It’s 2:33 in the afternoon and I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting on an appointment. I automatically pull out my phone, enter my passcode, and open the Instagram app—the brown polaroid-looking one that I’ve purposely placed within one-touch access. No new followers. Darn. My thumb slides upward across the smooth screen. Images flash across my eyes, sinking somewhere inside my visual cortex where my brain processes an opinion before my thumb breaks contact with the phone.
I know people say it’s a long way between your head and your heart, but in this case my thoughts have sprinted there and back in less than an instant, and my brain is immediately inundated with cheap assessments and critical perspectives.
“Did he really just post another picture of his breakfast?”
“She didn’t ‘like’ my sunset photo last week so I am not ‘liking’ hers.”
“That picture is too perfect, they must have spent hours editing it. What a waste of time.”
These thoughts are actually occurring inside my head, reverberating against my skull while I sit placidly in the quiet waiting room. And though I’d never dream of vocalizing them, they’re still happening, aren’t they? So on some level my heart must think they’re true—that people like so-and-so better than me because they have more followers, or that I’m better than so-and-so because my artistic coffee cup picture with the creamy swirls has more “likes”.
Seriously? Let’s take a moment to call out how trivial this is. This reckless comparing, this insta-envy, based solely on our own interpretations of how we want our lives to be perceived—because let’s be real, I’m not the only one who thinks like this. And what’s crazy is this is nothing new. Humanity has been doing the comparison deal for thousands of years, way before the first after-workout selfie ever graced the insta-world.
I know I talk a lot about the Bible, but it’s because it has a lot of good things to say that I believe to be true. Anyway in it there’s an old proverb that says, “a tranquil heart gives life, but envy makes the bones rot.” Another version describes it as cancer spreading through our bodies.
This is how Instagram makes me feel, like there’s something rotten inside, envious thoughts multiplying through my body like cancer, poisoning my heart with quiet little lies about how I should be, about how others should be, about how life should be.
Now before you go all, “Well that’s a bit drastic”, hear me out. Ideally Instagram is a good thing. It’s a creative hub for people to express their personality and share their experiences, whether that be through cute puppy photos, throwback Thursdays, or pixilated sunrise shots. It’s a tool that’s meant to encourage laughter, beauty, and community—feelings of goodwill and happiness for our fellowman.
But I don’t think it does that for most people, for me anyway. I think it leads a lot of its users to discontent, gossip, and envy. So I’m choosing not to have it in my life for the time being. I’m not trying to guilt-trip the world into getting rid of Instagram, I would be naive in assuming that deleting an app could cure mankind of it’s comparison problems. But I do think this provides an opportunity for you to examine you’re own insta-intentions, because like a mirror these intentions reflect the state of our hearts. Are you okay with posting a less than perfect picture? Do you feel inferior when your photo has less “likes” than someone else’s? And let’s not limit envy to an Instagram only issue. Who in your life are you comparing yourself to, and are your expectations realistic?
We’re all just people. Imperfect people. But we have the capacity to love each other well, to believe in and encourage the best in each other. I don’t need an app on my phone to tell you that.