Guys, I really loved instagram for a long time. I've come a long way from my first couple posts years ago that only got a few likes. Now, I know how to take a better picture. I know what my followers will like and what my friends will comment on. I love picking out the perfect filter and coming up with funny captions, and to be honest, seeing those 'like' numbers add up. But a few weeks ago, I finally decided to delete my instagram app, thinking it would be just a temporary thing. But now I'm not so sure I want it back.
This summer, I traveled all through Europe and got to see some really, really beautiful places. The streets of France, wandering through England and Belgium, and taking in the glorious outdoors in Iceland. Every time I got a great shot of somewhere I visited, I got a little extra excitement from the thought that in a few hours or days, whenever I got internet again, I would get to share it on social media. It felt like a compulsion--posting it on instagram, just so everyone could see all the adventures I was having. But I really enjoyed it! Is that bad, in itself? To get joy out of showing off a little bit? I'm not sure.
But what concerned me more is that more and more frequently, I didn't feel like I was having enough fun, or a 'good enough' time unless I got to show it off to other people. I would stand in front of a magnificent ice cap in southern Iceland and instead of taking in its grandeur with awe, I would think of the best way to frame a photo, or what I would caption it. When did seeing something beautiful not become enough for me? Why do I have to post a photo in order to feel like I'm fully experiencing life?
I never want to get to a place where I do activities just so that I can document is on social media. It sounds like a ridiculous thing to do, but it's not that far off from reality, at least for me. I know months before my trip I was excited for all the fun pictures I'd get abroad and how I'd have an exciting new profile picture. I even started thinking of captions on the flight there.
I know I sound silly. I sound like a caricature of a millennial. I hate that I became that obsessed, but what's weird is that I didn't really feel obsessed...I didn't feel like I was any more consumed by social media than any of my peers. This is so normal for my generation and I'd venture to say, most people living in our day and age (in developed countries, at least).
Cue the introspection. Maybe I just really want to share my excitement about expanding my horizons. Maybe I want to show people that these awesome places really exist in the world! I do think that's part of it. But if I'm honest with myself...it's at least equally (if not more) about curating an image and perpetuating my own security. If I post pictures of myself doing exciting things with friends or visiting exotic places, then I therefore must be popular and loved and glamorous.
But does the opposite have to be true? If I decide not to post a picture of my friends, does that mean they don't exist? If I don't post a picture of myself traveling, does that mean I don't lead an adventurous life? Of course not! But so often, we make that conclusion. At least, I do.
I guess the real question is 'where am I finding the source of my value?' I think that my previous use of Instagram would say that my value is found in my image that I've cultivated. The words that others would use to describe me. The jealousy or admiration that I receive from others.
In Isaiah 43:4, the Lord says, "You are precious and honored in my sight and...I love you."
Again and again in Scripture the Lord tells us of our value. Not because of anything we've done, any image we've created. Really, he loves us in spite of ourselves. Everything we do should make God turn his face away from us in disappointment but yet he still embraces us. All of the secret sins that we (of course!) don't share on social media are fully known to him, but we still are able to live in harmony with him thanks to the ultimate sacrifice.
So when I've received the most valuable and undeserved approval possible, why do I still fight for my reputation with others? I'm not saying I'll never use Instagram again--I'm sure I will. But I want to be increasingly aware of the needs and compulsions that lie behind a seemingly small choice to post. I want to remember whose love I already have.