49 likes was about 40 too many

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“I have a friend who” is the classic little white lie people tell when they don’t want to admit that they are talking about themselves. A young boy goes to his teacher. “Miss Jones, my buddy gets beat up by his big sister every night, and his parents won’t do anything about it.” Someone goes to a minister. “My next-door neighbor is struggling with an attraction to someone other than his wife. What advice should I give him?” (And we all know that it throws people off the trail even better if we make our friend’s gender the opposite of our own, right?)

My friend recently opened his Instagram account to discover 49 new “likes” – an extraordinarily high number and the most he’s ever seen at one time in his notifications. He thought, “What is going on with this?” It was out of pattern. You see, he has only 225 followers, and his posts (albethey pretty posts often punctuated with popular and clever hashtags) about nature and travel and food and old movies and pets and random observations about interesting concepts just doesn’t normally rake in high numbers of likes, comments, and shares.

So, what did my friend do? He skimmed through that string of notifications and discovered that all of the new likes were from one account, an unknown account. That account had not only liked 49 posts, but also commented on two or three of them. “This is great artwork!” “Nice sunset picture.” The attentive account with a name similar to akov4Art has a profile description: “Art by so-and-so. Murals. Prints. Portraits. Here’s how to contact me…” Clearly, whoever this is is on Instagram to sell stuff. You’ve figured out by now, of course, that “my friend” is actually myself. I thought for a few moments, then deliberately sought out the options that include “Block.” Cutting off that access was my considered response to what ostensibly was a flattering and encouraging social media connection. “Nope,” I decided. “You’re selling, and I am not buying.” A little flattery might have gotten me. Nine likes, perhaps. But not forty-nine. Sometimes, we need to pay more attention to our own standards than to what someone else is telling us.

Sure, I would love to have a letter “K” behind the numerals that show how many followers I have on social media. Wouldn’t you? Don’t most of us think our content is super awesome, and that’s why we post it to begin with? But, reality check: there are millions upon millions of other folks just like us out there competing for followers, and most of us are posting stuff that’s merely average. So, based on my present pursuits and priorities, I neither expect nor aspire to acquire thousands of social media admirers.

Back to my friend for a sec. He’s drawing a parallel here from personal experience. He’d like the world to know that his life became a lot healthier after he realized the utter futility of basing his self-approval on how much approval and interest he could detect (or incite?) from the people along his daily path. He believes the social media phenomenon – in spite of all the positive ways it can involve us – is the latest, greatest way the world is teaching us and our children to depend, to a more unhealthy extent than we would do naturally, on the affirmation and accolades of other people. “If I don’t get enough likes on my photo or at least a few sympathetic comments on this rant, I’m not good enough; my talents are not appreciated; my opinions are not validated. I need validation. I need it every day.”

Psalm 139:114 can help us to understand what I say in my final paragraph, below this one, especially with the emphasis I have placed on certain words: “I will praise THEE; for I am fearfully and WONDERFULLY MADE; MARVELOUS are THY works”. See how this fits together? We are God’s crowning creation, wonderful and marvelous – but because He made us so; we didn’t do that ourselves!

The best way to value yourself more highly is to value God highest of all. Why? Because He will make you your best self. He will exalt you. He will defend you. The more you trust in Him, the more you will discover why He rates that trust. Yes, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually we need validation. We need it every day. I plan to continue getting my validation from the right Source. I hope you will do the same.

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