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The Grass is Greener on the Instagram Side

The Grass is Greener on the Instagram Side

On social media you have the ability to add color effects to your pictures, thus making each picture fit a particular style of beauty. The grass looks greener on the other side of an Instagram picture. We generally see people and their backgrounds and assume things are well or that they have at least a healthy part of their lives figured out. Like cheap therapists, we determine someone’s life by their pictures on their profile.

We reinvent ourselves daily to make ourselves acceptable to the world. It’s easier to live by sight than by faith. But we should let faith set the scenery of our lives. And we ought not to live vicariously through someone else’s social media life. Further, we shouldn’t be fooled into assuming the other person’s life lacks their own set of problems and pain. This is deception fitting for our tech age.

Jesus’ exhortation to seek his kingdom and pursue righteousness is a needed reminder for our age. So, simply: be content with the house and yard God has given you. It may not have the fancy color effect as your neighbors’, but it’s what you need.

The Death of Conversation

The Death of Conversation

It was a simple test. I failed it. It was so simple that I was celebrating before I even started it. In futebol, this is always a bad idea. Anything can happen in the four extra minutes after stoppage time.  A certain victory can be taken away with a beautiful header after a corner kick or an unexpected long-distance shot. But enough with sport metaphors. Self-testing, I call it. I was coming back from the beach with my boys. My cell phone stays with me at all times. As a pastor, I have noble excuses to keep it close. Hospital emergencies, counseling matters, but I digress. I am addicted to that marvelous ringtone. Scientists recently made some comparison to heroine addiction. But I know it’s not that bad. I can stop at any time. Right?

Back to the test. I had a 25 minute ride back home. I even put the cell phone a bit distant from the driver’s seat. Being a good Calvinist I am quite aware of my depravity. Goal: to make it home without touching my cell phone. Test: to wait to answer those life or death calls when I got back to the comfort of my home. Further, to allow those rings to simply disappear into sound heaven. I confess the first five minutes were tough. I tried. I even made it past the first red light. I had two whole minutes alone. The kids were quiet in the back. The sound of silence hurts. Those rings kept coming like Screwtape was trying to get into my brain. I kept assuming that each ring came from the same person asking, nay, begging for help. Then it happened.

I reached back to reach it at another red light, typed my password and quickly checked my e-mail. It only took five seconds. The e-mails were important. I could tell by their titles, but not important enough that they couldn’t wait 20 more minutes, or 20 hours. But the moral of the story is I fell. And great was the fall. a

I am finishing a certification in counseling, which has made me quite reflective these past few months. Reflective enough that I took that lesson in eating the fruit…I mean, checking my cell phone, and made a couple of applications.

The first one that comes to mind is that we live an age where communication has died a thousand deaths. In profoundly Shakespearan ways, it is dying and dying. There is that ring again. I have seen the videos portraying zombie-like teenagers engaged in the art of romacing their cell phones while their future wives are right there physically next to them (though she may possibly be romancing her new Note 4). Can we even talk anymore for five minutes without peeking at our ESPN NEWS app, or for the more sophisticated among us, the New Yok Times app. I am guilty. Mea Culpa. A counselor friend once told me that while he counseled a teenager for $75 an hour this young lady spent a near 45 of the 60 minutes carrying on a “conversation” with her boyfriend via text. She kept assuring the counselor that she was hearing everything he was saying. Doubtful.

It’s a strange age. The world is more engaging than ever, but we can’t engage ourselves consistently for a substantive period of time. Dostoyevsky once said: “Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” Our world is unhappy beacuse so many have been distracted for so long that they no longer have anything to say. Conversation depends on soul and body. To be present in the body in our culture means to be absent in our soul.

The second application is that if conversation dies in more ways than one we cease to be human. We speak and others speak back. This is how Yahweh God made us. If by giving priority to an inanimate object–sorry SIRI–we trivialize flesh to flesh interaction we are of all people most to be pitied. God forbid.

So, I will test my self again. I will probably fail a few more times. But I will keep trying. I am going to leave that cell phone in the car when I have an appointment. I have silenced my ringtones for virtually all notifications. And if someone complains that I did not answer their phone calls or texts soon enough I will just have to tell them that I am fighting for the survival of communication among homo sapiens. I know they will understand.

It’s a Selfie World

It’s a Selfie World

“A selfie is a type of self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone.” a

It’s a selfie world out there. Instagram has enriched itself with millions self-portraits. Justin Bieber may have popularized it, but it’s now a world-wide phenomenon. Amateur photographers hold in their hand the perfect camera. Change the camera to self with a simple touch, smile, and post!

I am not interested in going on an anti-selfie campaign. People are creative. They are made after a creative God. Sometimes selfies incorporate a level of art that is truly remarkable. God likes to showcase his creation. And so at times showcasing a picture of ourselves to the world is not harmful. Sometimes it is humorous. Sometimes it is pathetic. Sometimes I don’t know what to think of it.

When mom takes a picture of her pregnant belly, I see life. When a young lady takes a picture of herself with her new engagement ring, I see joy. When a guy takes a picture showcasing his new pair of athletic shoes he worked hard to earn, I say, “kudos.” Now, when young ladies begin to display their body parts that are meant to be displayed only to their future or current husbands, I say, “what in the world are you thinking!” When a young boy takes 15 pictures a day of himself in every imaginable pose, I say, “where’s your father?”

So, yes. Selfies can be great. And they can also be remarkable testaments to a pathetically self-serving and self-glorifying culture.

And then there are people who take selfies to a whole new level.

Well, for most people, that compulsion is relatively harmless, but for 19-year-old Danny Bowman, it reportedly led to an attempted suicide.

The British teen spent up to 10 hours each day taking photos of himself on his iPhone, the Daily Mirror reports. The addiction became so debilitating that he dropped out of school and retreated into his home for six months.

“I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realized I couldn’t I wanted to die,” Bowman told the Daily Mirror. “I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life.” b

It’s a selfie world. It’s a world where self-promotion and an unquenchable desire to find meaning finds a little bit of satisfaction in a selfie. But then that temporary satisfaction cannot be quenched and the search for more satisfaction ensues until one realizes that meaning is simply not possible.

So, a few thoughts to the selfie culture–especially those in the church.

First, always examine the purpose of your selfie. What am I trying to represent to the world about the God I worship? Owning things is not sinful. But the central issue has to do with the role you place on these things in your life.

What is this selfie communicating to the possibly hundreds or thousands of people who will come across this picture? Why do I think that a certain part of my body needs to be seen by others; some that I never met personally, and others that I will see tomorrow in class?

Second, by all means don’t read this as a crusade against selfies. Take them. But take them to show the world how beautiful we become when we are in Christ. “Look at me. You see my joy in my new tie? If you know me you know that I treasure deeply the God who gave me this tie.”

Third, take fewer selfies. Period.

Fourth, when in doubt about the potential consequences about a selfie in a certain a pose or wearing a certain outfit, don’t post it. Keep it as private reminder of your self-restraint.

Finally, let’s turn a little of our attention from self-portraits to familial portraits. You know what the world knows little about: familial happiness. The abortion rate and the growing trend of unbiblical divorces continue to rise. Talk about an ugly selfie! We have in our society a pitiful view of what joyful family life is like. Use your camera–a great gift from God, by the way–to honor others. Put pictures of your brother or sister accomplishing something. Show the world that your life is not just centered around yourself, but on others also.

So, don’t give up your selfies. I will add a little Instagram heart to them when I see them. But for every selfie you take, make sure to take three non-selfies. And then show the world that the world of me is also about you.

  1. Wikipedia definition  (back)
  2. See full article: http://time.com/35701/selfie-addict-attempts-suicide/  (back)