My Culture/Social media/Teen Culture Radical Authenticity in a Filtered World by Emily Clare Burt We have all heard the saying, “be yourself” over and over again. From elementary school all the way through high school, we have heard our teachers and peers say, “Don’t be afraid to show who you really are!” Despite this, most of us feel like we can’t be ourselves, that it isn’t safe to show the world who we really are. And yet, our world needs us to be authentically ourselves now more than ever. Fake Filters We live in a filtered world where all we see are posts of “perfect” bodies with their #RelationshipGoals, usually on some tropical island #sponsored by #SkinnyMeTea. We constantly get a glimpse of the “picture perfect life” and come to believe that it’s reality. We tell ourselves that we know there’s broken humanity behind every post, but we are still tricked into believing that we’re the only ones who experience brokenness — that the feeds we follow are somehow immune. So we, too, try to make our bodies ideal and our feeds eye-catching. We try to prove to the world that we’re not broken, while the layers and layers of filters and distortion mak us empty promises of acceptance. Social media and real life become blurred as we start to search for new sights, attractions, products, and maybe even people to elevate our posts. We, as Catholics, try to be a light in the darkness of endless scrolling. We post pictures of our daily devotional and testify to how God changed our life. We include a Bible verse in our bio, even though we only found it by Googling, “Bible verses about hope.” Without even realizing it, we put on the mask of “happy Catholic,” but in reality, we are just as broken as everyone else. The underlying issue is the same in both situations: We want to be seen and noticed, whether for our deceptive feeds or public, Catholic identity. We so desperately want to lead a picture perfect life, to seem like we’re doing this “Catholic thing” the right way. We want to identify ourselves before others have the chance to label and judge us. But this simply leads to a greater feeling of inadequacy — to us feeling even less unique, even more confused, and even greater loss of our true identity. What Does It Mean to Live Authentically? To live authentically means to live as our true selves, rooted in Christ. It means to live without fear of sharing our gifts, talents, brokenness, and weakness with those around us. When our identity is rooted in God — in being His daughter or Son — we find who we are called to be. This is reflected in Matthew 10:39: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” As we let go of who we want to be and discover more of who He made us to be, we become more in touch with our true selves — which may mean that we have to let go of some things that seem attractive, but don’t uphold the dignity of our new-found identity. But, how? 1. Experiment. Join new clubs, try various hobbies and activities, dabble with different forms of prayer and reflection, wear an outfit that may not be the most trendy but makes you feel confident. This may seem insignificant but in reality, these practices allow us to get to know who we are and discover a new love and passion for things that we wouldn’t have found otherwise. 2. Clean up your social media. We all have those people we follow simply because we hope to one day draw their attention and gain their approval. However, you will experience so much freedom when you decide to let go and unfollow those accounts. Secondly, get rid of the pictures you know are fake and distorted. Not only do they hurt yourself, but they also those who look up to you. Overall, be intentional with who you follow and what you post. If you find yourself torn, ask yourself why and try to get to the root of the problem. 3. Community is key. There is no doubt that we feel more like ourselves when we are around people who genuinely love us and desire the best for us. When we surround ourselves with people who are also striving for the Kingdom, we discover a sense of belonging, confidence, and freedom. If you find yourself trapped in relationships that are holding you back, pray for the strength to let go. Likewise, pray for and seek the community God so desperately yearns for us. God wants to see us embrace who He’s made us to be and what He’s calling us to do. When God is the center of who we are, we become more free to be who we were created to be. We are no longer limited to a filtered identity. We no longer have to hide behind a “perfect Catholic” veil. When we invite God into everything that we are, every aspect of our life becomes more elevated, anointed, true, and pure. So ask God to reveal your authentic self to you and let Him lead you where you are called to be. Be you through Him!