BY RJ GRUNEWALD
We recently went on a magical vacation with our family to Disney World. After the vacation we were talking to some of our friends about the experience and they asked, “How did you do it?”
I was puzzled until they continued, “Your pictures looked so great… Did your kids ever melt down?”
This is what happens on social media. There are the vacation pictures we share and then there are the experiences that were not “Instagram-worthy.” I only shared the pictures of my family that were perfectly captured and had all the right filters. But I left the meltdown pictures on my camera roll. Because no one wants to see my son melting down when he didn’t get to ride the Monorail one last time.
This is the unwritten law of social media: show the best version of yourself and hide the messy reality of your life.
In the IFC show Portlandia, they notice this reality in a dialogue as Carrie and Alexandra look through Fred’s endless photo album of the places he traveled. Fred says wearily, “Everyone on the Internet, they’re not having as great a time as you think they are.” Carrie then muses to herself, “I guess people are just cropping out all the sadness.”
Real life is not nearly as pretty as our Facebook profile. Nobody is going to like the pictures of a smashed up car, a screaming kid, or the recently signed divorce papers. And while I love social media, like most tools we abuse, it becomes another way for us to promote a false identity for ourselves.
My wife recently told me about what she calls, “Pinterest Pressure.”
Apparently women now have no excuse not to pull out all the stops when preparing the meals for the week, picking out their next hairstyle, or planning their kid’s first birthday. All of a sudden, because of the ease of seeing other people’s ideas, there’s a new pressure: Will my decorations be pin-worthy? Will my party be as good as the version I saw on the blog I read? Will I be able to put gourmet meals together for my family like the ones I see the other moms pinning?
This pressure is bound to destroy.
We face a pressure to live up to the Facebook profile we envision for ourselves, and a pressure to create the right brand for our Twitter followers. We fall under the weight of a pressure that compares our real, broken lives to somebody else’s tidy, fabricated virtual life.
@@But real life isn’t captured at the best angles and with the perfect filters.@@
Real life is full of the messy, broken failures we face every single day. Real life is full of the screaming and tantrums. It is full of the failures at being the kind of spouse you want to be. It’s full of not measuring up to the kind of Christian that God calls you to be. Real life captures our sinfulness mid-frame. Real life takes a close up picture that exposes all the blemishes.
When we create our sense of worth based on our ability to have a life that can live up to these pressures, we become enslaved to the performance of our digital self. When we define ourselves based on our ability to outperform the competition on our social media, we cling to an idol that ultimately owns us.
Michael Horton wrote, “We cannot live up to our own Facebook profile or the expectations that have been placed on us by others.” Social media pressure has become a law we are enslaved to and that we cannot live up to.
Tullian Tchividjian spoke of the freedom of Christ 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.
In other words, the Gospel frees us from having to live up to the pressure of your own Facebook profile. The Gospel frees you from having to impress your friends with your likes or impress yourself with how important you are. Jesus liberates you from the weight of having to have a “pin-worthy” party. He releases you from the slavery to your usernames and the endless efforts to make yourself somebody important in the eyes of others.
@@Your validation, your worth, and your identity are all found in the truth that you’ve been adopted as sons and daughters of God through Christ.@@
RJ Grunewald is a Pastor at Faith in Troy, Michigan. He is a theology nerd who believes that theology isn’t just meant for the academics and dead guys but it is for everyday life. He is the author of The Art of Law & Gospel and Reading Romans with Luther. He’s also got a digital copy of The Art of Law and Gospel that you can download for free by subscribing to his emails. RJ has been married to his wife Jessica since 2007 and they have 3 kids, Elijah, Emaline, and Alice.