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
~St. Teresa of Avila