The Face of Social Media

The face of social media is perfect. Gorgeous and glamorous, impeccably smooth features, radiant smile, flattering angle, precise lighting... you know the drill. And it’s not just the faces, but the face of—the appearance of—everything that is posted online that must be perfect. Nothing less than magazine-worthy photos of dinners, excursions, and hobbies will do when it comes to sharing your world with the world. The outcome of this constant display of perfection is an intense pressure by viewers to perform—or rather, to present—perfection to match. “She cooks such perfect meals; I must, too.”  “He goes on the most perfect vacations; I’ve got to, also.”  “They totally have the perfect relationship; we have to be like them.” The grossly erroneous assumption that everyone else is living a perfect life while only you are stumbling, failing, at times unable to even reach mediocricy—let alone anything more—has tragically has been the source of much anxiety, pain, and even torture for many around the world. This trend is frightening and must be rectified! We must make it normal to be “normal”!  At the same time, there is something tremendous here that we can apply in our avodas Hashem: the meritorious aspect of presenting a perfect face to the world.  Chassidus distinguishes between the inner essence character of our souls and the outer garments (thought, speech, deed) through which they express themselves. Over the inner, we have less control; over the outer, we have absolute. When my nefesh habihamis (animal soul) lives up to its name, impulsively seeking pleasure and selfish gain, I have a choice. I can either let it do its thing—giving it rein of my mind, my heart, and my body—or I can tell it to bug off, ignoring its shouts and struggles to make itself known through me. When I succeed in pushing it away, it is because my nefesh haElokis (G-dly soul) has taken the crown and has begun giving orders with which I comply. Whilst obeying the command of my holy soul, my animal one is still alive and kicking. It is still whispering, begging, crying, yelling at me to think negative thoughts, to speak unclean words, and to act inappropriately. Nobody knows about this dirty mess inside of me; nobody sees the tower of temptations I’m struggling with; nobody hears the wicked voice luring me to sin. Am I being hypocritical if I generously give tzedakah when my insides are screaming, “Keep it for yourself!”? Am I pretending to be someone I’m not if I graciously offer to help someone on whom I have an urge to take revenge? Am I a faker for thanking Hashem out loud during moments that make my heart break? Am I wrong to present a perfect face—a kind, caring, compassionate, loving, easygoing, and holy face—when inside I’m feeling selfish, callous, intolerant, stubborn, and full of darkness? I say not. I say that the positive lesson we can learn from the “perfect social media face” is that we could and should act nobly and G-dly on the outside regardless of any negative voices on the inside.  Furthermore, the more we all practice this, the faster we will greet the Perfect Day when goodness and kindness will be real for all of us—inside and out—for all of eternity. Chava Isacovitch delights in uncovering Hashem behind and beneath every facet of life. She writes and lectures on a variety of topics and is the author of Aharon's Staff: Practical Chinuch Tips from Chassidus. She also coaches parents and teachers of children with behavioral challenges. Chava lives in Eretz Yisroel.

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