Closer to 30: Observations of a 20-something
Last Monday was my 26th birthday and I'm officially closer to 30 than I am to 20. I land smack dab in the middle of the Millennial generation. I'm young enough to have had a computer in my house since a single-digit age and old enough to have not had my first cell phone until I needed one to call for my ride from golf practice in high school.
It's safe to say I've grown up in an interesting time in our society. Girls (and boys, but I can't speak for them) my age were subject to a whirlwind of influences, pulling us in unimaginable directions in our pre-teen to late teen years. I can recall issues like depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders and self-injury being not only present, but common-place and openly talked about.
Social media use began to skyrocket in my late high school years after Facebook lifted email regulation on its users. For the first time a non-college student could have a Facebook page. Yes, things like MySpace were around long before Facebook, but they lacked an ease of usability that made FB the frontrunner in social media right from the start.
By my college years social media was just a part of life. Real life social dynamics were tightly intertwined with our virtual world, to the point of being inseparable. The way we used social media began to change as well. My high school years were filled with joining the old-school Facebook "groups," hitting the poke button on your best friend's profile three times a day, and playing the games and apps accessible only through Facebook. Facebook cleaned up its user interface in my college years, doing away with the distracting non-social aspects, making it clearly a platform for sharing your thoughts and the details of your life.
It was then that I began to notice more opinionated posts flood my feed as "friends" began getting more comfortable using their timeline as a commentary thread on the latest topics.
And then, sometime not long after I left the college scene and entered the real world, social movements began popping up at a growing pace. Social media has given everyone a voice. It was time to start utilizing the platform as a soap box and take a stand alongside like-minded people, selectively filtering out or blatantly bashing the online opinions that ran against your own.
I'm not here to talk about politics. Far from it. I'm also not here to talk about the evils of social media. I'm here to talk about the underlying theme I've seen in my 26 years alive and what I believe to be at the root of it all, from the emotional and behavioral problems of the teens (and the adults that I've worked with in the fitness industry) to the fragile and defensive opinions of extremists in social movements.
We hear a lot of talk about the unrealistic portrayals of life/body on the internet, as well as the unsavory content that can find its way onto any screen. We know that we all spend far too much time online, and the quality of our actual lives suffers as a result. We attribute the concerning number of eating disorders to influences on apps like Instagram, and a number of acts of infidelity to platforms like Facebook and SnapChat. We point a finger at technology for most of our problems. And yes, I believe that's justifiable. But do you know what else I believe? I believe it does absolutely nothing.
The problems that the digital age have given rise to are symptoms, spending all of our time focusing on those gets us no where. Wiping the blood off your skin does nothing to stop the bleeding. Social media isn't going anywhere any time soon, so it's time we break out the tourniquet.
Social media disconnects us from the moment. That we all know. But do we realize what is in the moment that's also taken from us? Grace. It's only when we're connected to ourselves and to the present moment that we can fully experience the phenomenon of grace and watch it become the reality of our lives. We love to entertain the idea of multitasking but the truth is simple: we as humans have a one-track mind. Either we are present now or we are not. If we are dialed in, we are tuned out.
I'm not quite sure if there is anything more beautiful to me in this life than the gift of grace. Grace is the knowledge of a greater Presence and an acceptance of divine favor. Grace is acknowledging the innate brokenness of man and the need for forgiveness. Grace requires humility in order to accept it, but gives rise to a quiet and steadfast courage. Grace reassures us of our "enoughness" and gives us the ability to see the same value in others. Grace does away with belittling and makes way for respect. Grace hits the brakes on the rat race and offers contentment and peace. Grace erases fear and instills joy in its place. Grace removes anger and gives rise to wisdom and discernment. Grace fixes our sights on what is above, pulling us up with dignity in the process.
Women, girls - don't forget your grace.
Grace is like the filament in a light bulb, carrying the current that creates the light that shines from within. We are enough just as we were created, and the world needs us to be strong in who we are. There is no place for anger or aggression in asking for respect, nor do you need affirmation from another to recognize your value. The opinions of others are as weightless as a leaf in the Autumn wind; don't underestimate the gravity of your existence.
Stay grounded in grace and keep your eyes above the horizon of society. As Carol has so often reminded me, we may be in this culture, but we don't have to be of it. Get on social media but don't for a second forget what is at risk. Don't forget your grace.