I have a running joke with some people in my life that I am actually going to start telling the truth of who I am on my social media sites. When asked what he left out of his memoir Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller jokingly said, “The truth.” Likewise, the same is true with social media. We only post the best parts of our lives, we post the parts of who we want to be with the world. Our social media selves are actual selves we wish to be true. What we project onto the screen is the person we desire to be. I don’t want to start posting Eminem lyrics on my Twitter account. But, I have my Eminem Pandora station on more often than I would admit to the world. Instead, the cool thing is to post lyrics from Bon Iver, because the cool kids all listen to Bon Iver. And, I would never dare share my anxieties, fears, paranoia‘s, and depressions with social media. The part of me is what Carl Jung would call, “The dark side.” The social media self is, to some extent, a lie. A lie to the world, and even a lie to ourselves.
And, so I believe the same is true for most people and their happiness. Most people have a belief that happiness comes through the pursuit of pleasure. I agree with the Christian philosopher J. Budziszewski when he writes this:
“The last time I asked my students, “What is happiness?” the first half-dozen all gave variations on the answer, “Freedom from pain and suffering.” The negative element so filled their eyes that they were completely unable to suggest anything positive that happiness might mean.
“My guess is that students have lived all their young lives in pursuit of pleasure — as the young generally do– but with less restraint from our crumbling conventions than the young have lived their lives in previous generations. Consequently, even at this tender age, they have begun to experience the hedonistic paradox, which usually kicks in much later. He who makes pleasure the object of his life eventually finds that it evaporates: he who fails to distinguish between good and bad pleasures ends in misery. Although my students don’t formulate the paradox explicitly, they feel it in their bones.”
I agree with Thomas Merton when he says, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” But the only person who knows balance, order, rhythm and harmony knows to create a flow of life. To let life come to them and through them. To accept anything and everything in life. We spend so much time resisting our pain, our anxiety, our fears, that it causes us even more pain. As Carl Jung says, “If you resist, it persists.”
Budziszewski says about his students again, “Consequently, their first cheerful idea, that happiness is pleasure, suffers a dark transmutation into the equally naïve, but morbid idea, that happiness is just absence of pain. And that is what they say in my classroom. Not many of them look happy. Each year they have less sense of humor. They show all the signs of exhaustion.”
This idea that happiness is pleasure ruins us. It eliminates the biblical idea that we can find joy in suffering. We believe a lie to us that is ultimately destroys the very thing we seek. And, just like our social media self, we’re living in a narrative that is a lie to our selves.