I love using emojis in my text messages. Most of us do these days. They serve as a quick way to respond, with or without any accompanying words. Maybe the added whimsy, humor or emotion is what helps us feel a little more connected to the person on the other side. But it’s easy to falsely assume we know someone through texts and snaps and give them the impression they know us through the smiling, laughing emoticons we use.
Those emojis, like the Instagram and SnapChat accounts we scroll through, have a way of convincing us that everyone else is doing great; fully succeeding in life, love and happiness. Of course, this is often not the case at all. But when we compare our reality to what we see to be true elsewhere (Satan’s original strategy dating back to the garden) we feel worse about ourselves.
In 2015 I created and conducted an online anonymous survey that showed the majority of responders believing they were the only ones struggling with feelings of inadequacy. In their minds, all their friends were perfect while they were failing to measure up. Moderate to high stress, anxiety and depression characterized over half the respondents, with additional mental health issues also common. Not surprising, among these same respondent’s social media use was also high.
While this survey data is reflective of teenagers ages 13-18, research shows similar data collected from college students and young adults on up into their early 30s. Depression on university campuses is reported to be at an all time high, and according to Mashable (“a go-to source for tech and digital culture”) the mental health struggles of one out of every five millennial results in diminished productivity and absenteeism in the workplace.
If this has been your experience, you are definitely not alone. But all the smiling emojis and selfies we see beg us to think otherwise, which is why we must go behind the scenes (and screens) for a deeper look at the contradictory reality of what is really going on.
My survey pointed to discontent driven by comparison and striving for perfection as an underlying reason. In our culture, it’s not enough to be successful in one realm. Perfection requires being the best in every realm. This means along with always bringing your “A” game, you have to look the best (skinniest, prettiest, most muscular, best dressed), maintain the most exciting social life with pictures to prove it, and be in a relationship with someone as equally spectacular.
It’s easy to see in a social media, selfie-centered world how feelings of failure or not measuring up can overtake us. But, for the real issue at hand, and the only true fix we must dive deeper under the surface.
Let’s start by asking these probing questions:
“What are you hoping in?”
“How are you trying to find ‘life’?”
“Where are you looking for identity and worth?”
How you answer will reveal who or what you worship. If it’s anything other than God, you have turned to a false god looking for significance, meaning and life.
A false god or idol, as we tend to think, may be love of money and material goods, but it can also be our appearance, acceptance, performance, perfectionism, status, success, desires, and control. It can be anything and everything. In fact, the root of all sin is idolatry because something else other than God is ruling our hearts.
We turn from God and toward something else to fill us, to satisfy us, to give us an identity and worth. But they can’t give us these things – or at least, it doesn’t last. Sure, it may meet a need or seem fulfilling for a little while, but eventually we will need something more. Think of it like this: When we wake up we are hungry, so we eat and are full. But a few hours later come lunchtime we are hungry again. It’s time for more food. In the same way, this is what happens when we turn to an idol to give us what only God can.
SOURCE: The Christian Post – Kristen Hatton is the author of FaceTime: Finding Your Identity in a Selfie World and the devotional Get Your Story Straight. In addition to her own blog, she is a frequent contributor to The Rooted Ministry blog and enCourage women’s blog. Kristen lives in Oklahoma with her pastor husband and their three teenagers. Learn more by visiting her website at http://www.kristenhatton.com.