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Unfiltering our selfie selves


In this great age of communication, when cellphones and texting keep us connected at every split second, what do we talk about? There’s so much chatter that we, often, don’t say anything pertinent or truly personal anymore. Even when we’re involved with each other’s media, are we really involved with each other?
People send news of food and fun, but does it all make us feel compelled to create some fictional diary in words and pictures of only the perfect, or presumed perfect, moments of our lives? I must, in honesty, include myself in that to some degree. Occasionally, I love throwing out a photo of my family dinner that just happens to look like a food magazine cover. Conversely, I won’t post a photo of the evening meal when it happens to be two burnt hot dogs and a limpy salad – and I can’t possibly be alone in that.
While so many of us funnel our best self out into the great cosmos of social media, how are we, really, deep inside? We share the moments of fun, accomplishment, family, joy, and beauty but we don’t share as easily or cry out often enough when we are in the throes of something distressing, sad, even desperate, that we need help with. In this age of sharing everything we do, we don’t share anything of consequence often enough, even when we’re dissolving.
We seem to be grooming ourselves to being willing to share only our best selves, when it’s our critical self we must be willing to display with the least delay. It’s a wonder that so many people tend to project an image different from the reality, especially the young.
We hesitate to ask for help or disclose our vulnerability even to ourselves. That became prevalent when we left “the village,” where everything was shared. Worse now, feigning perfection has really begun to overtake us. It took hold and grows, regardless of its many side effects. It happens around the world but in America particularly; it has always been around to some degree, but social media – that instant connection with photo ops – makes it easier, faster, more ubiquitous and, sadly, more dangerous.
The greatest irony and hidden danger is that, with all this public togetherness, the personal connection has decreased. With a general increased desire to display success on any level, and remain part of the ever forward motion of the crowd, we’ve grown less intimate. This pressure to retain some image of perfection is making vulnerability seem more like failure than the simple reality of being human.
As adults, it’s critical to recognize the need for help, and seek it out. Still, we sometimes hesitate to accept our setbacks, or see ourselves as, somehow, dependent. For young people, the urgency is far greater and the assist far more important. Too often, the warning signs are there, but we either don’t know what to do about them or can’t do enough.

When we have a friend or a loved one in distress, who won’t seek the help they need, we’re left walking that fine line between prying or interfering, and truly being of assistance. That line often creates a wall between what we know needs doing and what we can actually do, without pushing someone away.
Asking for help, even being willing to recognize, ourselves, that we need it – is the hardest part of getting started. We’re all broken, somewhere. The only difference is why and how deeply we’re hurting and how we handle it. It’s true that, sometimes, for some people and issues, help is genuinely unnecessary. For anything else, it’s just unfortunate that we hesitate to share, because if we don’t take the first step in tackling our personal struggles on our own, our nearest and dearest can’t know how to help. Our problem becomes theirs and, if we leave them unable to spread their light to us, we spread our darkness to them.
With that, no love, no concern, not even the best of interventions will help. Whereas, once the problem is identified and disclosed, once we admit we need the help, getting it is easy. Everyone can become a resource.
With so many roadblocks, disclosing our vulnerability shouldn’t be one of them. It’s better to improve what’s real, than to post another great photo of what isn’t.
Chatterbyte: Chatterbox, Oct. 7 referred to a great diner as Steve’s Diner but, technically, it’s Steve’s Place. Luckily, my error didn’t affect the service or menu.