John Wertz, Blacksburg, VA
When someone is baptized, the pastor uses the individual’s full name. Share your full name and a story about how your name was chosen or what your name means.
No Filter Needed
There is no doubt that digital platforms allow individuals with similar interests to find one another, help family and friends to share memories and stories, and connect individuals who might otherwise be isolated Yet, society is still discovering how to create digital spaces which foster healthy and authentic interactions. In many cases, life in the digital world is viewed through a filter which either crafts a perfect online image—free from conflict, sadness, or imperfection— or automatically “perfects” the appearance of the individuals or places in the picture.
In September 2021, a group called ParentsTogether surveyed 200 young people ages 13-21 on their use of beauty filters on social media. The results paint a troubling picture of how filters alter the way that young people see themselves.
Here are a few of the findings:
- “61% of teens say using beauty filters makes them feel worse about how they look in real life.” (pg. 2)
- “Teens who spend the most time online (18+ hours per week) are nearly twice as likely to dislike their appearance as teens who spend the least time on social media per week (less than 8 hours per week).” (pg. 2)
- “72% of teens think their friends use beauty filters most of the time.” (pg. 1)
One individual in the survey reported, “There’s no feeling worse than when I open my camera to take a picture, and the skin smoothing feature is pre-enabled, and I think I look great, only to notice that a filter is on, remove the filter and suddenly feel that by contrast I am absolutely hideous.” (p. 3)
Digital spaces are certainly not the sole cause of distorted self-image and poor mental health, but as this survey makes clear, the way individuals both present themselves and feel pressured to present themselves in digital spaces can have a negative impact on one’s self-image and mental health.
Given the reality that it is nearly impossible to exist in the world today without a digital presence, it is important for all of us to be aware of the filters we are using as we present ourselves to the world and to recognize the filters we encounter. While “filter awareness”won’t eliminate the impacts of filters, it can open the door to meaningful conversations and encourage more authentic interactions in the digital space.
- What digital spaces do you find the most engaging and why?
- How does the survey on filters match with your life experiences?
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
As Jesus comes up out of the water following his baptism by John, the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, and a voice from heaven affirms God’s relationship with Jesus with one carefully worded sentence: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”(Matt 3:17).
Imagine how different this story would be if the voice had said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, and I love you dearly, but I really think you need to change some things about yourself.” Had the voice from heaven said those words, we might think God’s expressions of love are merely a mechanism to express criticism.
Imagine how different this story would be if the voice had said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am often pleased because he can do some really excellent things.” Had the voice from heaven said those words, we might think that God’s love is limited to certain occasions or only connected to positive accomplishments.
Imagine how different this story would be if the voice had said, “This is my Son, the beloved, and once he signs this agreement to obey me unto death, then I will love him forever.” Had the voice from heaven said those words, we might think that God’s love is a part of a conditional agreement, to be given out only once certain requirements have been met.
Thankfully, the voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”(Matt 3:17), reminding us that in the waters of baptism, God’s love is freely given with no strings attached.
In a world filled with conditions, strings, and filters; where we may hear, “I love you, but…” and not nearly enough people hear someone affirm them for who they are, God speaks good news at Jesus’ baptism. God blesses Jesus, and through Jesus, looks at each of us and says, “I love you! I see you! With you I am well pleased!”
- Share a story you have been told about your baptism or a story you remember from a baptism.
- In the first part of the sentence, the voice from heaven says, “This is my son, the Beloved.” What does “being beloved” look like to you?
- In the second part of the sentence, the voice from heaven says, “with whom I am well pleased.” How would you show someone that you were ‘well pleased’ with them?
Make a list of ways you could provide affirmation to someone else (i.e., handwritten notes, text, etc.). Pick one person in your congregation or in your life and use an approach from the list to share your affirmation with that person.
Loving God, in the waters of baptism you name us as your beloved children and shower us with your love. Help to know that no matter how we see ourselves, you see us fully and love us completely. Am