Our church was participating in 30 days of prayer or fasting, and invited everyone to join. This was not my first time fasting, but it was a new opportunity to take what I had learned from the first time and learn more. We decided to fast from sunrise to sundown, but I felt a gentle challenge on my heart to give up Instagram for a month as well.
In the days leading up to the beginning of the fast, I did not dread deleting the app from my phone. Instead, I was almost excited for the opportunity to not be constantly scrolling, liking, editing, and sharing. It was a welcome break indeed.
I wish I could tell you that the fast changed everything for me and miracles happened and prayers were answered and I am more on fire for Jesus than ever. Isn't that what most people proclaim after doing something spiritual?
But after a week of successful fasting, my spiritual life took a different turn, and I became quickly overwhelmed with busyness and stress and time with Jesus was the first thing to go (I know - more time with my Creator would conquer the busyness and stress that was keeping me from Him in the first place. I know).
So I can't come off of this and tell you all the spiritual things I learned, because while I was doing it it didn't feel spiritual. It felt hard.
But I can tell you what He revealed to me about identity and social media and how He transformed the way I see it now.
I love Instagram. I will defend it to the very last day it exists. I think it's a beautiful and powerful tool and I love the way it makes our big world feel a little smaller. I have met friends through there, I have found encouragement on there, and I have been able to keep friends and family across the world updated on what's happening in my corner of it.
But I became wrapped up in establishing a presence - in earning and maintaining followers and likes, in making sure the feed looked cohesive and at it's best, and in only sharing the best quality photos and edits. The things that didn't make the cut to be shared were often my favourite moments, but the photo was too blurry or too dark or full of people that my followers wouldn't recognize and respond to.
(I want to place a disclaimer here and acknowledge the lifestyle bloggers and content creators who work hard at maintaining a cohesive and aesthetic feed - there is so much beauty and talent in that, and it is not the wrong way to use the platform. It is just not my way anymore.)
When I scroll through Instagram, I am quick to become overwhelmed and almost jealous by the lives I see of other people. I have heard it said before, and I will repeat it to myself again: Instagram is only the highlight reel. It is not real life.
But what if it was? What if it can be beautiful and somewhat cohesive and still share every moment of life, without forsaking the moments that don't meet the lighting or colour palette?
I don't resent the profiles that make me feel like I'm missing out on something they have. But I also would hate for someone to scroll through my own and feel that way. I do not want to create a profile that I am proud of simply because it invokes envy and desire in others. I want to share photos that are honest, beautiful, and happening right now, in this moment.
Isn't that what it was created for in the first place?
The pastor at the Ruby campus phrased it better than I could: "Come back to God for a daily portion of a better identity". No more relying on the aesthetic appeal and number of followers for validity or worth or confirmation that my life is worth living. No more scrolling first thing in the morning and last thing before I sleep. I want to see your images and captions, but it does not need to bookend my days anymore.
This is no longer a highlight reel. But I hope you'll stay anyways.