You are not a two inch photo on a cracked phone screen.
You are not a Facebook status.
You are not an Instagram selfie.
You are not a cleverly-written, 140 character tweet.
You are not just the girl with a wine glass in her profile photo.
You are not just the guy with a skateboard and a crooked smile.
And you are not defined by your social media alone.
People don’t know you just because they see you on the internet, just because they’ve liked your latest post or commented on a status.
They don’t know you solely because they matched with you on Tinder, or they agree wholeheartedly with an article link you shared, or even if the two of you messaged back and forth for a few weeks.
You are not defined by your image on the internet; you are not only the pictures you post and the things you write.
There is so much more to you than that.
You are a person who works hard at a long day job or overnight shift, who trudges forward even with a headache, or a father in the hospital, or a sister battling anorexia.
You are someone who returns to a house full of kids at the end of the day, who has a mother who passed away, who is a single parent, a student in her final weeks, or a man sore from a long, collegiate practice.
Whoever you are is not defined by a photo, a caption, or a two-sentence bio.
Someone cannot look at your profile and know who you are. They can’t see the struggles you’ve faced, the battles you’ve overcome, the terrible and wonderful things that have happened to you.
They don’t know your pain; they don’t know your triumph.
They don’t know that you are tougher and smarter than you look, or that you’re raging a mini-war against inner demons, or that you’re jumping for joy because you just accepted a job offer you’d always dreamed of.
Words and photos on a website cannot tell people all these things.
Your social media page cannot tell the beautifully crafted story of your life and of who you are. It cannot define you. And it cannot perfectly represent you.
So don’t let it.
Don’t let the internet be the source of your happiness, or the measure of who you have become. Don’t let people believe that you are solely the person they see on their computers, on their phones.
You don’t have to put up a façade. You don’t have to pretend that you always have your life in order and that things are always as they should be.
You don’t have to show the world your selfies but not yourself.
We live in a world where the internet is our means of expression, where social media has been a source of both communication and comfort, where we lean into these images and posts to help us discover ourselves and discover others like us.
But who we are on a screen is so much more one-dimensional than who we are in person.
And you don’t have to be afraid to be who you are. Who you are off the internet.
In person, we are complex and broken and misshapen and truly wonderful. We are real people with real desires and real heartbeats. We are all scared of something, all hopeful, all learning and growing every single day.
And this cannot be discovered through a pixelated image, through a Facebook post, through a tweet, through a back-and-forth stream of online messages.
It can only be discovered in face-to-face conversation, in real-time interaction, in hand-holding and eye contact, in smiles and deep conversations about things that matter.
So God bless social media for the way it has built us, shaped us, allowed us to flourish and grow and connect with people all over the world. But when it comes to living our lives, to finding love, to connecting with others in real life, please set it aside.
Because who you are isn’t just who you are on the internet.
I promise, you are so much more.