©2008, Vicki Hinze
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
A new phenomenon is rising in popularity, and it’s a bad one. One that has far-reaching, negative effects that have the potential to influence a large number of people in a very negative way. That phenomenon is bodysnarking.
Bodysnarking works something like this. Online, an unflattering photo of a woman or girl is published in a public forum. Then other people–often strangers–make comments on the photo. These snarky comments are disparaging, nasty, mean and too often downright cruel.
It started with people taking shots at unflattering photos of celebrities. It’s now progressed in a horrible way to other women, and worst of all, to young girls in online “social” forums.
In the case of these young girls, who often are suffering from esteem issues already, the bodysnarking is even more destructive because those making the comments about them are typically known to them. Friends, those with whom they associate, attend school; people who belong to the same groups. So the humiliation for the victim of the attack is even more humiliating–and that is complicated by the fact that the victim must continue to walk in her world where these people live and exist. Being bodysnarked by a stranger is bad, but by someone who knows you…
Think about that. All the levels upon which this harms a person. All of the upset and tension and uneasiness and humiliation. The degradation. The barrage of attacks suffered on your psyche. It’s awful. It’s disgraceful. It’s the outward manifestation of other issues and challenges that bodysnarking popularity proves are systemic in our society.
I worry for these young girls, especially. They haven’t yet developed the insight and wisdom to understand that those making these hateful comments are unsure of themselves. That often these type attacks stem from insecurities and are seated in vulnerabilities. The commenter well might feel insecure, vulnerable, insignificant, and because she does, she tears others down, like these victims, to make her feel better about herself.
It won’t. It doesn’t. It can’t. Bodysnarking might make a commenter feel powerful for a moment, but that is a fleeting thing that disappears like steam from a pot removed from heat. It can’t last. But the damage bodysnarking does to a victim, that can endure a lifetime. It can cripple a person to the point that she fails to fulfill her purpose because her esteem is so tattered by the bodysnarking that she lacks the confidence to move toward her dreams to make them happen. In extreme situations, she lacks the confidence to dare to dream.
Young girls are overexposed to hype that insists they look perfect, and they feel incredible pressure to look perfect. Retouched photos of supermodels, calls by kids wanting their noses fixed, their bodies surgically sculpted–the proof is all around us. We, by condoning, are reinforcing this message that outward perfection is required of them. When it comes to reminding them not only of who they are and the care and attention given to making them exactly as they are, we’re falling short at reminding them that we aren’t called on to LOOK perfect, we’re called on to BE perfect.
There’s an enormous difference. One deals with the surface. The physical. It’s important because our bodies are home to our spirits. Our temple. But it is not all-important, and our bodies are as they are for specific reasons. We might not yet understand those reasons, but they do exist. And discovering them is part of our journey in life to our purpose.
For example. I’m fine, but I’ve had medical issues. Challenges that affected my physical body. Most would consider that a bad thing. But I write healing books; that’s my purpose. Now, I ask you, how can anyone write healing books of any value if one lacks the insight that one gains from having known illness? So the physical challenges I’ve experienced have been critical to me fulfilling my purpose.
Some challenges are self-inflicted, admittedly. But if we remember that the spirit rules the body, and the body does not rule the spirit, then we can learn and grow. But that’s another post on this journey. Right now, what is heavy on my mind is this bodysnarking phenomenon. How can we see anything this destructive as something worth doing? And that some choose to do this, and consider doing it fun, well, what does that say about us? Does it say anything worth hearing?
I believe it does. I believe it says we need healing. To understand the ramifications of our actions on ourselves and on others. I believe it sends a number of strong messages we need to hear, listen to, and address. And all of that starts with looking inward, to the heart.
So with your heart, imagine…
You are a young girl signing on to your favorite social network to chat with your friends. You see an unflattering picture of yourself. And there are a dozen comments, each progressively meaner– mocking the way you look. What is your reaction?
It’s too easy to imagine, isn’t it? And it’s painful. Tears are just the beginning. That pain sinks deeper and deeper inside her, clawing at doubts already plaguing you, making even your most minor flaw seem monumental. You want to dive under your bed and hide–and stay hidden forever. How will you ever have the courage to face any of these people again? You have no idea–and you usually talk over your troubles with your friends. But these comments were written by your friends?
All you wanted to do was to go online and chat with your friends. You certainly never wanted all this…
Now imagine that you’re a commenter. You go online and see this photo of your friend, and read all the comments. Everyone is chewing her up. Your first feeling is probably gratitude–that this isn’t happening to you. You might even feel outraged for your friend. But the more you read this bad stuff, the more doubt creeps into you. People are so down on her. Maybe you shouldn’t be her friend… You debate on posting. If you defend her, they could turn on you. Do you really want to be their next victim? If you post a nasty comment, too, and come out against her by agreeing with the other commenters, then you’ve distanced yourself from her and maybe they won’t attack you next. You’re torn. Not sure what to do. But you have to do something…
Odds are fair that you’ll be so worried about the impact on you that you’ll miss a really important point: This isn’t about you. It’s about your friend. She’s hurt, she’s embarrassed, she’s humiliated and devastated. And to have a friend, you must be one. That’s worth remembering.
All you wanted when you signed on was to chat with your friends, and now you’re in this drama and faced with a dilemma.
Unfortunate. Sad. But not insurmountable.
Here’s the thing. Whether you’re the victim or the commenter, negativity breeds negativity. That’s why we’re warned repeatedly in the Bible to avoid it. Not to participate in it. Told of the damage that can (and does) come from it. All that is good is buried under the weight of it. So don’t be negative. Don’t participate. Encourage others not to participate.
We do these horrible things–and seeing them done and doing nothing to stop them is doing a horrible thing–and then we wonder why things are horrible. They’re horrible because we don’t insist that they be better or do our part to make things better.
When something like this happens, we need to remember 1 Samuel 16. “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
We need to remember that our bodies are as He created them for the reasons He created us. And before we engage in any behavior, we need to do what God does: look into our hearts. If we’re building ourselves up–or defending ourselves from future attack–by tearing someone else down, then we need to look inside and see what’s wrong with us. What is it about us that puts us in that position, or makes us feel we’re in that position? You cannot build yourself up by tearing down another person. The contrast between you does you no good–and no favors. It doesn’t work that. Instead, you damage both of you. So remember: When you tear someone down, you’re the first to fall.
When something like this happens, we need to examine our hearts–before we act. Is what we’re about to say or do something we’d want said or done to us? Do we have compassion in our hearts? Have we thought about the impact we’ll have on that other person? Is it good? Are we treating others with the dignity and respect we’d want from them?
What is in your heart? Is it good and kind and worth keeping? God sees it; is He pleased? Sad? Disappointed? Happy? Ashamed or proud?
This bodysnarking is hurtful and harmful. I’ve spent half a morning thinking about it from all sides, and I can’t find its redeeming quality. Not for the victim surely, but not for the commenters, either.
Maybe its value is in that we look at it and see it’s bad and elect not to be a party to it. To refuse to accept it in our lives. There is value in that. We have to exercise judgement to learn the treasure found good choices and to learn why bad choices are ones we want to avoid. We don’t all have to be victims to see the pain in being one, right?
Things like this–which a little higher tech form of bullying–come up for a reason. Often for many reasons, and most of them help us to define who we are as a group and what we want to be. How we react to these things, which are definitely of the body and not of the spirit, gives us an opportunity to better know ourselves. We discover where we draw the line that we won’t cross. We discover what’s in our hearts.
I imagine this is another case where God looks down on us and weeps. It’s yet another method of us hurting each other and ourselves. Christ warned us about that, too. What we do to others, we do to ourselves. We all need to remember that on things like this, and when we’re confronted with situations like this, we need to stop and think. We need to look into our hearts like God does.
We need to see ourselves as we are, to see others and ourselves as He sees us, and then treat them (and ourselves) as He treats us: with dignity and grace.
If we do that, then this bodysnarking will fast fade away because we won’t be a party to it–and for all our sakes’ I pray that it does…
“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16
Affirmation. Inspiration. Confirmation.