With the smartphone and the rise of social media there isn’t much of us that remains unpublished. Every thought is Twittered. Every relationship is Facebook official. Every image in our path is on Instagram.
I’m new to the whole Instagram thing, but I’ve always wondered how people produced such intriguing pictures with an iPhone. Now I know, it’s the filters. It’s a throwback. The whole thing is brilliant. Just shoot a picture, slide your finger, employ a filter and you can make your $600 smartphone take pictures that look like they came from your mom’s $49, 1983 Kodak.
In an article published at www.pcworld.com “Why is Instagram So Popular?” MacWorld Executive Editor Jon Seff, explains why these low-fi pics have such mass appeal.
“The vintage look and feel of the photos incite a sense of nostalgia, of the good old days, or of a different era.” He also says, “Instagram aficionados aren’t interested in originals, or in exactly replicating reality.” Seff appreciates the app because, “It masks the blemishes in his photos and makes the pictures look more interesting.”
I think Seff’s comments explain a great deal about the appeal of today’s social media; it gives us the opportunity to publish life with filters. We can mask the blemishes. We can make ourselves look more interesting.
Truth is, the unpublished, unfiltered thoughts; those are the ones that really count.
Mike Cosper, writing for the Gospel Coalition says, “Social media compels its users to project idealized versions of themselves. A photo of a meal can bear the caption, “UnbeLIEVable homemade ravioli!!!!!!!!” Meanwhile the pasta is chewy, the sauce is tasteless, and the dining couple fights throughout the entire meal. The nature of social media, and its accompanying audience, leads us to glamorize the mundane, leaving no superlatives for truly great experiences.”
So what’s the problem? Maybe we are socially connected but seriously lonely. Maybe we are bored. Perhaps this is why we are enamored with an artistic, retro photo that tells the world you just bought coffee. Why do we feel so compelled to vaguely tell the whole world, “I’m so mad right now”? Are we curious to see how many people will like our vent? Do we equate “liking” to caring? Perhaps we are curious as to how many people can we shamelessly invite to ask, “What’s wrong?” The whole conversation is filtered. It is us published on our terms but there is nothing holistic or realistic about the dialogue at all.
The problem is, this isn’t reality. Are we really satisfied with this? Do we really “LIKE” it?
The gospel is not about filters, but about exposure. Paul says in Ephesians 5:11, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” He goes on to say, “For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.”
Some things don’t need to be Facebook official. Some thoughts don’t need to be twittered. Some images do not need to find their way to Instagram. Yet at some point we need the opportunity to deal with our unpublished self. To keep our comments vague, succinct, and our images filtered with nostalgia is safe, but it’s phony. It is here that most people fall short of the gospel, they don’t want to be exposed.
Believing in the gospel is an enlightening experience, but it is not safe. When we filter life through Christ all of the false colors and effects we once used to make life more palatable are exposed. Suddenly we see life as it is. It forces us into real conversations, serious introspection, and eventually surrender. We cannot stand before God with an edited, guarded version of ourselves. Before God, nothing remains unpublished. You can’t mask the blemishes. Sin is sin. Light is light. What is holy is holy. There are no filters in the reality of the gospel.
Where does this leave us? Absolutely, we will continue to toy with Instagram and find a dozen filters that will make a rusty garbage can look amazing. We will continue to publish just enough, but not too much. We will continue to push the “LIKE” button and cop out of real conversation. But at some point we must bring our unpublished self to the light of the gospel if we are to find salvation. “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Eph. 5:14).”