My most popular Instagram post has 38 likes. I decided to take a trip to Costa Rica for a week a while ago and managed to take a pretty killer picture of some mountains. I slapped a little HDR filter on it and sent it out to be judged by my followers. You know the feeling. You put your phone on the table and you think “I’m not going to check this all day, I’m definitely not going to obsess over this,” only to immediately retrieve your phone to check “something else.” Several obsessive compulsory checks of the phone later I was the cat’s pajamas. However, I scrolled through my friend’s posts: selfies, pictures of food, dog pictures….hundreds of likes! Why the heck did my majestic mountains only get 38 likes?! I convinced myself that due to the time change I must have caught my friends at a poor time. No way these posts were better than MINE.
The point of this blog post is not to brag about my lame Instagram life, but to analyze the intentions behind my post. I didn’t post anything inappropriate or offensive or slanderous. Just a beautiful picture of some Costa Rican mountains. The only problem with sharing these mountains was the condition of my heart. In sharing my picture I turned Instagram into an idol of validation. I wasn’t just trying to share a picture, I sought to gain something more from it: popularity, acceptance, and reputation. And even when I received those votes of validation, “likes,” I wasn’t satisfied with them because others had more than me. They were more “popular” or more “accepted”.
It’s a complete mystery how we continue to seek validation apart from the only One who can truly grant it:
“In Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. “ Colossians 2:10
As we are made in His image, you think He’d know a thing or two about how we tick and how to lead us to fulfillment. But instead of turning to The One who made us, we turn to other dumb humans who have no idea what they’re doing and expect them to provide that fulfillment for us. In fact, seeking the opinion of the earth proves detrimental to our testimonies:
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever."-1 John 2: 15-17
When we accept approval from the world apart from the approval of our Father, we are severing our bond with Him. Think about that. When we look to conform to the cultures of this world completely outside of Him we are actively pushing God away. If God is the only fix to our broken lives then not only are we refusing to be helped, but we are effectively tearing ourselves apart.
When we think of social media as our vehicle of validation we sell ourselves short. We slip the chains of validation on our wrists as soon as we let our self-respect and self-worth be determined by a couple mouseclicks and double taps. These self-built prisons of comparison tell us we are nothing, that we can’t contribute or mean anything to life or others if we aren’t reaching “x” amount of likes or comments on a silly little post.
We can remedy this situation, but it will take time and it will take being honest with yourself. Recognize your habits. If you continually post photos or statuses to social media but find yourself disappointed when they're not "popular," maybe you should take a break from social media and get your heart right. Pray before each post. Make sure you’re posting something with a genuine purpose: to inspire, to share a big update in your life, to congratulate, to cheer people up, etc. Rid yourself of empty, meaningless posts that you throw up just to make yourself feel good. Of course, it’s impossible to know someone else’s heart behind their post, so these are exercises that will take place between you and your Maker. By all means, continue to tell me when it’s your dog’s birthday. I’m not trying to suck all of the fun out of social media, but if this post is for your gratification and your glory then maybe you should keep it to yourself. Free yourself from the shackles of comparison and live out your identity according to Christ, not according to social media.