Sexual abuse is a huge factor in that "girls gone wild" phenomenon...which I think starts out on Facebook and other social media (ie. women taking inappropriate pictures of themselves and posting at the prompting of others, or even on their own). There is so much healing needed for ladies these days...

    And Christine, I am concerned about that artificial contact too. In fact, I see within the population of young adults the growing inability to not only communicate personal thoughts, feelings and ideas, but just to have a basic conversation; listening and responding to others' thoughts, feelings and ideas.



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