Who else remembers looking for the toothpick when the Taste of Home Magazine came in the mail? And who else thought those themed kitchens (apple-cow-chicken) were absolutely beautiful? And did anybody else argue with their siblings over whose birth month picture was prettiest in those calendars that came in the mail?
Before the internet was really a thing, peeks into the greater world were rare, coming in the mail or through the paper. Life, as you knew it, mainly happened in the geographical area around you. Influences were greatest from those with whom you shared life.
Some of my girlfriends from school were fortunate enough to live by a graveyard and got to decorate their rooms with discarded floral arrangements. To me, they were practically living by Target. Since there were no discarded flower piles near my house, I had to forage the trinket tables at yard sales to decorate my room, spending my change on doilies and candles.
In my childish eyes, I lived in a beautiful home. Country blue and rose were my mom’s favorite colors so she incorporated them in billowing, ruffly curtains in the living room and in hand-crafted wall decor and accessories.
Life was pretty simple. We lived in normal houses, ate normal food, did normal things.
And then the internet happened. And life, as we knew it, was forever changed. I was listening to a Ted talk the other day and the speaker said the following, ” the internet gave us access to everything, but it also gave everything access to us.” This written statement looks flat and cliche, but if you read it out loud with a British accent, it packs a bigger punch. I was really touched, but I digress.
See, when we got the internet, the Jones’ went global. With a few clicks of your computer mouse, you can see the living room in a home in Washington, the wardrobe of someone in Texas, and what a housewife in Alaska purchased at the grocery store. Companies have taken notice and now partner with influential social media users on Instagram, Youtube, etc to promote their products, because they understand the power of suggestion and the appeal of popularity. So now, in the simple scrolling of Pinterest, or looking up something on Youtube, we are being hit with ads promoting products that we “need” or surely, at least want. That is the commercial side of consumerism on social media.
What hits closer to home for many of us is not the pushy, flashy ads, but the quiet, day to day posts about daily life from our friends or people with whom we share interests and tastes. Each platform has its circle of influential people, and we all know who it is in our feeds. The ones who get the most likes, who know how to style their content and get the best angles for their pictures. These people are often quite nice, lovely people, but because of a particular skill or talent, whatever they do or have is likely to become popular. This is how trends form, and these trends are quite likely to impact everyone.
Here’s a fun exercise: Stop reading and grab a pen and paper. Quickly list three things that are popular right now in home decor.
Now consider if you have ever seen the items on your list in real life. If you haven’t, then you have just witnessed the power of social media. Constantly being exposed to the ever changing trends can easily wear down our contentment. Comparison and resentment can easily set it, and our joy leaves.
We are responsible, as ladies, for our own actions. If we struggle with discontentment in our social media interactions, lets own in and take appropriate action. Maybe it means taking a break, or unfollowing the accounts that tempt us to covet. Maybe it means cancelling our subscription to the Magnolia Journal or Ikea’s catalog.
We are responsible, as well, for how we portray ourselves. There is a growing circle of creatives, those who are more naturally interested and talented in the arts- music, typography, painting, design, etc. I play around in some of these hobbies and understand that part of the joy of creating is in the expression. Mozart gifted us with music, and Longfellow with poetry, and today we too give our offerings.
But as a creator, I struggle with knowing what is the appropriate sharing of these offerings, and what is showing off. Its tempting to cloak the offerings in Bible verses or inspirational thoughts to somehow validate them, but it doesn’t really work. The carefully styled photo of my living room captioned with a simple Bible verse? The comment section is more likely to blow up with people wanting to know where I purchased my curtains, than exclaiming how good God is. My guess is if I really wanted to portray God’s greatness, an unedited sunset picture would work better.
I fear sometimes, that we creatives linger too long at the altar of beauty. Beauty has become the thing, the pursuit, the justification for how we spend our time and money. I wonder sometimes if it has become the object of worship instead of the means to it. I wonder, because I’ve struggled with it, and with my own heart.
It is somewhere in this tension that ladies struggle with contentment. I’ve talked to you, I’ve heard the despair. We struggle when it looks so perfect and so effortless, wishing we could be the same way, live the same life.
This piece has been incredibly difficult to write. I’ve written, erased, and rewritten more times than I’d like to count. I know we all want both our physical and virtual worlds to be places of growth, of encouragement and of building each other up. I found a few beautiful verses from Scripture that spoke this to me:
“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23
Ladies, the privilege of knowing and understanding a God who delights in steadfast love makes us some of the richest people in the world. Living in the extravagance and responsibility of that love is one of the best safeguards for the struggle with consumerism.
So, do I really need those new curtains?