Instagram was once my favorite form of social media. I got tired of Facebook rants and subtweets that started drama. So I turned to the highlight reel of Instagram–where people post only the best of their lives. I didn’t realize that the visual highlights of people’s lives made me blind to the true effect of social media.
First of all, people (girls in particular) spend far too much time editing their posts to make themselves presentable to their followers. Don’t get me wrong–I’m guilty of this myself. But I’ve overheard others spending 30 minutes trying to find the filter that makes them look the most tan. And although I find that ridiculous, I’m really not condemning it. However, I feel that we should put more effort into making ourselves presentable before God: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Secondly, I have a problem with the frequently used comment “caption game strong.” Instagram has become a competition for the best caption. Again, don’t get me wrong: One of my favorite parts about Instagram was coming up with captions filled with wit, sarcasm, and/or puns. (And, yes, I realize that’s not entirely normal.) I did try to make my captions distinctive from others’. Instead of outdoing one another in the descriptions of our lives, we should outdo one another in love: “Show family affection to one another in brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). Also, I realize that Instagram can be used to uplift others. And if you make sappy birthday posts in order to bring encouragement to people’s lives, then, by all means, continue! But first I suggest you find out the love language of the person for whom you want to show appreciation; if words of encouragement don’t mean anything to him or her, don’t waste your time making a mile-long caption of appreciation.
Thirdly, as a girl, I notice hidden messages behind certain captions that are intended to degrade or exclude others. Once again- guilty. I think girls have mastered the art of disguising insults behind pretty pictures. Within a single post, we can seemingly glorify God yet truly tear others down: “We praise our Lord and Father with [the tongue], and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it” (James 3:9).
Lastly, I personally struggled the most with the comparison game. Because Instagram is a highlight reel, I felt like I needed to maintain a life that was worthy of posting. As someone who deals with chronic pain and depression, I often became jealous of others when my daily life wasn’t Insta-worthy. I also realize now that just because someone posted a highlight doesn’t mean that they weren’t struggling at the time. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned from deleting Instagram is that life is not always picture-perfect, and it doesn’t have to be picture-perfect to be fulfilling. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-10, Paul gives instructions on how to experience God’s comfort. My favorite part of this passage is when Paul gets real in verse eight about his struggles. He doesn’t write to the Corinthians in a holier-than-thou attitude. Instead, he admits that his life does not demonstrate perfection, yet God does.
I’m not encouraging anyone else to delete Instagram or any other form of social media. I am encouraging all users of social media to be aware of the effects it can have on us.