It was Tuesday, May 5th. I had just finished working a 10-hour day and was invited to go get a burrito with a co-worker in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. I was excited to have plans after work that day instead of going home and eating the same old thing.
As I drove over to the restaurant, these thoughts actually popped up into my head:
I’ll have to take a picture of the burrito and post it on Instagram.
Maybe I should filter it so it looks really good.
Should I tag the restaurant?
I arrive at the restaurant starving. As I sat down, I honestly was so hungry and wrapped up in conversation with my friend that I forgot to get my phone out.
Maybe I’ll just get a picture of the sign when I’m done, I thought in the middle of the meal. As the dinner ended and our catch up conversation wrapped up, the thought of taking a picture just seemed silly.
I drove home and decided that there would be no Instagram update. People wouldn’t know what a “spur-of-the-moment-adventurous-eater” I am, after all. Oh well!
If you relate to the above story, you’re not alone. As silly as it is to admit, if you have Instagram or any other social media attached to your phone, you have thought about how you could capture something you are doing to show other people that you are doing it. You’ve looked through filters to make your picture look “artistic” or “ retro.”
You may have even “staged” things in your picture to appear a certain way…as close to perfect as it can get.
I understand the desire to share on social media. I know we all enjoy posting pictures of family and friends that we love and are having fun with! It’s fun to encourage others with a goal you’ve met, share a rare and relaxing vacation, or inform someone of a cool restaurant in town.
But as I’ve gotten less and less picture happy at events I go to, I’ve begun to analyze more of my own feelings and practices with Instagram and what appears to be our unified obsession with perfection.
Here are 4 helpful tips that have helped me navigate Instagram in our perfection-obsessed culture:
1. Get Honest about Your Weaknesses
One thing I’ve begun to be more mindful of is the state of my head and heart when I get on Instagram. I’m not usually scrolling through my feed as I’m out and about doing things with family and friends. It’s usually when I’m alone at home and am bored. You might find that getting on Instagram after your child has just had a huge screaming tantrum or after you’ve gotten home from an awful date aren’t the best times to look at the highlight reel of your friends’ lives.
Being more mindful of “weak” moments means taking care of ourselves in the long run. We can quickly pierce our own confidence just by a couple of clicks.
So, what’s your weakness? Is it your looks, relationship status, marital strife, disobedient children, messy home, less than constant Bible time, your weight, in-laws, money? These weaknesses we feel in ourselves tend to be the things we search out in people’s pictures when glancing over our Instagram reel.
2. Would You Still Share This Picture a Year from Now?
Back in the day, we took pictures on disposable cameras and had to wait a week just to get them developed. Then we picked what we wanted, put them in an album, and only showed them to family and friends in person. With lightening fast posting abilities, that time for thoughtful reflection is gone.
I began thinking about something I’ll call, The Development Test. This means asking myself, “Would I still show this picture on social media if I had to wait a full week to get it “developed” before I could post it?” If my answer to this is no, then it’s probably not imperative that I post it.
3. Kill Jealousy by Rejoicing with Others
I began to really “like” people’s pictures more. It made me feel good when others were happy for me and I wanted to pay that feeling forward! Happy about a new job, new baby, or relationship? I want to celebrate with you!
That’s part of what Jesus teaches us. "Rejoice with those that rejoice; mourn with those that mourn." (Romans 12:15) So go ahead and like someone's pictures! If you're going to look at them, go ahead and support them too.
But if you hesitate to click that little Instagram heart, maybe you should check your heart instead.
Look within and see if any jealousy resides there. Work on that. You might even need a social media break to get yourself back on track. If others are happy for you when you take the time to post, you should do the same for them. It’s that easy.
4. Know the Line Between Sharing and Boasting
I wanted to post about leading worship one Sunday but felt strongly convicted to not share it. I even had the pictures cropped and framed ready to hit “share,” but just couldn’t.
Was sharing that moment necessary, or would I be boasting?Sometimes there's a fine line between sharing and boasting, so I suggest listening to your heart and letting the Spirit help you discern what would be good to share.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
Do you have personal quiet times? I love to hear cool things God is teaching his children, but sometimes all we see or share are just coffee cups or yummy breakfasts with an open Bible.
If it's just a picture of your Bible and a coffee cup, it's not really going to build someone up.
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)
Maybe this obsession with perfection is the ache we all have for something beautiful, lovely, and worth it all. Could it be that we all crave that sweet moment of perfection and grace with Jesus but mistake it with getting accepted by others?
We must remember that Jesus doesn’t want our witness to be only perfect scenes to an imperfect world…but to communicate the real struggles and victories that occur only with His power and strength!
Think about that perfect moment when you finally see Jesus face to face and remember: that moment of heavenly perfection, something that will never be on Instagram, will be all we need in the end.
Mandy Smith is a joyful 30-something single living in GA. She is a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist. Her loves include Jesus, her family and friends, creativity, playing guitar and singing, coffee, laughing, and of course, writing! You can read more of her writing on her website www.myjoyousheart.com and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.