Over quoted, but perhaps under-appreciated, Jane Austen’s eloquent description of pride and vanity aptly applies to our present social media infused, self-saturated world.
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us.”
Case in point: To stand proud and firm in truth is admirable. To stand akimbo seeking constant assurance is deplorable.
The cultural relevancy of Jane Austen’s comparative statement will remain a timeless truth as it speaks to that which we already know of human nature. Yet what makes it most intriguing at the present time is that we are currently seeing that facet of human nature exposed on a scale we’ve never had the ability to witness or to know. What’s clear is that where there’s sanity, you won’t find vanity – but what you will find is an atrocity. An atrocity exposing humanity’s greatest weakness and greatest strength – our ability to succumb to the very perception of what is required to survive in any environment.
The well-known Christian song, “Hosanna,” echoes the pace of life and essence of living in God’s true light through life. One of the more profound verses of the song relays the following: “I see a generation, rising up to take their place, with selfless faith…with selfless faith…with selfless faith…”
The song is a powerful reminder of the power of faith and creates an image of a unified generation rising up to quell the tide of false morality and bring Christ’s message and humble servitude to the world. However, the conundrum of the entire preface of this song is that though there certainly is a part of that generation unified in Christ, that same generation is as splintered and divided as ever when it comes to social norms, physical beauty, acceptable careers, ideas, work ethics, fashion, food, color preferences, political ideologies, and the infinite haze of tempting recreational activities. Perpetrated by ease of access to information, continuous newspeak, digitized communication, and picture-frame-fantasy lives, it’s only so long before vanity becomes a priority and the creeping madness of insanity sets in.
Thus the question remains,
“What shape is it that this amorphous generation wants to take?
Or better yet, does this generation have to take any shape at all?”
This question can be uniquely contemplated through the lens of self-assurance and vanity. As previously stated, in a generation repressed by instantaneous fame, digital dependency, deficits regarding interpersonal communication skills, an inability to think without merely googling a phony answer to something, this amorphous conglomerate of people appears at times to want nothing less than to imbibe the very shape of vanity – in whatever form that may come and on whatever day, in whatever time, and in whatever way. But where does this most often leave a young adult? Lost? Fearing failure? Attempting to unnecessarily compete and keep up in a world that’s professing fame through popular hashtags or endless brag-tags (brag-tags being what I like to call tweets or posts in which the writer tags himself/herself or friends, family, etc. to show off or brag about a life event or something designed to bolster personal self-esteem) and embellished realities? Yet with this mentality does substance of any matter ever come to fruition? Does anything ultimately have meaning? Or does only vanity equate to a lusted after goal or ambition of falsely guaranteed happiness?
A direct answer may be left to be determined, while on the other hand, the less caustic stance on this matter might eagerly state that in their efforts to balance on the teetering ledge between vanity and insanity, there’s a place where individuals are forced to stop and grasp for air. Grasping for air alluding to the irony of the idea that when overloaded by constant information individuals feel suffocated and so must detach themselves to then seek attention or fulfillment elsewhere. And then through a combination of self-discovery through vanity coupled with facebook playoffs between friends and their ‘I’ll one-up you’ drama fests, there lies within our media saturated world a profound desire to create. To bring forth something new. To share ideas. To build off ideas of others. To start meaningful conversations. To seek truth behind lies. To tell stories. To learn. To comparatively know about the lives of others and uncover hidden truths. To want to become something not just someone. And maybe, just maybe – that’s not all so bad. Sure, if it’s vain it still might bring pain. But with the immeasurable human capacity to synthesize, analyze, and categorize our very lives through the many channels of our now hyper-processing brains, the very fact that we are still wanting, needing, and forcing thought in all forms and through multiple venues might just be the very thing in the end that keeps us all sane.
But what truly happens when fantasy never does become reality? If we recognize that our propped up self-image is merely an empty hologram of human life? A personal human hologram? If nothing else – that’s worth pondering. Of course, the intangibles will always be there, but when we live our lives through an amorphous lens, we risk falling into the trap that nothing will ever be real, can ever become real to us, and no amount of bafflegab about the vanity of our lives will ever steer us towards a rightful truth.
Let’s let go of the brag-tags and erroneous drabble about puppies and kittens and personal achievements that symbolize the likeness of pretentious exhibition ribbons or a “good for you” pat on the back.
Step outside of that realm. Take a challenge this week. Turn off your phone. Stop texting. Engage in conversations with humans outside of a digital platform. Bake cookies without taking a picture of them. Go share them with your neighbor. But keep in mind no one needs to hashtag know where you are doing you’re #everydayaltruism good deed. Then take intentional time and talk to that neighbor. Shake their hand. Ask about their life. Practice friendship. Practice life.
Whatever you do, remember this: Create your shape. But don’t do it for others. Don’t do it for vanity. Don’t seek approval and assurance. Seek truth and learn pride. Humble pride. It’s one of the most attractive qualities we innately crave to see in others so we may proceed to learn and mirror that very pride ourselves.
SO PUT THE PHONE DOWN.
TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER.
PLAY AWAY FROM THE INFLUENCE OF ANY SORT OF SCREEN.
CREATE. NURTURE. RENEW. FIND YOU.
DETACH MOMENTARILY FROM THE VACUUM OF VANITY.
And find yourself in the sanctity of sanity.