why instagram had to go

To preface this, I want to be very clear that Instagram itself is not the enemy. It was merely a tool that the enemy of my soul had been using in my life to keep my eyes away from Jesus. God uses Instagram just as often for His glory, and I’ve had many beautiful and lasting friendships come from that app. However, as I’ll begin to share in this post, there were elements of Instagram, and social media as a whole, that God was calling me to surrender. Some people do not struggle with social media in the way I do/did, but I hope this can speak to you in whatever God is calling you to, whether it’s stewarding social media well, or perhaps deleting it as well. I’m not ruling out that possibility ;) He’s moving in ways we don’t always see…I am learning to look for Him in everything.

I was first convicted of my problems with Instagram last fall. Being a part of Awakening has induced a spiritual “growth spurt” in my life, because I have been learning more than ever. My friends are good at holding me accountable as well, giving me more motivation to follow Jesus with a whole heart! At one of the monthly community worship nights, this verse was brought up:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

The message touched on the “treasures” we have on earth, and that our time is one aspect of the treasures we’ve been given to steward. How we spend it is a reflection of our values. I’d known for some time that Instagram in particular was consuming hours of my time every week. It’s hard to admit that this app was a constant source of distraction and it was where I found my affirmation and identity. It was my idol. That night, sitting and hearing a message about using my time and resources wisely, I was convicted to the point where there was a pit in my stomach. My body will usually reveal whether it is the Holy Spirit speaking to me or not - I’ll have this sense of terror and dread, but then an even deeper sense of “yup, this is something I need to do.” I’ve learned the hard way that saying “no” to the Holy Spirit is saying “no” to God’s best. 

I decided the next day to delete Instagram and Facebook from my phone, hoping to kill my idolatry at the source. On the surface, I was eliminating a time-waster in order to clear my head for the hardest part of the semester. Little did I know that the addiction ran so much deeper than the silly apps on my phone.

As I went through the process of purging my mind and soul from Instagram for the first time, my deep-rooted fear of what others thought of me began to reveal itself more clearly. I realized that the more attention I gained, whether through photography or just being “present” on social media, the more I was wrought with an anxiety about how people perceived me. I felt like I was under a microscope when I posted, and I hated that people could have bad opinions about me. Yet, I craved their affirmation. 

When the outlet for affirmation was taken away, I didn’t know where to go to find a substitute. I should’ve seen it coming; heck, I wrote a 10 page research paper about why social media is incredibly detrimental to teens/young adults as they are forming their worldview. To quote my academic side, “The idea ‘that…media influence[s] knowledge, attitudes, and behavior about health and lifestyle choices is accepted and research based.’” (source can be found here) Studies consistently show that social media has a negative effect on body image and cognitive development. Our phones keep us awake at all hours of the night because we are ADDICTED. I know this, you know this, our society accepts this and goes on with their lives anyways.

You can laugh at my passionate exposé of the media. I know that this may seem dramatic, but in the process of undoing the effects of social media on the way I think, I had to bring a little drama in so I could take this thing seriously. 

After a couple weeks of being Instagram-free, I made the premature decision that I was “ready” to get it back. Ha. It only took a few more weeks of being on Instagram for me to delete it again. I went through this cycle of delete-get-back-on-then-delete-again for a couple of months. I was torn, because part of me valued the beauty Instagram had brought to my life and wanted to maintain that (if you already caught what is wrong with that sentence, yay you). I wanted my business to continue to thrive through Instagram marketing. I had all these excuses. At the beginning of February, I wrote this in my journal:

“I hate my phone. I’m ready to smash it with a hammer, to be ridiculously honest. I think I need to delete my Instagram…like delete it delete it. Like forever. Scary timing because my business has become what it is largely because of Instagram [ahahah again with the wrong mindset that we’ll unpack in a minute]. However, there are many, many successful photographers out there with no Instagram presence whatsoever. This isn’t the first time I’ve journaled about this with a confused spirit.”

Like the true indecisive soul that I am, I made a pros and cons list. The cons were sickening. I knew it needed to go. I sat for ten minutes, listening with the last fleeting hope that God might say “wait, no, keep Instagram!” He didn’t say that, and I’m glad He didn’t. He knows better. I pressed “delete” and that was that.

2019-03-13 02.06.03 1.jpg

Here is what I have learned, as my head has cleared and my soul been freed from this idol for five weeks now:

My “success” has never been because of Instagram, nor has it been because of me. Oh, prideful heart. Everything I have is because of Jesus. It took me a hot minute to remember that.

Anything good and beautiful that appeared to come from Instagram was really from the Lord. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

If my business is really in the Lord’s hands, then I can trust Him to do His will with what He’s given me, with or without Instagram. Are you seeing a pattern? This whole thing is really, at its core, just another opportunity to trust Him with my life.

Real relationships and real life are happening everywhere but on social media. I’m going to be brutally honest, so I’m sorry if it stings a little: Instagram is a cheap substitute for real, authentic relationships. I said it. It wasn’t until I turned off my phone and pursued real life that I came to this realization.

The process is hard. On the harder days, I still sometimes want to post a cute selfie on Instagram and feel “loved” again. (Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that, in moderation!) But it’s on those days that I can lean into Jesus and real relationships more. He is faithful, and never ever leaves me feeling unloved for a second when I run to Him.

I say “trust the process” quite often in a joking way, because for the odd things I sometimes do in life, I have no choice but to trust that my end product is going to be better than my first attempt. But at the root of that funny phrase is this: I don’t trust the process. I don’t trust His process. I struggle hard with the idea that in this battle, in the quiet war in my head, in who I am becoming, God is moving. And He’s not surprised by any of these revelations. He is still the same God that brought Jesus from the grave; even now, He is working His resurrection power in my heart. Whoa. He is still the God of order, the God of peace, the God of patience, the God who is slow to anger and never disappointed in me, because Jesus’ blood covers a billion guilty stains. He is the God that longs for His children to approach Him with confidence, not with a spirit of timidity. How good He is, to take my baby steps as offerings of obedience.

So, to conclude this, my account on Instagram is still in existence, but it is inactive. I don’t know if or when I will come back. It’s going to be a while. The battle with my idol of people pleasing is not over, but the Lord is on my side. I will keep y’all posted. I’d love to know how you are fighting the battle against social media, what has worked or not worked for you, or other areas you are feeling the Lord moving you in a counter-cultural direction. He is with us in all of it! Cheering you on, friends.

Aliyah Burton2 Comments