Right now, I am sitting with my hair tied back in a not-so-trendy scrunchy and my face covered in a green mask that promises to leave me looking “rejuvenated and refreshed”. And to top it off, I’m wearing Christmas pajama pants (yes, I know it’s March), my favorite, coffee-stained tee shirt, and mis-matched socks.
Rest assured, friends, you won’t find proof of this moment on any of my social media accounts. In fact, it is the very opposite of what would be deemed as “Instagram worthy.”
If you weren’t already aware, there are rules to social media. Here are the two most important:
Rule One: Choose the Right Photo
This is the most important part to social media. The photos you post should say something like, “I’m happy 24/7, nothing ever goes wrong and my life is a constant adventure.”
Anyone with me, yet?
Here’s an example: Your family is on vacation and you need a family picture. A generous bystander offers to take said family picture. Generous bystander gets snap-happy and takes more than enough photos—successfully capturing the baby crying, the teen glued to her cell phone, grandpa giving grandma bunny-ears, and so on. Ultimately, the only picture that portrays a big, happy family is the picture you must post—discard the rest.
Helpful tip for rule one: Hide any and all proof of dysfunction.
Rule Two: Choose the Right Filter
After choosing the right photo, you have to choose the right filter, of course. But here’s the catch: the filter you apply can’t just be any ole’ filter. That would be flat-out crazy, right?! Like your photo, your filter has standards to meet. It must be the perfect balance of filtered and #nofilter.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love social media and all its ins and outs.
But when I scroll through my Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook feeds, I often find myself thinking things like, “Wow, I wish I was as adventurous as them!” or “Aw, she’s beautiful! I wish I looked like her!”
It’s as if the flood gates holding back all of my insecurities suddenly break open and hit me with a hard punch of “you don’t measure up”.
It’s so easy to fall under the pressures of living up to the brand we’ve envisioned for ourselves on social media. We become enslaved to showing only the best version of us, to comparison, to the rules, and to one-upping each other.
This gets hard to do when there isn’t a filter we can put over our real lives.
Real life is full of blemishes and bad hair days. Real life is full of completely un-adventurous moments and dysfunctional family vacations. Real life is full of sin and falling short of the glory of God.
Here’s the good news, though…
We are children of a Father who loves us and knows us, just as we are—not as who we appear to be. And following Jesus means so much more than the number of followers we have on our social media accounts.
We are freed from the weight of our usernames, having the best proposal video your Facebook friends have ever seen, and the pressures of being “Pinterest perfect”.
As Christians, we are free from all the efforts of trying to turn our messy lives into virtual fabrications that meet impossible standards. When we try to define ourselves apart from God, we will always feel a pressure we can’t live up to because it’s like clinging to an idol that will only destroy us. Our identity is not in who we are on social media but who we are in Christ.
I think Tullian Tchividjian says it perfectly in his book One Way Love:
Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up. He came to emancipate us from the burden to get it all right, from the obligation to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. Jesus came to release us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. Because Jesus came to set the captives free, life does not have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, and validate ourselves.
Take a deep breath and just let that soak in.