HOW OUR SOCIAL MEDIA FILTER ADDICTION GOES DEEP DOWN INTO OUR HEARTS
Snapchat was thought to be a big hit because of its gone-in-24-hours feature. But then this question also crossed my mind: what if it were a reaction? A repulsion against heavily edited and curated feeds that already came across as unreal? What if it were a phenomenon that was symptomatic of a hunger for something that is more authentic, more messy, more candid and raw, more human?
Now I really think it was rooted in the alternative our hearts were yearning for. Of something that didn’t have to pretend that every post was as though it organically came perfectly together, even though we know tons of apps and filters were used to cure everything that we no longer see in the perfect photo.
What is a filter?
According to the dictionary, a filter is: “a porous device for removing impurities or solid particles from a liquid or gas passed through it: an oil filter.”
Impurities. Ugliness. Mess. That stray hair. That awkward leg pose. The zit on my forehead. A thousand things can go so wrong about us everyday that we can only thank God for Clarendons, Lagos, crop and brighten features – whatever suits you and whatever can hide our imperfections the best.
Hiding, that’s it. Because I do not mean to antagonize beauty in this post, and not even an entire industry that capitalizes on our collective desire to look better, no, no, no. I am here to talk about how our creativity on social media, our desire for curation and filters and feed management, actually comes from a good place. It is because we like beauty and order, both of which are from God.
I am here to talk about how our creativity on social media, our desire for curation and filters and feed management, actually comes from a good place. It is because we like beauty and order, both of which are from God.
Think about it. If God wanted everything to be simply functional then he could have just made a world full of warehouses, machines, people in uniforms, endowed with the appropriate strength for his purposes, and without any regard for skin, shape, size, spirit.
But instead he creates trees, leaves, flowers, butterflies, swans, and clouds. All of which have unique purposes, yes, but also so lovely to look at. Beauty has a place in God’s heart. Moreover, he is beauty himself! Psalm 96:6 says that strength and beauty are actually in his sanctuary. So I am quite sure that nothing’s wrong about pursuing beauty, except when it deviates from its roots from beauty and the giver of it himself.
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4
It is the trusty passage for talking about biblical beauty, that of the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. We get it.
But having read a little historical supplement from Vincent Cheung regarding this matter, helped me to understand it a bit more. In his paper he says that back in antiquity,
“The attendants will vote on the dressing of the hair as if a question of reputation or of life were at stake, so great is the trouble she takes in quest of beauty; with so many tiers does she load, with so many continuous stories does she build up on high her head. She is as tall as Andromache in front, behind she is shorter. You would think her another person.”
Peter’s exhortation usually comes across as though he likes to berate the pursuit of beauty or that it is deemed unacceptable to want to be adorned, decorated, made up, and all that. This must be because Peter starts with “Do not let your adorning be,” that we miss out a recommendation in just two verse: “Let your adorning be.” So this makes it very clear that adorning simply isn’t the issue, especially when he actually tells us to do so and how to do so. And again I repeat that God likes beauty, he invented it, and is beauty himself. So when Peter was talking about adorning, he wasn’t against it but was careful to remind us about the heart behind why we do certain things.
Cheung mentions that the hairstyle really was about how it makes somebody look taller than she really is from the front. So if we think about it, braids and hairstyling really wasn’t the issue but authenticity. If the pursuit of beauty is so to express our delight in being pretty and nice, then it is fine. But if it is done to make oneself look like somebody else, then it becomes wrong.
And this problem is so prevalent in the age of social media. Morning, noon, and night, we get updates from everybody on our feed and many times, these #goals inceptually make us want to be more like them and less of ourselves. They make us see how good they’ve got it, and how far we fall behind. As a result, we filter and curate our feeds to make our lives look just ‘as great’. But is it really?
Actually, our lives may actually be great but we fail to see it because others seem to have it better. Sadly, so many young women who are full of promise come up to me and say, “I wish to be like you. You’re goals.” But inside my heart is screaming, “Are you crazy??? Don’t be me! Because by pursuing my life you will have the greatest tragedy of missing the path and future that God has prepared just for you!”
By pursuing my life you will have the greatest tragedy of missing the path and future that God has prepared for you!
Besides, I don’t have it good all the time. I know that for myself. There are days when pimples plague my face, pride clouds my heart, bills hound way before I receive my income, and everything is simply wrong with the world. And that’s not only me. I guarantee you that even the best of the best on Instagram have their worst days. You just don’t see it because no one likes publishing the bad and sad stuff. But believe me when I say that no one in the world has it all together. We all have our good days, and we all have our bad days. But here’s a word of advice: there is only one you in the world, and so be authentic to the person that God has created and is calling you to be!
I guarantee you that even the best of the best on Instagram have their worst days. You just don’t see it because no one likes publishing the bad and sad stuff. But believe me when I say that no one in the world has it all together. We all have our good days, and we all have our bad days. But here’s a word of advice: there is only one you in the world, and so be authentic to the person that God has created and is calling you to be!
“The attendants will vote on the dressing of the hair as if a question of reputation or of life were at stake, so great is the trouble she takes in quest of beauty.”
See, they’ve got a beauty council even in antiquity! And I believe that what Peter was hinting at when he was wagging his finger on the braiding of hair really wasn’t so much the hairstyle, but the pains that go into making oneself externally acceptable, lovable, desirable, attractive.
And again, is there something wrong about that pursuit? Well, not really. But the question is if we pursue inner beauty just as painstakingly as we do with our externals? I think we can easily answer that question by going through my next few ones.
- How many minutes goes to you putting on your make up and fixing your hair everyday? Now, how many minutes go to reading and studying the Bible?
- How many minutes go to reading lifestyle articles, watching video tutorials, consuming fashion tips in a day, versus minutes of spending with someone who can teach you a thing or two about the matters of the spirit and the heart?
We must always remember that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Time and effort are both treasures, and if we invest them more on the external things of life – there our hearts will be also. A young woman who’s got a powerful story once said that whatever makes our heart happy, there lies our identity and security. Let us now honestly ask ourselves, which is it that makes us happier, God’s word and presence, or this fresh batch of makeup and clothes?
A note: the pursuit of knowledge and intelligence is also vanity, a vanity of the mind, intellect, standing, pride. You can very well be so plain on the outside but so rigorous at adorning other aspects of you on the inside. The Bible says that the things of this world include the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride of life.
I am 100% sure that whatever you draw your happiness or identity from, has roots that are unique to you. You have, after all, your own history and personality. Nevertheless we have this shared propensity to hide our imperfections using different methods. I, too, am not exempt from the truth that I want to be more and totally better than who I am today. And it’s because of the truth that we are all short of the ideal. We are fallen and in our worst moments, even so undeserving of life and love. This is actually the universal ugliness that we are all trying to hide using different things, which is actually something that happened for the first time in the garden.
The First Filter
Yup, the first filter actually happened in the garden. That was when man gave up the original and glorious design that God meant for mankind in the garden. Adam and Eve were blessed and called to bear the image of God, but gave it up so that they could be like God. What irony was that to believe the lie of the serpent over the truth of God. And alas, it was truly the wrong move. Soon as they fell, also came the awareness of being naked, which must have caused them to feel scared and insecure in knowing just how vulnerable they were. No wonder they resulted to hiding themselves from God. The remarkable thing though was that even though Adam and Eve were running away from God, He goes on to follow them and eventually asked, “Where are you?”
Now let’s pause that story and think about that as you, naked in the fear and the shame of your sins, and trying to hide the blemishes of your soul, running away from God using the different filters of life. Or you can also think that God was looking at your instagram post while knowing that really isn’t you but a picture that hides you truly are. And in the midst of your pretence he comments, “Where are you?” And you are surprised because although you know your feed is not representative of who you really are, God chooses not to unfollow you. Moreover, as he sewed clothes to cover for the very first man and woman, he is also offering you a new robe, a new filter just for you. He is offering himself.
See, my friend, the truth is that we all need filters in the bare naked truth of our sins and shortcomings, and this is why we’ve become so desperate to apply every filter that comes along our way, without realising these are only temporary ones. On the other hand, here is God who presents himself as the ultimate filter. A three in one filter that gives you everything you might need to keep your heart quiet, gentle, trusting, confident, secure, and strong, even if we all know how we are but a work in progress. He has sewed all that you might need in him, that which is covering of the Father, the love and righteousness of the Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit. A filter that loves and accepts you at your worst, but also gives us the ability to take away all the ugly and bad not only for the meantime but for good.
We all need filters, but God goes beyond and gives us transformation. Don’t settle for anything less. Let your guards down and be yourself with The Only One who can turn that temporary cover to an everlasting beauty!