How I’m coming to peace with Insta-sham

Scanning the socials several months ago, I stumbled onto some posts that nearly caused me to gag up my morning oatmeal.

A group of intrepid mommy bloggers had published a book on all things motherhood, and the authors were fulfilling their due diligence promoting their work by re-posting readers’ photos.

Every single image they shared portrayed the same essential look: warm lighting touched with pleasant sepia hues, superbly manicured stationary objects tidily arranged around the book – a steaming coffee mug here, an artisan afghan strewn there – all positioned on a seamless backdrop of a vacuumed rug, sparkling marble countertop, or the blank canvas of a clean and empty table.

You see why this sight triggered my spew impulse, right?

In my honest/cynical opinion, this is as Fake Not-News as it gets. For one thing, for those with young children, unless your kids are having screen time or napping, there’s no chance in Hogwarts you’re reading a book in peace. Furthermore, I know few moms with children still living at home who can maintain Pottery Barn-perfection and have enough time to stage a stunning portrait without getting interrupted by a sibling feud or having someone smear applesauce across the photo shoot background.

Such is life in the captivatingly fraudulent world of Instagram. Filtered snippets of other people’s daily activities lure us in like moths to the flame of glimmering gratification.

Images like the immaculate motherhood book pics bother me because they don’t depict reality. Sure, those who post their best and brightest photos aren’t necessarily trying to mislead others; we all realize these are just the highlight reels. Still, I have a hard time wholeheartedly liking photos that project everyday scenarios as tranquil and glamorous when I know from personal experience that these situations can be chaotic and even hideous.

Despite my reaction, I’m coming to understand a deeper motivation for why people tend to post their most picturesque clips and gaining a new perspective on aesthetic appreciation.

We crave beauty because God made us that way. He crafted us in His image, to be like Him and to long for Him as the true source of goodness and life. Our desire for and delight in spectacles of wonder throughout God’s creation reveal the blessing and purpose of our redemption.

As John Piper says of the ultimate reason we exist: “Our final inheritance is this: that we will see the glory of God and praise him for it. We will see his glory, savor his glory, and show his glory.”

Piper inheritance quote

Worshipping God by appreciating the marvels of His creation – a concept highlighted in a previous IF:Equip study on the theology of beauty – can remind us of who He is and who we were created to be:

“By learning to recognize the beauty around us, we can better see God’s reflection in everyday life. We remember that this world, while broken, will be made new and perfect once again. This gives us great hope. Beauty lodges like eternity in our hearts, bringing memories of a good God and a future world.” (Lesson 1 Day 1)

You don’t have to be a raging pessimist to recognize the ravages of sin upon God’s perfect creation. The world is fallen and we groan along with it, waiting for the Creator to finally and fully restore its original luster. Until that glorious day, we continue to live in the reality of sinful destruction and acknowledge that it bites.

Feeling both a compulsion to expose the ugly truth of real life as well as an urge to experience genuine beauty demonstrates our dual earth/heaven citizenship. This could explain my disdain for the façade aspect of social media, knowing that the images displayed don’t align with the difficulties experienced in our broken lives.

But in focusing on the earthly perspective – that my life is a wreck and the world is a mess and everyone who lives here is a dirtbag – I tend to overlook the glimpses of majesty the Lord graciously reveals around me and forget to appreciate His goodness in wanting me to experience joy.

So, although it’s enjoyable to rag on faux-flawless social statuses, I think I could stand to cultivate more admiration for images that people intentionally craft to please the eye. After all, any illustrations of beauty we encounter are just that: imitations of splendor deriving from a greater Source of wholeness, peace, and brilliance.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” (1 Corinthians 13:12a)
1 Corinthians 13 12

Praise God that we will one day behold the glory of His radiance and not have to settle for viewing life through the dull looking glass of Instagram. Our longing for true beauty will finally be sated as we look full on our Savior’s wonderful face – no filter needed besides His precious blood.

[Cover photo: Dmitri Tyan on Unsplash]

Published by jennhesse

Coauthor, Waiting in Hope: 31 Reflections for Walking with God Through Infertility. Content director at Waiting in Hope Ministries. Wife and boy mom x3.

17 thoughts on “How I’m coming to peace with Insta-sham

  1. Interesting perspective to shift from cynicism to appreciation. I too am drawn toward the “real lives” though over the stock photos because the cuteness of kids is often in the messiness. The search for beauty in our mess can be a great tie to our creative Creator though and that is an interesting thought.


    1. Hi fellow Jennifer! I became much more attracted to portrayals of “reality” after I became a mom. Because it’s true, their cuteness sometimes really shines through the mess (which is probably a good thing that saves their bacon!) 🙂


  2. HA! We should make a book with real images of messy motherhood. But with stories that redeem their memories and the masterpiece within! Beautiful post! I cannot wait to behold God’s glory without any filters!


    1. Now THAT is a book I would put on my coffee table, along with the piles of Legos! Thanks for your encouragement, Liz. And yes, it’s so incredible to think about beholding God’s glory in person. Too amazing for words.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your honesty in this post. And I LOVE the fact that you intentionally choose to see something good where others might just criticize! Thank you for sharing your perspective 🙂


    1. Thanks for your comment, Melissa! And much credit goes to my husband, who advised me to rework this piece because it initially veered too much on the critical side. We’re all learning and growing as we go!


  4. Hey, Jennifer! First you made me laugh because I struggle with the same frustrations, and I could picture you spewing your oatmeal. Then I was sobered by the truth that we long for beauty because God created us that way. And sometimes we just want to see a little beauty despite the ugly we see all around us. Thank you for this perspective!


    1. Yes, it was definitely a revelation that has shifted my perspective. Though I still tend to fall on the “show me the mess” side. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!


  5. You’ve done it again, Jenn! You are truly a remarkable writer, and ought to be writing for the big-wigs! Lol
    I love your final line of this article! True beauty will most certainly be found in the face of our savior! What a day that will be!
    (If only you could see my house right now) 😉
    Much love! 😘


  6. This post struck a chord because I appreciate the beauty in nature. I’m also for balance in our posts. While we don’t have to show the chaos and untidiness, we don’t have to make everything we post so immaculate and perfect. That’s too much work and it isn’t authentic. One of my young friends once complained that the pix I post are not studio pix, they are not professional in the sense of being retouched… I laughed. I’m not creating a pin-up image, just sharing my life as it is. God bless you and your work, Jennifer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Too funny about that critique! If someone is a photographer or artist, I understand that motivation to make everything look aesthetic. But so important to reveal the reality as well, so as not to promote a need for perfectionism. I like how you said that – “my life as it is.” Thanks so much for reading and sharing about your perspective!


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