I’m going to start with vanity, in particular, with the vanity reel. We all know well the vanity-reel. It’s the social resume you have created for yourself. It’s your Hollywood description. You cleverly sum yourself up in your “about” portion of your Facebook profile. You carefully monitor the pictures you are tagged or not tagged in. You get annoyed when you know there are pictures out there that haven’t been posted yet (I know, trust me, that’s been me a million times.) You look back over your timeline when you’re bored and wonder to yourself what people think of you. You get anxious about the fact that you only have 800 Facebook friends (oh the horror!) and 80 percent are from your high school. Pictures can’t be taken in the moment anymore. They have to be set up for. They have to be planned and posed. They have to be edited and sent through an Instagram filter so your spontaneous but not-so-spontaneous moment looks even more perfect and glamorous. And then, of course, you have to add to it the cleverest of captions and hashtags so you make sure your life has some overarching one to two-word takeaway description that people can remember and be jealous of. It’s the vanity-reel. And we all have one. And it makes us all, for the most part, anxious, and it decreases our satisfaction with life.
But here’s the thing. The vanity reel, like all mechanisms of human weakness, is not a new thing. It just used to be less a part of our lives and harder to tap into. It used to be the pictures in your photo album people saw when they came for dinner. It used to be your high school yearbook. But now it’s all day every day. Now it invades every single minute of your life. We have the complexes of celebrities. Paparazzi surrounds us constantly. For the extreme users, every meal, every activity, every outfit is caught by the self-inflicted paparazzi. And so everything is agonized over. Everything is seen through the lens of vanity. Everything is judged according to how it will look on the vanity reel.
We have to escape from its clutches. There is nothing wrong with sharing life and photos and thoughts– these are good things. But we can’t let the vanity reel run our lives. We have to do what the sane people in Hollywood do. We have to stop letting the paparazzi follow us around. Doing this, however, means practicing some good old self-discipline. It means personal virtue. We have to consciously choose to choose things for the sake of themselves. We have to consciously choose to choose things without thinking of how it would look Instagramed. We have to treat every thought that begins with “but what will people think?” as an invasive and harmful thought. We have to treat it like an alcoholic treats alcohol. We are vanity addicts. And we’re never going to quit unless we are proactive. So don’t entertain the thoughts. Don’t entertain the worries and the obsessions. Don’t ever get or buy or eat or wear or do something because it will look good on your social media. And if that’s why you’re doing it- stop. Don’t take pictures because you are posting them. If that’s the only reason you are taking the picture, stop. You’re probably missing all the fun of the night because you’re so busy posing anyway. Post the pictures, post the statuses after the fact beacuse you truly believe that the content is worth sharing with your friends. But the sharing should always, always, always, be an after thought and should not run anything in your life.
In the end, you run your life. You choose what you do. You can make it beautiful and wonderful and fun and full of love and life and laughter. But if you’re too busy writing those adjectives as captions and if you’re too busy worrying about if people really believe those captions and if you’re too busy worrying about if you even believe them, then you’re not living them at all. You don’t have to stop posting. You don’t have to get off Facebook. The vanity reel is a part of life. You have the choice to not let it make you vain. You have the choice to let it be an opportunity for sharing something good. Something that’s good because you took the time to let it be good and weren’t too busy worrying about how it looked.