There are people, impressively enough, who don’t think twice about social media. My brother, for instance, is one. A few winters ago, he picked me up from the JFK airport and decided to take me to breakfast on 4th avenue.
I spent ten minutes trying to take the best picture of the café while my brother slurped his bacon, egg, and cheese. Rather than asking how he’d been over the past semester, I tried out different filters.
“Can you just enjoy a moment?” Steven asked, annoyed.
I spent another five minutes revising clever hashtags as he moved on to flirt with tourists. He gave directions as I edited punctuation. And for the rest of the day, he talked about the brunette with an accent while I lived in torment, wondering if my ex-boyfriend-whatever-we-were would see my photo and ever press “♡.”
Living in Turmoil
I’ve always been someone to seek the limelight. So when Facebook took off in 9th grade, I gravitated to the virtual platform. “Congratulations,” “Happy Birthday,” “You look so pretty, Rachael!”
It was like handing gasoline to a pyromaniac.
Social media was never about “staying connected.” Maybe for stalking cute boys from Political Science 101, sure. But it was more about attaching an umbilical cord to hear the world say, “We admire you” and consequently wallowing in shame when it didn’t.
You’d think, after graduating from college, you’d mature from this stuff. But I still felt offended when friends didn’t upload a birthday gram. I still poured over filters to find the most flattering light. And I still scrolled through my Followers tab to make sure the right guy’s name was listed there.
So a year ago, I left Facebook. Deleted my Instagram. Told everyone they could text me if they needed me, believing that this time, I was done with social networks for good. I’d been battling a media toxicity for nearly a decade, and at this point, the score ran Instagram: 10; Rachael: 0.
Immediately, I felt the same freedom that came with any social media cleanse. Like I’d left a crowded party with too-loud music and not enough seats, and finally, I could breathe in the quiet air.
I took pictures when I wanted to but didn’t demand 50 to find “the right one.” I authentically texted my community about life events rather than wasting time to create a cool-witty-but-also-relatable caption. I lived an extraordinary (and challenging) year without needing to hear people’s applause.
But a sense of pride developed in my privacy. The turtle shell became safe because it protected me from the world’s rejection. I didn’t need to worry about the number of likes because there wasn’t a photo there at all. I couldn’t compare myself to friends’ highlight reels if I couldn’t even view them. And nobody could unfollow me because no one could find me in the first place.
“Hiding isn’t humility,” the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart one evening. “Hiding is an expression of shame.”
Shining for His Glory
In my many (and I mean ma-any) social media fasts, I’d never come to this revelation. I thought that by reducing the opportunity to shine before the world, I was removing the temptation to glorify myself. But that’s the thing: God never said I couldn’t be seen. God just said that my light should point others to Him.
The problem wasn’t with posting a pretty picture of myself. The problem was doing so in order to become a celebrity and horde the attention. If I forget the Giver of my life’s goodness, I become no better than Satan who praised his glory apart from God.
Ouch. (Sucks in air). I know.
Last weekend, the Lord released me from my hibernation to create an Instagram account. He asked me a question, and I must’ve given the right answer because He said, “Go. Go do it. But make sure this one is about Me.”
My brother has already joked that I’ll deactivate this account in three weeks. And who knows what more I have to learn through social media. But as of today, as of right now, I’m making sure the goal isn’t to keep the attention fixed on me.
It’s to bring it back to Him.
Featured Image by Sara Kurfess