I am most certainly sure that this is one of the areas that we justify or be even get offended when being called out. Before we get too far ahead, let’s define what vanity is. Vanity is excessive admiration of one's self-appearance or achievements. It also includes the excessive yearning to be admired by others. Based on the previous definition and considering our Lord’s commandment, is vanity ok? Is it fair for those of us who are striving to be Christ's followers? In this writing, we mainly will focus on social media influence in propagating vanity.
Nowadays we are all becoming an addict of self-conceit. If you want proof, check the hours you’ve spent on social media to check the likes and views of your recent posts or story. Also, what is the first thing that comes to our mind when an appetizing/presentable meal is in front of us? Is it prayer or taking a picture or video to post on our social media pages what we’re going to eat? When it even comes to spirituality, what is our instant reaction when we read or hear inspiring words? Is it to post it on our social media or to contemplate on the Word of God? We can over spiritualize it by saying “it’s to benefit others...” but in truth we yearn for that “likes” and “views.” To see how this is more than just a social media timeline and how it is emotionally inducing; how would it make us feel emotionally if we post a picture that we think is great but didn’t get any likes? How many times have we taken pictures wearing that new cloth, with that new hairstyle, or with a new fresh hair cut or shave (even for guys) for the sake of being admired by others? Isn’t that excessive craving of attention concerning our flesh that eventually turn to be dust a vanity? I believe this has become a silent killer of our spiritual progress; especially for the young generation. How?
It drives us to focus on the opinion of others and outward appearance rather than our inner soul and God.
When we rely on another peoples’ opinion about our appearance, we will forget to worry about our inner self and what God sees. See, fleshly appeals have an expiration date. Either it could be because the world is always looking for the next glamour which is our fallen nature to be wearied of all fleshly perceivable excitements after a while. Or maybe because we eventually age. In any case, if we are not taking this to our hearts, we labor to get acceptance by others. We are always trying to follow the world’s trend- the media. When we are young, we want to look older to be acceptable. When we get closer to our late twenties, we feel somewhat down when thinking about our age, the way we look, and our appearance. How many hours of our day do we spend standing in front of a mirror taking pictures of our self through the reflection, checking the status of how many likes we’ve gotten or even “liking” other peoples pictures? Without knowing it, we are chained by the likes and dislikes of social media, which in turn affects our behavior. Most anxieties and self-loathing are a result of such extreme reliance on the opinion of others. Now, imagine how righteous we would be if we take the same amount of time to look and worry about the appearance of our soul. If we are seeing God’s words through the mirror or whether we are making progress in our spiritual walk with God. Same way that we toil to take different pictures from the different angles –countless times, how about we take time to evaluate our spiritual appearance in Gods eye and ask ourselves whether it saddens our heavenly Father. What would happen if we look for the next spiritual challenge instead of the next trend of haircut? The same way we give so much time to social media and what others have to comment about what we ate that day, or how many likes we’ve received from our latest post; imagine how a bright light we would be for the world, if we frequently clean our soul through confession and communion with God.
Vanity forces us to focus on exhausting our effort to conform and alter our perception of God
Vanity is the mother of conformity- that is to conform to what the world thinks is great for you. We fail to believe that God created us uniquely and that he has a unique purpose in our life. When we are excessively concern about who we should look like appearance wise, we neglect whom we should supposed to imitate. In 1st Cor. 11:1, St. Paul tells us to imitate him as he imitated Christ. And such kind of imitation is of good deed and imitation of the purified soul. Not outward appearance. We need to believe that we all have different and beautiful outward appearance in the eyes of our Lord. Which means God has a plan for each of us to achieve while we are in this world. However, vanity subconsciously tells us that unless we look like so and so, unless we dress like that celebrity and unless we have a career like all the rest of so and so; that we are worthless. This in turn not only hurt us physically and socially, but also changes our view of God and how He sees us. We need to understand that God weighs and rewards our spiritual pursuance individually and uniquely based on our talent without comparing us. Therefore “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
Vanity leads us to make comments on everything and compliment in everything instead of self-reflection.
Another damage of being excessively worrying about our looks and approval seeking in social media is our uncontrolled urge to comment on everything. What do you think the likes and dislikes are training us to be? We will lose the character of holding something to ourselves but sharing everything and an entitlement to know everything. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 2, we learn a very valuable quality of our Holy Mother Virgin Mary. Even when she saw the divine mystery being incarnated from her and concerning most of the unexplainable incidents in her life, she used it to keep it in her heart. We are in this twisted loop of in need of others acceptance and our uncontrolled urge of liking, disliking and commenting on others people’s lives. Where is a room for self-reflection then? Which means instead of showing others what we have done telling ourselves if it is the right thing that we did. We should count how many times we’ve regretted on the things that we have said...especially on social media as a result of not self-examining first. Our Lord Jesus Christ said it in this way, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” Mat 12:36 or in this case comment. We ought to train ourselves not be concerned in everything but only concerned on one thing, which is our salvation.
During this fast may God help us to focus on ourselves and turn off all outside noise to seek Him which is in us through the work of the Holy Spirit.