The Joy of Instagram
In the last few years Instagram has developed into a major social phenomenon. Apple claims iPhone is "the most popular camera in the world," and as of June 2013, Instagram boasted 130 million users, with an output of roughly 40 million photos a day.
Due to the sheer volume of the photos coming at us each day, it's easy to become an Instagram cynic.
How many of us have lamented the inundation of "check out my perfect life" photos on our Twitter and Facebook feeds? How many of us have seriously considered unfollowing the person who shares pictures of her delicate wine glass sitting atop a rustic wood table overlooking the beach? Or the guy who posts a picture of every meal he has ever eaten?
These frustrations can be real and valid. Instagram can contribute to a Christian culture that is inauthentic and comparison-driven.
However, it doesn't have to. My motives for using Instagram are many, but not all bad. I often post photos, not to show off my perfect life, but to invite others to share in my joy. That is a motive of a different kind.
Take last week, when I found myself staring at a picture I had captured of my baby boy's open-mouthed belly laugh. I knew my friends would enjoy it, but I also debated whether or not to share it: What about my friends who get annoyed by baby pictures? What about my friends struggling with infertility? Am I turning into that woman who constantly posts pictures of her kid?
In the end, I chose to share the photo, reminded of a passage from C.S. Lewis' book Reflection on the Psalms. In it he explains the compulsion to express one's joy outwardly, writing,
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is the appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling on another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with (the perfect hearer died a year ago).
This is so even when our expressions are inadequate, as of course they usually are. But how if one could really and fully praise even such things to perfection–utterly 'get out' in poetry or music or paint the upsurge of appreciation, which almost bursts you? Then indeed the object would have attained perfect development.
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