Social media has a way of hijacking perfectly good words. One years-old hostage is blessed, now #blessed in the annals of more than 52 million Instagram tags.

We’ve all complained about or mocked the blessed hashtag over the years. But for all our cynicism over inappropriate overuse and what blessed isn’t, we rarely take the time to explore what this word really means in the context of our 21st-century lives.

Blessed was originally used to describe a religious rite: to consecrate by blood. Over centuries the definition evolved: to be made holy. But in modern parlance, the word is a #humblebrag. We live in a world that sucks us into displaying highlight reels of our lives. Even the Pope isn’t exempt, having launched his Instagram profile last month and set a record for the platform when he gained his first million followers in less than 12 hours. So far, no blessed hashtag can be found on his feed.

On the rest of Instagram, it appears no feat is off-limits from the #blessed label. People apply this humble-sounding tag to babies, selfies, their legs after leg day at the gym, a dozen doughnuts, a wad of $20 bills. Nothing is more cringe-worthy than when #blessed is classically paired with another popular and not-so-clever turn of phrase #My_____IsBetterThanYours—the user trying to excuse their bragging by being upfront about it in a cute, lighthearted way. In fact, #blessed has become so clichéd online that at this point, the hashtag mostly gets mentioned tongue-in-cheek.

Still, on social media I’ve felt tempted to let the world know that I too travel; I too eat well; I too had a great workout this morning. No, God didn’t pass me by when he poured out his blessings. But I can’t shake ...

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