Beauty, Image, Approval, and Social Media

Image is everything.”  While most of us might not agree with that phrase, we still get caught up in the image game.  We want others to like us, approve of us, think we’re great, and admire our talent, body, and looks.  Even Christians can fall into the trap of believing our value and identity is based on what other people think of us.  This is one reason why we suffer from eating disorders, become addicted to exercise, always try the latest fad diet, spend much time in front of the mirror, and count calories like it’s a religion.  Social media also throws fuel on this fire.  Jennifer Strickland does a good job of explaining this for teenage girls, but her words are applicable to anyone who is fixated on image and approval:

“For lots of girls in search of approval – and especially those who have suffered rejection – something twisted can happen.  They can begin to think their likability is related to their online image.  They can begin to place value on the number of likes or even ratings others put on their images.  They can keep switching their profile picture in hopes of getting more attention, and when they get older they try sexy shots to earn approval.  Now that little girl who ran around in princess crowns and gowns is posing like a Victoria’s Secret model and everyone is rating her photos.  ‘Aren’t you gorgeous!’

“…’My page is just for my friends,’ young women cry!  I’m sorry, but no one has 358 friends.  I have fifty, max.  Twenty good friends.  Ten who are super special.  Five, max, who are so close I would share almost anything with them.  And if I had a sleepover with those five, only two or three would actually sit with me and look at all the pictures in my album, and they would only do that because they really love me, not because they want to see every single one.”

“I realize many young women are wise with how they craft their social media pages.  But I also realize that far too many young women are obsessed with their own image.  When I was a young model, I was obsessed with my own image too.  I know how to make a diagnosis about this because I had the sickness!”

“What we see on the screen can be very deceptive.  On the surface we see what looks like an online photo album or a fun way to share pictures or connect with friends.  But beneath that veneer, trouble can be brewing.  If a girl gets a text or is notified every time someone likes her picture or approves of her post, that’s bad.  Because every time you get a text, you are interrupted.  You don’t need to be constantly interrupted from your activities and time with loved ones to be told someone liked your picture or agreed with your thought.  No wonder so many women are on a roller-coaster ride; no wonder they have image problems.  Social media isn’t just a way for people to connect; let’s not be that naive.  It’s also a way for kids to instantly and constantly approve and disapprove of one another.”

“If you are changing your profile picture constantly, you probably need to focus on something other than yourself.”

Again, these things are also applicable to teenage boys as well as grown men and women.  I’ve been studying this topic a bit lately, and I appreciate Strickland’s helpful observations on beauty, approval, and image.  She’s quite wise when it comes to this topic since she struggled mightily with these problems herself.  I’ve edited the above quotes for length, but you can find the entire discussion on pages 119-120 of More Beautiful Than You Know.

{Note: I do have some concerns about the theology in this book; for example, Strickland sometimes writes words to the readers as if God/Jesus were speaking them. I’m uncomfortable with that.  In my view, the practical side of this book is very helpful, the biblical/doctrinal side – not as much.}

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015