… quite as much as Instagram.
The filtered hipster perfection of people’s beautiful moments, fun lives, successes and intellectual reading – think Kerouac novel next to flat white on palate table – is the ultimate catalyst for shop-bought hummus under-achievement shame.
I once heard someone admit, over a bottle of wine, that they had uploaded a picture of their friend’s diner to their fitness account before eating a burger, and someone else say they’d taken it a bit far with publicising a sudden conversion to veganism and despite falling off the wagon, have had to keep up the pictures of kale recipes.
It’s the only social medium where it’s totally permissible to shout in over-exposed, faux-polaroid: “LOOK HOW CHARMING MY LIFE IS”, without judgment. That’s almost the point.
But of course, we Christians don’t enter into this shameless over-editing and self-promotion?
Wrong. We can be awful. And we don’t just buy into making people feel socially, intellectually and relationally inadequate. Our photographic one-up-man-ship leaks into I’m-a-better-Christian-than-you territory.
My feed is full of pictures of Christian conferences, mission trip selfies, charity work and quiet times in coffee shops – featuring the ubiquitous flat white and palate table.
And I’m no exception. I recently Instagrammed some homeless friends I was having tea with. I didn’t make a calculated decision to try to look holier-than-thou, but the sentiment was made in my omission.
I didn’t Instagram my previous cuppa and, for that matter, have never Instagrammed my collapsed lasagne or bad hair day with the hashtag #Haven’tDoneMyQuietTimeAllWeek. Though I don’t like to admit it, something in me wanted the world to think: “Gosh, aren’t they a terribly worthy lot inviting their homeless friends round #WeAreBetterPeopleThanYou”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not accusing our entire generation of calculated attacks on one another’s self esteem.
We do these this very flippantly; the immediacy of our social media interaction means that in reality, I wouldn’t have thought any of those things before I hit post. Neither would people posting quiet times, kale smoothies, Penguin classics, fancy offices, nice coffees and – possibly the worst culprits – thin-looking African children from mission trips. We just automatically edit the best of ourselves down for public consumption. It’s a symptom of millenial life.
So how can use social media really well for the glory of God? Surely volunteer snaps are a really positive thing to share amongst an overwhelming tide of Kim-ye belfies, sweatshop #ShoppingSprees, before and after 5:2 diet snaps and, rather inexplicably, those flowers on coffees made of milk foam – called rosettas in case you’re interested…
Posts about mission trips can spur others on, snaps of campaigns and charities can raise awareness for really important things. My best friend talks about how watching Christians interact on social media, posting church service snaps and sharing verses, was part of her journey to faith. I’m definitely not suggesting we don’t post about the things we do.
I just think we need a better balance. Excessively editing ourselves makes it more difficult for people to be real with one another. It perpetuates a culture of public perfection, that we already need less of in the Church.
I’m not sure of the answer but a good way to start is to follow the advice of Ice Cube: “Check yourself”. Assess motives before posting. Think about a social media fast. Maybe even a pride-swallowing post of some of your realest moments… #GotThisTopOutOfTheWashingBasket, and if you’re feeling really brave, #InstantCoffee. Post the good stuff, of course, but let’s try to be realer. Have a bit more In