A cloudless sky saturated with blue, save for a few lovely cumulus clouds on the horizon. Undulating fields of wheat. The rays of the setting sun on the calm surface of the lake. Dense forests. Wide beaches. Lawns as neat as golf courses. And against this backdrop, people – couples leaning towards each other with bright smiling faces, men sticking a flag on a mountain peak or showing a victory salute after a scored goal, brave or gloomy; women with shiny hair and alabaster skin, thoughtful or flirtatious.
Am I dreaming? No. I am browsing Instagram.
How did it happen that our pages on Instagram or Facebook are beginning to resemble advertising blocks – and have more or less as much in common with reality as the world shown, for example, in an advertisement for nappies with the experience of being a mother of an infant?
When I try to answer that question, the shortest I can find is that we have deeply and fundamentally messed something up. And that every day we are going deeper and deeper into something that not only doesn’t help us, but is even gradually transforming us into someone who we really – let me say this for myself and for you – don’t want to become.
When I look for an answer that is less simplistic and less filled with anger mixed with anxiety, I begin to track down the mechanism that many of us succumb to every day.
It begins, like almost everything in this world, with the need for love. I reach for the virtual equivalent of heat, i.e. a like. I reach for it the way the little match girl reached for a match – not because she believed it would keep her warm, but because she needed to experience the brief pleasure or relief from the flame. This is the motif of a child – but not that of a joyful, creative, spontaneous child running across a meadow or playing with their beloved dog, but rather one who experiences coldness, shortage and uncertainty. Only one match! – the girl tells herself. And then she lights another one.
As I write this, my own inner girl is afraid of the disapproval of you reading this. I weigh the words. And yet, when I let an adult woman who does not hang on someone else’s opinion take the reins, I hear this internal structure asking the question – what for? Why, girl, do you put on a fictional version of the world and yourself on Instagram? What is this for? And what is it doing to the world?
When I look at the perfect photos of my beautiful friends who look like a version of myself twenty years ago, I find a hint of failure within myself. How? They look like this – and I look as I do in the mirror? How? Their husbands are so athletic, and mine is less so? How? Can they make a gluten-free tart with raspberries from their own garden after a day full of work just like that, when all I can do is pour boiling water into an instant soup cup for myself and my son? So what? So am I, as my son eating from this cup would say, a loser?
What was supposed to give us a sense of belonging and acceptance becomes the daily source of our deepening loneliness. We feed the instamonster with more likes, not knowing that with each filtered selfie we weaken our inner-control and strengthen our addiction mechanism: the inner structure of an insecure girl who keeps asking – but do I look good? Isn’t the hotel that I chose really nice? Doesn’t my boyfriend, as you can see, love me?
If you are one of those women whose faces trigger my insecurities, check if I’m wrong. Just stop for a few days and watch what happens inside you. If the matter is innocent, if you do it casually and your Core remains intact, you will not feel any shortage and I will gladly eat my slice of humble pie. However, check if during a walk in the pine forest where you were supposed to contact your Soul, or at an extremely photogenic dinner in a restaurant which your handsome husband invited you to, your hand will not start to search for the camera on your phone and whether the prospect that no one but yourself will see these pines, no one but you and your husband will see this nasturtium flower salad, will start to annoy you quite a bit. The more you miss that moment when you click “post”, the more likely you are to have bred a Publicity Demon of your very own.
This Demon makes us all feel lonely. Worse than the others. Inadequate. We get caught up in a game in which we pretend to ourselves that our life is more glamorous than it really is. That we look younger than we actually look. That our children never talk back and always have a great time in our company. That in our relationships, we only look at each other with love and lust. Someone who looks at our filtered photos may feel invited to enter this race – and set themselves up against the only mildew-free rose bush in their garden.
We feel worse than others, but also, what is no less important, worse than the version of ourselves that we are ready to show to the world. Because every time you edit and filter your photo, you somehow say “no” to the real you. Maybe you should frown at the sight of your wrinkle every once in a while? Not filter this and that too often? Even something out, have a microdermabrasion done, leave something outside the frame once in a while? Nobody has ever died of it. But I would be afraid to make it one of the basic daily activities – going through life in search of a suitable frame. Will we not then leave ourselves, the ones without the filter, outside the frame?
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