Dear Henri, Mental Hunger – Week 11

Inside_Martin Fisch_Creative Commons

"Inside"_Martin Fisch_Creative Commons

Dear Henri,

I am not really fond of selfies.

I admit it.

It's not "female affirming" for me to admit it, but whatevs. Sure, I'd probably snap a couple for funzies if I was touring some amazing castle and ran into Viggo Mortenson. Those aren't the selfies I'm talking about.

Just to catch you up, a 'selfie' is a self-taken photo of yourself usually posted by yourself on to your own social media networks.

Oh sure in my early days of Facebook I posted a selfie or two but I quickly grew to loathe the pratice. I'm really trying not to sound self-righteous here or hypocritical. It's not as if I am the perfect self-contained woman, in need of herself alone. Trust me, I have no real handle on good intimacy; and for a time selfies worked a bit. At least people were looking… and I didn't actually have to engage anyone. If anyone challenged me, I could crush their comments as 'bullying' or chock it up to jealousy.

It's just that it worked too well. People started liking my pics and I began relying on those people for my worth. By giving into the compulsive need to post (normally overly done) photos of myself, I was also giving into the demand for others on Facebook to "Like" my pic. And those "Likes" became my form of self-adulation and love. It was wrong on so many levels.

And with digital techonology, Henri, I can take an "au naturelle" picture of me (or claim as such) 1000x to get the lighting just right, my look just right, my makeup just right. And I can use super-basic photoshop programs to alter my look ever so slightly just so that my "Friends" will like my physical appearance all the more. The world is convinced (presumably) that those amazing shots are really… me.

These past weeks the fad on Facebook has been for women to take selfies without any makeup on whatsoever. I know it's non-feminist of to say, but I don't see the diff. It's just another way to post your mug online and get your yah-yahs virtually instead of for real. Oh guys do it too! Guys standing in front of mirrors, kissing their pecs, or showing off their 6-packs, or doing "Duck Face" (sucking in your cheeks to look sexy… don't try it. NO ONE looks sexy doing Duck Face).

Talk about lonely.

The selfie high never lasts. I know how I feel when a friend posts 35 selfies at a time (annoyed, lots of yawns, eyes roll, keep scrolling). I have NO inclination to like their pics at all because… it's not them! Yet culture would dictate to me otherwise.

Lonely online.

Aren't we all?

You call it "mental hunger" for the intimacy with ourselves, others & God (Nouwen, Reaching Out, p.14).

"The roots of loneliness are very deep and cannot be touched by optimistic advertistment, substitute love images or social togetherness. They find their food in the suspicion that there is no one who cares and offers love without conditions, and no place where we can be vulnerable without being used. They many small rejections of everday – a sarcastic smile, a flippant remark, a brisk denial, or a bitter silence – may all be quite innocent and hardly worth our attention if they did not constantly arouse our basic human fear of being left totally alone with 'darkness'… [as our] companions left (Psalm 88)" (p.16).

I'm an introvert. Online social media has been great in so many ways for me. Low-key interaction with minimal stimulation. On the other hand, it quickly develops a false sense of intimacy.

Selfies are just that: false senses of self. But we kick and scream and wail when we're challenged that those pics represent who we are.

How sexy we are.

How toned we are.

How proud we are.

How in tune we are.

How cool we are.

How beautiful we are.

How talented we are.

It's not like I'm calling the selfie craze a moral sin or something like that. It's just that the phenomenon seemed to line up with your writing — our culture is so individualized now that we ache to be intimate. When we THINK we've found it, we binge eat. We smother others, become anxious, and we are paranoid that we aren't actually loved.

Instead of dancing in the healthy distance between ourselves, leaving room to lean and bend, we grab hold of distraction and hurt ourselves. 

A selfie here or there isn't a big deal. But when we're posting our own images multiple times a month… week… day… we're only exposing that raw missing thing in our lives, becoming dependent on Facebook's "Like" button to determine our worth.

And our over-exposure is posted for the world to see.

Lonely amidst millions of lonely others.

Ironic indeed.

Until next time,
Love,

Erin

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