I have a confession to make.
I have deceived you, my readers, friends and family. I’d like to say it was the first time I have ever done this, but unfortunately it is not. In fact, if I were to be truly honest, I’d have to admit I deceive you more times than I don’t. What I did is done every day by literally millions of people. You have probably done it too. That makes me feel better. It doesn’t make it right, it just makes it rampant. Like speeding on the expressway, this deceit is done so many times by so many we have almost forgotten how bad it is. And sadly, it perpetuates a myth that is as strong as a fairy tale and wrong as a white-collar crime.
What did I do? I call it the Facebook Fraud though it doesn’t need Facebook or even the internet to exist. What Adam & Eve began in the garden, we still do today – covering up the truth and pretending we are in better shape than we are. They used fig leaves. We use Facebook. It’s deceitful at its core. Simply defined, the Facebook Fraud is this:
“The act of posting something on Facebook (a picture or status update) that leads others to believe your life is better than it really is.”
The reality is, these days – I’m having the struggle of my life. On every level, on most every day – I’m hurting and can’t seem to catch my breath. Only a precious few know this, however, since the majority of people out there only know me from what they see me post. Like you, I tend to only post positive things or things that make me look good. My rationale is this – who wants to read about my actual, depressing day? In the spirit of Colossians 3:2, I try to set my mind on “things above” even if I spend most of my days struggling with “earthly things.” If you’re honest, I have a feeling you do this too. I mean, could it be possible that as I glance at my news feed and look at the pictures of my hundreds of friends that everyone is living their “best life now” like they portray and I’m the only one struggling? I don’t think so.
Whereas the town drunk wears his miserable existence on his sleeve, the rest of us are able to create the image we want others to see. Like slick marketers, we post happy pictures. As sophisticated public relation professionals, we post pictures of our latest success. How many times have I read how many miles someone ran that day while I sit on my couch with a bag of Cheetos? Did they really run all 10 miles? How come I didn’t post a picture of me with the Cheetos on the couch? How come we don’t read status updates like:
“Got up to run 4 miles today but only ran to my mailbox. I then jogged about a mile stopping every 100 yards to breathe. The next 2 miles I crawled with my lips. Finally had to be picked up and driven home. On the way back, stopped at Chick-Fil-A for a milkshake.”
Are we being honest with our public persona? Is your husband really that loving all the time or do you just want us to think he is? Are your kids really that obedient and sweet? Do you really look like the picture you just posted of yourself, in the right lighting, from the right angle? Is your house that clean normally or only before you have guests over?
Are we being real or honest about our life? If our offline life is a mess, why do we pretend its successful online? How come we don’t post pictures of the cake we baked that did not turn out right the first time? How come we don’t post pictures of the bank overdraft statement we just received? How come we don’t show video clips of what our kids room really looks like? How come we don’t include shots of bad hair days? Where are the photos of us looking overweight and with bad posture? We are quick to show the award we just received at work, but forgot to mention the speeding ticket we received on the way.
One of the inerrant problems with Facebook or our online media presence is that (for the most part) we are the sole overseers of what is posted. You only know what I want you to know about me. You only see what I want you to see. Only our “friends” have access to our page. Only those who love us can comment on our stuff. And in the event that something is said that paints a different picture than what we desire, we can immediately delete it.
Recently, I wrote a blog entry that was read by a former friend, vocal about their disdain for me. I was actually impressed that a declared hater would read anything I wrote. I know this person read it because of the nasty comment that was left for me, on the blog. As the creator and moderator of my blog, I can choose whether I want the comment to be approved and visible or simply deleted. I was actually tempted to leave it because it was refreshing to receive an honest opinion from someone on the other side. In the end, I decided to delete it as the comments barely focused on the content of the blog and was designed to be a personal attack against me. As I read their venomous comment, I was reminded of the value of them. I thought, “Not everyone likes you, Rod. Not everyone thinks your writing is great. Not everyone allows you to get away with the fraud.”
This is one of the reasons why I appreciate the Bible. God does not allow the characters mentioned in it to have access to their image. A person’s life, in the Scriptures, runs the gammut of the good, the bad & the ugly. Few mentioned in its pages come out squeaky clean.
- Noah built an amazing structure called the Ark and saved his family from destruction. 3 chapters later he lies naked, drunk in his tent. (Genesis 9)
- Abraham was certainly a man of great faith but God also includes how he was a chronic liar. (Genesis 12)
- Lot was considered righteous and yet he offers up his own daughters sexually to evil men. (Genesis 19)
- Jacob may have been the father of the nation of Israel, but God makes sure his deception is well documented. (Genesis 27)
- Moses was indeed a great leader, by all accounts, but he was a murderer as well – a glimpse of his past that I am sure he wished was not recorded for us to read. (Exodus 2)
- Rahab definitely acted bravely but is remembered more by her affiliation as a prostitute, the world’s oldest profession. (Joshua 2)
- Samson was a judge known for his physical strength and mighty victories over his enemies even as his moral strength was non-existent and the cause of his eventual downfall. (Judges 16)
- David, the beloved King of Israel, and writer of Psalms – committed adultery, murder and was a pretty horrific parent. (II Samuel 11)
- Daniel, as godly as he was, apparently bowed down to a golden statue. (Daniel 3)
- Peter, the “Rock” of the church denied Christ on more than one occasion. (John 18)
- Thomas, a committed disciple of Christ, doubted his Leader publicly. (John 20)
The truth is, there are Elders at their church who are filled with spiritual pride, Deacons who get drunk and Pastors who look at porn. There are housewives that cheat on their husbands and famous actresses that steal. There are politicians who accept bribes and university coaches who abuse their players. There are writers who plagiarise and speakers who embellish the truth. In short, as great as any of us might be at any given moment – we have glaring weaknesses that accompany our amazing strengths.
I am quite sure that Pastor Rick Warren, author of the “Purpose Driven Life”, leads a purpose driven life. But there is also no doubt that his purpose driven life is grief driven today as he wrestles with the news of his son’s death. It’s easy to talk about book sales and our time with the President. It’s much harder to admit publicly that you need prayer because your son just killed himself. Those who live in the fishbowl of fame don’t mind the eyes on them while they are successful. But the moment they experience failure, most wish to do so privately as if the world doesn’t need to see both sides of life.
This morning I will be getting ready for Church. As occurs most Sundays, I will sit amongst some well dressed, smiling people. People with perfect clothes, perfect families, perfect lives. They all probably got 8 hours of sleep, had a protein rich breakfast and had no problem finding their shoes in their neatly organized closet. Their car, washed yesterday, is full of gas and they sang together, in harmony, as they drove to church. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pew, sits me – fraud free, before the One who loves me in spite of my mess.
What’s your status today? How are you doing really? Be honest with someone, starting with yourself. I’m not suggesting that we all want to see pictures of your bad hair day or hear you rant about your miserable situation. But if I hear one more person tell me how they ran a 4 minute mile or lost 22lbs yesterday from their new diet, I’m going to scream.
That is, after I finish this bag of Cheetos.