One evening, an attendee of a lecture of mine approached me and said, “Sarah, I am dating a guy, and he is amazing! He is everything I have been praying for. It is as if G-d took my ‘wish list’ and handed my dream man, wrapped in a bow, to me.”
Her “wish list” was well thought out, more so than most other lists. Often women extol qualities that modern society values. I typically hear the following: “It is a good thing that he is tall, because I hate short guys! His biceps are so sculpted; I melt every time I see him. He also plays tennis on Sunday mornings at the beach club. Did I mention he drives a BMW?”
Everyone can appreciate good looks, sports, and material pleasures but this particular wish list was more meaningful. She felt that he was a true gentleman: caring, considerate, supremely honest, a family guy, and spiritual. “He is Mr. Perfect but there is one problem. It is the problem I find with every perfect guy…The problem is that I just don’t like him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m attracted to him; but I just cannot figure out why I do not like him.”
After thinking about this situation for a moment, I suggested the following: “If this guy truly matches everything you have been praying for, and there seems to be no real reason to break up, then maybe you are afraid to let your guard down and get too close. Perhaps you are afraid that if he really got to know the true you, he may reject you. So, rather than be rejected, you reject him first – a defense mechanism.”
As she listened to this concept, it seemed that I struck a chord in her psyche. “Yes! You are right on target,” she enthusiastically exclaimed.
I remember the first time I ever visited the Facebook website. My sister was living in a different state, and it had felt like an eternity since I had seen pictures of her family. I suggested that she send me pictures via email but she had a different idea: she had me sign onto her Facebook account.
As I scrolled through her pictures, I was struck her seemingly “picture perfect” life. There she was in every picture with a plentitude of friends going out to interesting places. The pictures portrayed her looking like a model. (Of course they did! Everyone only posts the most flattering and exciting pictures!) After I stared at her pictures for a moment, I felt dejected about my own life, which was boring in comparison to my sister’s Facebook “reality.”
But then I realized that this was just her Facebook life; not her real life. At the time, she was a mother of three kids under 5 years old. She was essentially homebound, and her real life was also somewhat mundane. But on Facebook? On Facebook, her life was fabulous!
In the era of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, we are all celebrities. Instead of the play-by-play of Lady Gaga’s life, you can watch the play-by-play of the lives of people you actually know.
It is not uncommon to find the following posting on Facebook/Instagram: “Jenna Smith from Boca Raton, Florida, is now taking her third sip of her mocha latte. 9:33 a.m.” Truthfully, who cares?! But in our generation, this type of “news” is exciting because Facebook has transformed our regular, mundane lives into lives of Facebook celebrities. With a simple click of a mouse, we can all portray ourselves as living picture-perfect lives. On one level, this is tremendously gratifying! Who doesn’t want to look gorgeous and seem perfect? But in truth, this has a detrimental impact on our psyche in general and specifically on our ability to develop profound relationships.
Deep down, we all have that yearning to be placed on a pedestal as that girl (insert: guy), that beautiful, exciting, and perfect girl (guy) – that is what is great about our Instagram and Facebook lives. However, true interpersonal connections are what cause us to thrive in real life. The ultimate relationship is marriage, and to intimately connect with a spouse you need to let your shield of fake perfection down and show your true colors. Marriage is where the real you is revealed – and, honestly, that frightens a lot of us, because this opens up the real possibility of rejection. As a defense mechanism we may settle for counterfeit pleasure, creating a perfect version of ourselves in cyberspace.
We need to take the time to introspect and make a choice: Do we want to share a deep, meaningful existence with our significant others, or do we want someone to “connect” with our pretty face over the internet?
We may fear rejection, but we need to face the fact that we do not get married to Facebook, to pictures, or to a computer screen. We get married to people. We all have insecurities and dark secrets that we fear, if revealed, will ruin our images. This fear is what prevents us from opening up. However, the possibility of not having a real connection in life is even more frightening.
And so, I attest to the world that one of my biggest fears is writing and posting articles on the web, where I open myself up to the potential of an infinite amount of criticism. Truth be told, every time I get up to speak in front of a crowd, I freeze. At such moments, I ask myself if it would be better to remain solitary and keep Hashem’s Torah to myself or to connect with G-d’s children, my siblings.
I choose the latter and take the plunge.