what her profile picture won't tell you

the story behind her facebook profile picture, having compassion in the age of social media, a christian perspective on facebook

A quick scroll though the newsfeed. A like here. An eye-roll there. Another status update. Another picture.

We become numb to it all. And we keep scrolling.

And we forget. We forget the breathing, real-life people behind the snapshots in those little boxes. And most importantly, we forget their stories.

And you guys, this is a tragedy. Because behind our screens, behind each little box with a face, is someone living their story. A story full of much more color and depth and highs and lows than pixels can show. A story that deserves so much more than a cursory glance and a quick judgment from the safety of our iPhones.

There’s no guidebook on how to do social media well. How do we interact in authentic community in the Internet world? How do we process in the constant stream of information and images?

And how do we stop passively consuming others’ online lives as personal entertainment, a cheap hit of gratification we can do in the privacy of our own homes, high on our private thrones?

We’re a generation wading in new waters. And we have to be so cautious not to be swept away in the tidal waves of technology. In tidal waves of passivity and judgment and a false sense of omniscience.

I think we gain our footing when we remember the people behind the profile picture. When we recognize that these online personas we’re seeing are just a 2D glimpse of something much bigger.

Because that picture of the smiling young professional doesn’t tell you that she suffered a miscarriage, and nothing seems to take her emptiness away.

Because that picture of the smiling young family doesn’t tell you that a spouse was unfaithful, and everything seems to be unraveling.

Because that picture of the smiling college student doesn’t tell you that he struggles with self harm and every day is a fight to keep it together.

Because that picture of the smiling older woman doesn’t tell you that when her husband passed away, she never imagined that her heart would leave with him.

Because that picture of the smiling executive doesn’t tell you that he can’t seem to put the bottle down, and it’s wrecking his relationships.

Because that picture of the smiling friend, former classmate, coworker, family member, acquaintance? There’s a story. There’s always a story.

Our lives are full of depth, colored with peaks and valleys that no amount of status updates or profile pictures can possibly begin to tackle.

So the next time we get annoyed or frustrated or find ourselves shaping judgements about someone based on their online personas, let’s scale it back. Let’s replace cynicism with compassion.

Let’s remember his story. Her story. And let’s remember that we don’t always know the story, either.

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