It was with great reluctance that we began reviving our CPYU presence on Instagram (cpyuyouthculture) a couple of months ago. It was with even greater reluctance that I established a personal Instagram account. Still, we’ve gone there because we realize that that’s where people, sadly, are living these days.
For us, our Instagram presence serves two purposes. First, it allows us to connect our ministry and resources with a larger audience. . . an audience that we believe would benefit greatly from our ministry and resources. Second, Instagram gives us a window into “the spirit of the times.” For starters, we see how social media has nurtured and lulled us into wasting incredible amounts of time. In addition, there’s the observable great irony that as people curate their images away from who they really are, the watching world gets to see who they really are. Just as Jesus said that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks,” so too out of the overflow of our social media presence the heart is exposed. That perfect-looking individual or family is a curated version of an individual or family screaming “Like me!” . . . and “I’m insecure!” We all know that to be true simply by taking a look inside of our own broken selves. . . myself included. Come on. . . you can admit it.
Marshall McLuhan said decades ago that “First we shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.” He was right. Perhaps we need to rephrase his words this way: “First we form our tools, and then our tools de-form us.”
Here’s what I know and what I want the kids that I know and love to know: My identity is not something I can construct in order to generate the kind of attention I think I need. If I pursue that, my human dignity and human flourishing will be horribly compromised. No, my broken and yearning self will only begin to find true meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in life when my restless heart finds its’ rest in my Creator.
And this is where Instagram not only gets it wrong. . . but feeds our own inclination to get it wrong. . . which is a masterful way to promote Instagram. Effective marketing promises remedies to our insecurities. If you don’t believe this, take just 1-minute to listen to today’s Youth Culture Today podcast from CPYU. . . and then work to use social media redemptively. . . realizing that social media is a tool to glorify God, rather than a tool to engage in the idolatry of glorifying self. . .