Today I listened to this podcast. Although not the main focus of the podcast, it touched briefly on the well-curated lives of those on Instagram. Not just us regular folk on Insta, but those “content creators”….you know….“influencers.”
Especially prickly to me personally are those monochromatic curated accounts. All polished and shiny in the same color palette. It doesn’t look alive. It looks like a still life. The accounts are kind of sterile. Dry. Unromantic.
But life is rather unruly. The unexpected always happens. We never expect it. Life is messy. It is all the deep end and there is no lifeguard.
It’s so easy to be false. I suppose that has always been true of mankind, but it is particularly true of mankind on social media. But what if I don’t have, or more importantly, I don’t want a well-curated life, that has been carefully selected for the demographic most likely to give me likes. Going out of a limb here, this can include vague-posting and meltdown selfies. Likes are the social currency we use to evaluate our worth. And if a pic of us crying without details of why can get me a lot of likes and “What is wrong?” comments, we’ll do it.
On Twitter you can always appear clever, on Facebook always outraged. And on Instagram always happy. And those filters can simultaneously show us always a little more beautiful. But there are no ”alwayses” in life. And every day we get to choose how authentically we are going to live and how authentically we are going to let that life shine out. It reminds me of what Thomas Merton wrote in The New Seeds of Contemplation, “We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face. But we cannot make these choices with impunity. Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them. If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it!”
Why do we hide behind this false image? We don’t want others to see the real us, but also we don’t want ourselves to see the real us, either. It’s as if to be alone and face ourselves—our dignity, our frailties, the mix-bag that is self—is too much to bear. Problem is when we hide from others and hide from ourselves, we separate ourselves from grace.
“Everyone one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy.” (Thomas Merton, The New Seeds of Contemplation)
It’s a strange business curating a life. It provides an illusion of transparency without vulnerability. Transparency is letting people see in. Vulnerability is allowing another to speak in. We are not meant to provide either to just everyone. Sometimes we use transparency interchangeably with authenticity and that is the trap. The trap of the curated life. We show “everything” yet nothing. And we invite everyone while excluding our actual selves, hiding from the solitude due our own souls and separating ourselves from grace.
I recently changed my instagram name to match this blog and coming YouTube Channel. But, I don’t want to curate it. I don’t want there to be a magic formula to greater likes. I want to tell the story of my life in hopes that maybe someone who also has a messy life can see the beauty in the middle of the mess. Maybe someone who is doing the difficult work of recovering from trauma can find that they are not alone. Maybe someone can see a cairn on the trail to know that the are still on the right path, even if the way looks treacherous.
Maybe these peeks into my authentic life can help to be a lens by which you can see the richness of your own life. I certainly have those to whom I look that help me in the same way. Ask for those eyes.
“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty..” Rilke