The Facebook Fraud

I have a confession to make.

I have deceived you, my readers, friends and family. I’d like to say it was the first time I have ever done this, but unfortunately it is not.  In fact, if I were to be truly honest, I’d have to admit I deceive you more times than I don’t.  What I did is done every day by literally millions of people. You have probably done it too. That makes me feel better. It doesn’t make it right, it just makes it rampant. Like speeding on the expressway, this deceit is done so many times by so many we have almost forgotten how bad it is. And sadly, it perpetuates a myth that is as strong as a fairy tale and wrong as a white-collar crime.

What did I do? I call it the Facebook Fraud though it doesn’t need Facebook or even the internet to exist.  What Adam & Eve began in the garden, we still do today – covering up the truth and pretending we are in better shape than we are.   They used fig leaves.  We use Facebook.   It’s deceitful at its core.   Simply defined, the Facebook Fraud is this:

facebook fraud pic“The act of posting something on Facebook (a picture or status update) that leads others to believe your life is better than it really is.”

The reality is, these days – I’m having the struggle of my life.   On every level, on most every day – I’m hurting and can’t seem to catch my breath.   Only a precious few know this, however, since the majority of people out there only know me from what they see me post.  Like you, I tend to only post positive things or things that make me look good.   My rationale is this – who wants to read about my actual, depressing day?   In the spirit of Colossians 3:2, I try to set my mind on “things above” even if I spend most of my days struggling with “earthly things.”  If you’re honest, I have a feeling you do this too.  I mean, could it be possible that as I glance at my news feed and look at the pictures of my hundreds of friends that everyone is living their “best life now” like they portray and I’m the only one struggling?   I don’t think so.

shirt_plate_cheetos

Not me… but sometimes I feel like this. 🙂

Whereas the town drunk wears his miserable existence on his sleeve, the rest of us are able to create the image we want others to see.   Like slick marketers, we post happy pictures.  As sophisticated public relation professionals, we post pictures of our latest success.   How many times have I read how many miles someone ran that day while I sit on my couch with a bag of Cheetos?   Did they really run all 10 miles?  How come I didn’t post a picture of me with the Cheetos on the couch?  How come we don’t read status updates like:

“Got up to run 4 miles today but only ran to my mailbox.  I then jogged about a mile stopping every 100 yards to breathe.  The next 2 miles I crawled with my lips.  Finally had to be picked up and driven home.   On the way back, stopped at Chick-Fil-A for a milkshake.”

Are we being honest with our public persona?  Is your husband really that loving all the time or do you just want us to think he is?  Are your kids really that obedient and sweet?  Do you really look like the picture you just posted of yourself, in the right lighting, from the right angle?   Is your house that clean normally or only before you have guests over?

Are we being real or honest about our life?   If our offline life is a mess, why do we pretend its successful online?   How come we don’t post pictures of the cake we baked that did not turn out right the first time?   How come we don’t post pictures of the bank overdraft statement we just received?   How come we don’t show video clips of what our kids room really looks like?   How come we don’t include shots of bad hair days?   Where are the photos of us looking overweight and with bad posture?   We are quick to show the award we just received at work, but forgot to mention the speeding ticket we received on the way.

One of the inerrant problems with Facebook or our online media presence is that (for the most part) we are the sole overseers of what is posted.   You only know what I want you to know about me.   You only see what I want you to see.  Only our “friends” have access to our page.   Only those who love us can comment on our stuff.   And in the event that something is said that paints a different picture than what we desire, we can immediately delete it.

Recently, I wrote a blog entry that was read by a former friend, vocal about their disdain for me.  I was actually impressed that a declared hater would read anything I wrote.   I know this person read it because of the nasty comment that was left for me, on the blog.  As the creator and moderator of my blog, I can choose whether I want the comment to be approved and visible or simply deleted.  I was actually tempted to leave it because it was refreshing to receive an honest opinion from someone on the other side.  In the end, I decided to delete it as the comments barely focused on the content of the blog and was designed to be a personal attack against me.   As I read their venomous comment, I was reminded of the value of them.   I thought, “Not everyone likes you, Rod.  Not everyone thinks your writing is great.   Not everyone allows you to get away with the fraud.” 

This is one of the reasons why I appreciate the Bible.   God does not allow the characters mentioned in it to have access to their image.  A person’s life, in the Scriptures, runs the gammut of the good, the bad & the ugly.   Few mentioned in its pages come out squeaky clean.

  • Noah built an amazing structure called the Ark and saved his family from destruction.  3 chapters later he lies naked, drunk in his tent.  (Genesis 9)
  • Abraham was certainly a man of great faith but God also includes how he was a chronic liar. (Genesis 12)
  • Lot was considered righteous and yet he offers up his own daughters sexually to evil men. (Genesis 19)
  • Jacob may have been the father of the nation of Israel, but God makes sure his deception is well documented. (Genesis 27)
  • Moses was indeed a great leader, by all accounts, but he was a murderer as well – a glimpse of his past that I am sure he wished was not recorded for us to read.  (Exodus 2)
  • Rahab definitely acted bravely but is remembered more by her affiliation as a prostitute, the world’s oldest profession.  (Joshua 2)
  • Samson was a judge known for his physical strength and mighty victories over his enemies even as his moral strength was non-existent and the cause of his eventual downfall.  (Judges 16)
  • David, the beloved King of Israel, and writer of Psalms – committed adultery, murder and was a pretty horrific parent.  (II Samuel 11)
  • Daniel, as godly as he was, apparently bowed down to a golden statue.  (Daniel 3)
  • Peter, the “Rock” of the church denied Christ on more than one occasion. (John 18)
  • Thomas, a committed disciple of Christ, doubted his Leader publicly.  (John 20)

The truth is, there are Elders at their church who are filled with spiritual pride, Deacons who get drunk and Pastors who look at porn.  There are housewives that cheat on their husbands and famous actresses that steal.   There are politicians who accept bribes and university coaches who abuse their players.  There are writers who plagiarise and speakers who embellish the truth.   In short, as great as any of us might be at any given moment – we have glaring weaknesses that accompany our amazing strengths.

I am quite sure that Pastor Rick Warren, author of the “Purpose Driven Life”, leads a purpose driven life.   But there is also no doubt that his purpose driven life is grief driven today as he wrestles with the news of his son’s death.   It’s easy to talk about book sales and our time with the President.  It’s much harder to admit publicly that you need prayer because your son just killed himself.   Those who live in the fishbowl of fame don’t mind the eyes on them while they are successful.  But the moment they experience failure, most wish to do so privately as if the world doesn’t need to see both sides of life.

This morning I will be getting ready for Church.  As occurs most Sundays, I will sit amongst some well dressed, smiling people.   People with perfect clothes, perfect families, perfect lives.   They all probably got 8 hours of sleep, had a protein rich breakfast and had no problem finding their shoes in their neatly organized closet.   Their car, washed yesterday, is full of gas and they sang together, in harmony, as they drove to church.   Meanwhile, at the other end of the pew, sits me – fraud free, before the One who loves me in spite of my mess.

What’s your status today?  How are you doing really?   Be honest with someone, starting with yourself.    I’m not suggesting that we all want to see pictures of your bad hair day or hear you rant about your miserable situation.   But if I hear one more person tell me how they ran a 4 minute mile or lost 22lbs yesterday from their new diet, I’m going to scream.

That is, after I finish this bag of Cheetos.

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About Rod Arters

As a former youth worker, business owner, school teacher, coach and inmate, Rod has the unique ability to relate to almost anyone in whatever situation they are in. His thought-provoking blog about life, mistakes, faith, hope & grace has been read in over 175 countries. A popular writer & speaker, Rod draws from his deep well of biblical knowledge and personal pain to encourage others along the broken journey to wholeness. He hosts an invitation-only private Facebook group for men (called Brother's Keeper) and enjoys helping others find Hope in the midst of their painful situations. He currently resides in Charlotte, NC.
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36 Responses to The Facebook Fraud

  1. Deb Scarfo says:

    Loved your honesty in this one, Rod. It’s true what you say, how most of us put on shiny, glossy masks and fraud our way through life. But don’t you find that most don’t want to hear the truth? Unless it’s a close friend or family member who really loves you, they look as if they wish to run the other away when you confide in your struggling. And sometimes, even the close ones don’t want to hear it either. They feel uncomfortable, for some reason. Maybe it reminds them of their own naked truth hidden under their deceit. Personally, when I meet someone who’s “grass looks perfectly green”, I know, without a doubt, that the situation behind THEIR closed doors is probably a hell of alot worse than mine!
    And for the record, I’m doing just fine this morning, thank you! But then again, ask me in an hour when my three teenage boys wake up, and I just may give you an earful! 🙂
    And don’t bother with the ones that look perfect and judge in your imperfection, especially those hyprocrites sitting in the church pew next to you! They’re the worst offenders!!
    Have a great day and hope things look up for you soon! 🙂

  2. Joy E Hetick says:

    Jesus came to save sinners from sin and have it overcome by Him in our hearts. His grace and confessing our faults and praying for healing through Jesus Christ’s righteousness and forgiving those who chose to be our enemies. James 5:16 and The LORD’s PRAY and words following about forgiveness. Jesus needs to live in us! In Jesus Name send the Holy Spirit to bring us to the understanding of God’s love! Jesus loves sinners not sin and came to set us free to love and grow in grace!

  3. Good stuff, Rod! I have a FB, but rarely post anything other than a Bible verse or an inspirational quote from time-to-time. I wrote a post recently about how reading how wonderful everyone’s life is (on FB) can leave people feeling depressed and angry. Please read it if you haven’t –
    http://unshakablehope.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/a-temptation-i-can-relate-to/

    • Rod Arters says:

      Loved the blog, Bill! Thanks for sharing. I’m glad I took a minute to learn more about you. What an inspiration! No wonder we are to only look to Christ, comparing ourselves to others is never beneficial or healthy. Where do you reside? What can I do for you and your family?

      • Thank you, Rod!
        We live in Texas; where do you live?
        God has been so good to us throughout the 16+ years of this trial – we’d really appreciate your prayers.
        BTW; the picture of you on the couch with the Cheetos is hilarious!

      • Rod Arters says:

        I love TX! What part? I live in Columbia, SC. And that is not a picture of me! I grabbed that off of Google pics. 🙂

      • I looked at the picture again and realized it doesn’t look anything like you. Still, the Cheetos look good:-)
        I live about 45 minutes north of Houston. Not from Texas though, from the Chicago area. I love SC, beautiful scenery and great climate. I have been to NC and SC many times.

      • Rod Arters says:

        I know I probably could lose a few pounds but I didn’t think I looked like him! I know Houston pretty well, have been to Joel Osteen’s church – even met him accidentily one Sunday. 🙂

  4. Kathleen says:

    Funny thing is I deleted a post I was about to submit because I realized that I have a tendency to only post when things are going wrong….ie: FB gives me someone to complain to! So, I didn’t. Not because I don’t want people to know how crappy things can be but because I should be taking those complaining moments to the throne not FB! Thanks for being real.

  5. Ronda says:

    Loved this!

  6. Heather says:

    Thank you for your openness, Rod. I can honestly say because you poured into me as a youth that I gave my life to Christ. I now volunteer with youth because of the seed you planted years ago. Thank you for pouring into me many years ago. Thank you for believing in me and the next generation.

    • Rod Arters says:

      Heather, great to hear from you! I’m humbled that God used me in any capacity like He has. I’m so glad to hear you volunteer with you now… I’m sure they love you! Where do you serve? So glad to see you “pay it forward” and investing in other’s lives. You inspire me. Tell your Mom I said hi.

  7. Amy Taylor says:

    Perhaps “keeping up appearances” fills a need of sorts. It seems that an unpleasant FB status is too easily covered with some lame platitudes posted from “friends”. Otherwise, it is too messy, too painful, or too real for them to cope. Kind of like not really answering someone’s question of “Hi, how are you today?”.

    Personally, I prefer positive life events to be chronicled ~ because I am a positive person. When faced with an onslaught of adversity, my “friends” list is amazingly small! Ever notice that? Does that happen to anyone else?! I am going to chalk that up to maturity, and an acclamation to not being in the “in-crowd” 🙂

    • Rod Arters says:

      Amy, yes, I have watched my “friends list” shrink considerably over the last 4-5 years. That’s ok – I know who my real friends are now… and I’d rather have just a few that are real and loyal than a crowd of posers. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. Wow. You truly are an inspiring writer. I put on a fantastic face too, and people always tell me I’m “going places.” But I am also struggling with stress, anxiety, and feeling inadequate. Thanks for helping me to feel that I’m not alone.

  9. Bill Higgins says:

    Hey my brother, I will be praying for you… Thankfully ‘God’s gifts and God’s call are irrevocable’, so in that we find can comfort. Even in the midst of all the messes that we make along the way. For as the song says ‘All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way at all. I wonder if my life could really change at all… You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust, You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us’ by the band Gungor, song is called Beautiful Things.
    God Bless,
    Bill

  10. Refreshingly honest. I’m always trying to find that balance because on the other hand there are those who dwell so much on the negative it’s as if they want to be on a pedestal for having the most horrible day, the worst luck, the meanest boss.

    I appreciate your list of Bible characters. That’s worth framing and keeping over my desk er’ the plank of wood sitting precariously on two uneven end tables at the end of my bed. 🙂 True.

    • Rod Arters says:

      Thanks for commenting, Jessie! It seems I am in good company when I list my sins next to some of the Biblical “giants.” It turns out, they weren’t so giant after all… they are just like you and me. 🙂

  11. Katrina says:

    Loved this article… I have often times thought this about not only my own Facebook page but also my close friend’s as well. I just posted a challenge to everyone on my Facebook page to not only use it to vent or make their life look perfect but to show that they are human. I challenged them to post daily one positive thing that has happened and one negative (to show that they are no different than anyone else). I am interested to see what comes of this little “experiment”. I made sure to attach this article, encouraging them to take a minute and read it. Thanks for once again speaking right to my heart through an article.

    • Rod Arters says:

      Katrina,
      Thanks for letting me know what you think of what I write. I love the feedback. How did your experiment go? Are people being more honest about their failures?

      • Katrina says:

        A few people made a comment to me in person about it saying that it was a fantastic idea and more people should look at Facebook that way. Two very close friends have said that they love the fact that I am “taking the challenge” daily as to show how easy it really is. I am however a little disappointed to say that from what I have seen, no one has actually tried to do it themselves. They are, however, talking about it which means they have put some thought into it; for that I am very happy!

  12. Flaca says:

    Spot on! Facebook fakery drives me nuts too.
    I too appreciate the list of the “realness” of the Bible’s “giants.”
    It made me feel more connected to God. He just MIGHT love me too! 😉

  13. I loved this article on Facebook Fraud. It does paint beautiful lives and happy marriages and incredible kids. As a writer myself and working on a second book, one has to have a platforom and thousands of FB friends before the publisher will even look at you (so I’ve heard). It wasn’t like that when my first book was published many decades ago. As you know, to build a platform one has to be “out there” getting face time and developing a following. Even with Christian publishers you have to have thousands of FB fans. It does seem right because it puts authors who have a calling to write in an awkward position as they try to collect FB friends and a following. At any rate, your words are spot on and I know that I have to refrain from thinking I am nothing, or I’ve done nothing, or I have nothing, as I read about other Facebookers fabulous lives, houses, husbands, children, gardens, table settings, etc. It really is about not believing the lie, isn’t it, and standing on God’s truth! Look forward to coming back to your blog and sharing it with friends.

    • Rod Arters says:

      Jennifer! Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. I can’t believe we reconnected after all these years later. I look forward to catching up and reading some of your stuff! Thanks for passing my blog to whomever you can. I’m trying to increase my platform as well. 🙂

  14. Kim says:

    Love your honesty Rod…..I’m not on FB but I think we all battle with what, to whom and how much of ourselves to reveal…..I think a “red flag” that we are concealing too much, or not being as open and honest as we should is when we begin to feel fake, hypocritical and as if we are compromising our authenticity…..truth is no matter our social status, position, lot in life, or how it looks on the outside, we all have internal “lows”, “struggles” and “stuff” to deal with from time to time and there are times when we need to reveal some of these things to people and times when we need to just deal with them one-on-one with God……the good thing is when we seek Him, He’ll let us know what to do……..:)….blessings!

  15. Hi Rod, haven’t seen any posts from you in a while, hope you’re well.

  16. Jessica says:

    A friend of mine (who, like you and me both, it sounds, has also been going through a rough time recently) recently posted this as his facebook status update: “Is it Friday yet? I’m ready to hit the road and start checking in and tagging myself in places and annoying everyone on facebook on my great weekend. Don’t lie, you know you do it to.”

    To which I responded: “Facebook’s representation of reality is a sham.”

    My friend: “It’s funny, I just got done telling some one don’t believe everything facebook says.”

    Me: “Wise words. People share what they want to, and what they want you to know. Everything else? Unless they’re looking for sympathy, well, we won’t talk about that.”

    Amazing to me to run across this post just following that conversation. I couldn’t agree more… Hope things start looking up for you soon!

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