For most of us, updating and uploading photos onto Instagram has become a regular event. I am one of millions who can testify to Instagram’s renowned ability to act as the procreator of extreme procrastination, yet recently I have begun to question whether this app is also instilling within us a far less godly perspective than we would care to admit.
First, our inclination to ‘gram our life’s events all too easily leaves us trapped in a web of self-promotion. Is it really possible for me to post a photo of my friends, or my recent holiday, without using it to ever-so-subtly say: ‘Look at me! My life is perfect!’ Of the 16 billion photos shared on Instagram so far, I would be confident in suggesting that a large majority of them were used to aggrandize the person who posted them.
We all use social media to present the best possible image of ourselves, yet in 1 Peter 5:5 we are reminded that we are to “clothe [ourselves]… with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.
For me, and I suspect for many others, this becomes increasingly difficult when I can parade around my successes, popularity and possessions with nothing more than my iPhone and a few well thought out hashtags.
Second, Exodus 20:17 reminds us that: “You shall not covet…anything that is your neighbour’s”, but surely that doesn’t extend to their Instagram feed… or does it? Whether it’s the person who was given the car of my dreams, or has the type of body/clothes/friends/house/family/support/pet [insert relevant noun here] that I desire, it’s hard to scroll through the endless images without wishing I had what they have. Instagram easily and successfully propels us to yearn for and idolise the possessions and relationships of others, and to forget about our own blessings.
So what do we do? Must I sacrifice my daily Instagram fix in order to circumnavigate envy and pride? I think not.
While we are not expected to conform to this world, we are expected to live in it. To remove ourselves from every potential source of sin would be to efface ourselves entirely. However, we can be more conscious of the worldly perspective encouraged by Instagram. Slowly, I am learning to approach photos of my friends’ joys and successes with genuine happiness rather than envying their circumstances. Simply being aware of the idolisation, jealousy, envy and tendency to self-aggrandize that Instagram provokes can help to prevent us from adopting these attributes.
Then we can be free to scroll and ‘gram and hashtag to our hearts’ content.