Do We Want to Look Better Than We Are?
One of the most common reasons people lie is to impress others. If we succeed at impressing them, they will feel good about us and we will feel good about ourselves. What better reasons than to hedge on the truth or flat out lie? Everybody feels good, so how can that be bad? A woman told me, "My dad came over one day and my daughter was crazy, like her wheels came off. He asked, 'So, are you putting that on Facebook?' Of course not. I have an image to project that I’m perfect, I have this great job, and I have this great daughter. I don't put the unfavorable truth out there because this doesn't fit the image I seek to project."
The dictionary defines photoshop as altering an image, referred to as image-editing, for the purpose of distorting reality to deliberately deceive the viewer. When we do not hesitate to post on Facebook all the great things about our lives, while avoiding, like this mother, to “put the unfavorable truth out there,” we are guilty of photoshopping our lives.
For example, a mother can make misleading comments about her children's success in the Christmas newsletter because she selectively removes the negatives. She writes, "Our son got all A's this year as a sophomore in high school. He is a really, really smart boy. He has many of the interests that I have." But she does not mention that he is on probation for selling drugs. She glories in his success but ignores his serious character flaws. His failings are not in keeping with the narrative and would not make her feel good about herself, so she "photoshops" the reality into an image of her liking.
Yes, we can highlight our children's successes, doing so out of wholesome pride; but when we withhold dark-side stuff due to our own conceit, so that we may promote something that misrepresents reality, we have crossed a line. This is the same as lying.
When we wish to tell others we are living the good life but withhold other aspects that represent sin and selfishness, we need to weigh our words carefully. As for the mom writing her Christmas newsletter, she should not publicly humiliate her son simply to prove she walks in integrity. A mom must not throw her son under the bus by revealing the details of his messed-up life. Private information should be kept private. However, when we project a life in paradise, we can create jealousy and envy and covetousness in others by misrepresenting the truth. A half-truth misleads people. She should at least pen in her letter, "At the same time, this year has been one of the most challenging as we address our inadequacies as a family, which is part of the maturation process God calls us to go through. If you would be so kind as to remember us in prayer for those down times, we'd welcome that kindness. It has been the best of times and the worst of times." This clearly lets people know that she does not live in paradise. Sin has entered her world and she struggles with the same issues every family faces. Impressing others with a lie ultimately does not make them feel good nor us.
Do some try to impress others to make them jealous? I recently read about millennials who are changing the face of travel agencies. One article said, "If there's one thing millennials love more than traveling, it's bragging about the places they've traveled. . . . They go for the bragging rights of being the first in their circle. . . . More than 50 percent of millennials post vacation photos on social media to make friends and family jealous".
What a way to live! We need to post on Facebook a selfie with Mount Kilimanjaro behind us in order to brag . . . in order to make others jealous . . . in order to feel significant . . . in order to like ourselves. What a way to achieve self-esteem and avoid Prozac.
Traditionally, we have referred to this attitude as “hubris” or “excessive pride.” No culture has prized this as virtuous or healthy. When we are filled with this kind of superficial egoism, we end up projecting images that do not reflect the real us. We strut about like a peacock. But at the end of the day our poses are nothing more than a pompous display of fluffy feathers. How sad that we give way to a photo-op and photoshop mind-set that governs our decisions with the hope that we will feel good about ourselves when others envy our staged and cropped images. However, these are nothing more than fluff, and ultimately few feel good about it.
Questions to Consider
- Can you relate to the woman who was not about to post anything on Facebook about her “crazy” daughter? What was she afraid of letting her friends know about her life? What are you afraid of letting your friends know about your life?
- How does it make you feel when you read everyone’s paradise adventures on Facebook or in their Christmas newsletters? Does it sometimes motivate you to do the same?
- Take a look at your last few days or weeks of Facebook posts. Do they fairly represent your life? Are you guilty of photoshopping out the not-so-great stuff? How might you be more honest on Facebook yet not throw family members under the bus?
- Do you agree with the article Emerson quoted that millennials are embracing hubris and excessive pride like no other culture has done in the past? Why or why not?