The Insta-Scam

I frequently give things up for a period of time in order to clear my mind and reassess my priorities.

The next big thing I might need to take a break from is scrolling Instagram.

This is because for me Instagram can represent an overindulgence in commercial aesthetics and vanity. These are all things I’m susceptible to fall into.

We tend to post our highlights rather than the ordinary…this creates an imbalance.

I know I stopped wearing makeup a while back, and I’ve mostly stopped buying clothes, but I’m still a visual person. I’m a filmmaker and an artist so it’s easy for me to get carried away with aesthetics.

Focusing on my physique rather than fitness when I workout.

Focusing on how my home looks rather than the people who fill it.

Focusing my attention on a profile of images centered around myself rather than the individuals who fill my life and make it worthwhile.

Yes, I believe art and beauty are important. However, it’s possible to take these ideas too far. Art and beauty should ultimately point to God, not to myself. I need all the help I can get to focus my attention outward rather than inward each day.

Josh and I plan to visit a Bruterhof community in New York next month. I’ve been preparing by reading the writings of the community’s founders and I’m floored by how self-centered I am. The beauty of communal life is detachment from one’s self and focusing instead on loving one’s community.

The best way to experience nothing is to keep looking into yourself. But the more you are able to look outward and forget yourself, the more you can be changed by God…

Please give up your wanting to be loved. It is the opposite of Christianity. The prayer of St. Francis says “Grant that I may not so much seek to be loved as to love.” As long as you seek to be loved, you will never find peace. You will always find reasons to envy, but its real root is self-love.

-J. Heinrich Arnold, founder of the Bruterhof community

If I’m supposed to stop thinking about myself so much, I’ve got to break away from this over-saturation of perfection and self-focused postings.

It’s easy to fall into temptation again.

The temptation to focus on what I want and what I “need.”

The temptation to think of my children as a hindrance to my “true calling” or worse, a mere decoration in my perfectly styled room.

Jealousy wells up in me. Not of anyone I personally know, but of these images being sold to thousands of unknown followers.

The Insta-famous celebrities have it all. Perfect house, perfect bodies, adventures, getaways, happy families. Or so it seems.

Every image is staged and sponsored. Every image is selling something. Why do we do this to ourselves?

I know full well this isn’t reality. This is a carefully constructed image. I know these girls struggle. Just recently this blogger I admire shared how she feels about this crazy game.

I’m only jealous of these Instagrammers because I don’t know them personally.

If I knew them I might see the struggles and the hurts they deal with.

If I knew them I’d see them as real people and not as a brand.

If I knew them, we could share our hearts and not just our images.

As it is, I need to step away.

Only when I look up from my phone can I see that life is awesome. My marriage is fun and solid. My kids are smart and hilarious. My community is raw and genuine and lovely.

This world doesn’t need anymore “perfect” strangers on the Internet for us to measure ourselves against and get burnt-out and depressed when we don’t measure up.

I need to realign myself, first with God and then with the world.

Less time spent in front of the mirror, more time spent in the Word.

Less time spent seeking attention, more time spent seeking His will.

It also forces me to ask myself what is my motivation when I post things online?

Almost everything we post says something about our needs and wants.

Almost everything we share has a motivation behind it, even if we aren’t aware.

Think about it. You may think you’re posting just for you, but if it doesn’t get any likes, you’re let down.

I recently read a Wait But Why article “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook” that opened my eyes and made me more self-aware of why I post the things I post. Wow, I never realized I was so needy!

Sometimes I really get excited about something and want to share it.

Sometimes I’m also looking for affirmation or trying to make my life appear a certain way.

Sometimes it’s both rolled into one.

“My life is interesting. I’m not boring. I do fun things! See?”

“I’m a good parent. I’m doing it right.”

“I workout. Great day for a 20 mile bike ride!!”

“I go to hip restaurants. I drink craft beer. I’m refined but not too stuffy.”

“I have a great family but I know how to have fun too. You’ll find approximately 1/2 to 1/3 of my Instagram photos are of my kids. That’s no accident. I want to show the world that I’m a parent but I’m also a lot of other things.”

“I do awesome things, and more importantly, I tell everyone that I do awesome things.”

I’ve written more about fulfillment and the need to share everything awesome we do here, after giving up my smartphone for a month.

I’m not singling any of my friends out for posting these kinds of things. I certainly do it myself. Most of us don’t even realize that we’re looking for affirmation.

The point is I’d like us all to be a little more self-aware online.

To ask ourselves honestly why we post the things we do.

To make changes in our lives where we can to eliminate the needs that social media fills.

To realize that striving after a perfect image is not only impossible, but it can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.

We all need affirmation. But how can we make it better?

  • We can start by trying to give more affirmation than we take – and give it in real life whenever possible.
  • We can try spending time with close friends who affirm and build us up, rather than looking for it from the online masses.
  • We can do awesome things and not post them for a change just to make sure we’re not doing them for the the “likes” and “reactions.”

We owe it to ourselves (and our friends) to chill out sometimes. None of us are as perfect as we make ourselves appear online.

Remember that by filtering out the dull and sharing only the good, we can unintentionally and unnecessarily cause those closest to us to feel inadequate. Theodore Roosevelt said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I don’t think any of us truly want to alienate and compete with our friends. That’s not what true friendship is. True friendship is laying our lives down for one another, rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

What God’s telling me this week:

  • You must lose yourself to find your life. (Matthew 10:39)
  • Look in mirror less.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—  but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

1 Peter 3:3-4

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

  • Fill yourself with Him only. Worry less about your own wants and desires.
  • Focus less on your own sin and your own thoughts. Yes, even focusing on your sin too much can be selfish.

I am grateful that you recognize your sin, but I plead with you to stop thinking about yourself, your past, and your depression. You will only become more depressed. That is not repentance. Think of your inner being as a clear pond that mirrors the sun, the stars, and the moon. If you stir up the mud at the bottom, everything will become unclear and cloudy, and the more you stir it, the cloudier it will get. Become quiet and stand firm against the devil. Then the water will clear again, and you will see in its mirror Christ’s love to you and to the whole world.

-J. Heinrich Arnold, founder of the Bruterhof community

  • It’s time to move on past your own self-absorption and fully immerse yourself in others and in serving.

I think there’s a lot of good uses for social media. I love how it connects me with people I love all over the world. What are your tips for a simpler online presence? How can we opt out of the comparison game while still staying connected via the internet? 


Add yours →

  1. I really, really enjoyed this read. I found myself nodding with a lot of points that I agree with and appreciating the perspective and thoughts that I don’t. (I appreciate all POVs even if I don’t agree.) I, myself, have done many social media cleanses (deactivate Facebook, log out of IG, delete the apps) because they’re good for the soul. It’s good to step back and really be center, disconnect, be here now. Never mind the “insta-celebs” who only post their high points, there are people who you know personally who do the same. It rare that people are so raw and post lows, I think most of society aren’t wired that way. I have lows. Many lows. Hard days, sad days, stressful days, we all do. It’s great that you see past all of the hype and always remember that we’re all human. Great post. Great points.

    • Through My Lens July 29, 2016 — 8:45 am

      Thank you! It’s humbling because I realize we all are striving for something we can’t attain. It’s not reality. I really value transparency, and it’s something I try to hold myself to. If we can share our lows and our struggles then we can actually connect with people rather than just wishing we were more like them.

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