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]

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First, the update: The ultrasound yesterday showed that several follicles were growing, though some were borderline in terms of the threshold size needed for retrieval. Also, my progesterone level was a little high. Given this information, our kind and thorough doctor explained that if progesterone levels are too high, it can affect the success rates of IVF, so she presented us with two options. We could do the retrieval on Wednesday and likely not get many eggs, or do it on Thursday and have more eggs but possibly have to freeze all the embryos and transfer them later once my progesterone levels were regulated.

This news was a little disconcerting, as it sounded to me like both options were less than ideal. To relieve my anxiety, my kind and caring husband called the doctor and discussed the situation at length. While I’ve heard that frozen transfers aren’t as successful as “fresh” transfers, the doctor said that those studies refer to frozen embryos transferred after fresh ones, meaning that they already used the best-looking embryos. She reassured him that studies done with “freeze all” embryo transfers have not shown statistically significant differences in pregnancy rates from fresh embryo transfers.

Pretty confusing stuff, though I think I understood the point: The more follicles, the better, even if they aren’t transferred right away. After talking and praying about it, Colin and I decided to go with the doctor’s recommendation and wait another day.

We won’t know for sure until the retrieval on Thursday; however, the ultrasound and blood tests today looked promising. So now we wait and see what happens, and pray that the conditions will be favorable for a successful retrieval and transfer.

Enough of the gyno talk for now; let’s move on to the explanation for the title of this post: It’s the name of a recent South Park episode poking fun at everyone’s favorite social networking time-waster – I mean, tool – Facebook. In this episode, Stan gets sucked into a Tron-like Facebook world where he must defeat his virtual self at Yahtzee in order to delete his profile, while Kyle loses all his friends after accepting a friend request from a nerdy Farm Town enthusiast. It’s pretty funny, but not nearly as much as this hilarious post from an IF blogger writing in response to a Washington Post article on infertile couples and Facebook. This is seriously the funniest thing I’ve read online of late, and I think that even those who haven’t been through infertility will get a kick out of this fictitious stream of status updates and comments featuring the beloved characters from 90210 (original series, thankfully).

It’s funny, and it’s sad, because it’s true. Facebook can be a great way to reconnect with friends and family and let everyone know what’s going on in your life, but by enabling this open channel of communication, it exposes you to a world of hurt. For every person who posts a status update about something wonderful that has happened to them or been given to them, there is someone who has either had that same wonderful thing taken from them or has never experienced it and perhaps never will. Such is life: haves and have-nots, blessings and misfortunes, times to rejoice and times to weep.

This truism applies to any situation – work, school, family, friends, church, hobbies, sports (if you’re a Seattle sports fan, you’re more accustomed to the misfortune end of the spectrum). So it’s completely natural for Facebook users to brag about how great their lives are, or conversely, complain about how the world is out to get them and make them miserable.

In my Facebook news feed, the overriding topics by far are pregnancy and kids, which is understandable given the demographics of my friend group. I can’t blame anyone for doing this, and certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to stop posting updates about any topic, children or otherwise, for fear of hurting a friend. It’s nearly impossible to post something that won’t bother someone in some way.

However, I do think it is helpful to communicate major news directly to those who may be going through a hard time instead of blabbing it to the masses. I’m referring specifically to pregnancy announcements, though this could probably apply to other scenarios, e.g. if you get engaged, call your friend who’s single, or if you just landed a new job, e-mail your pal who’s out of work.

You see, reading a Facebook status update announcing someone’s pregnancy is equivalent to a kick in the junk. It produces a sudden, stabbing pain that leaves a lingering soreness and possible mental scarring. It shoves the fact that God has blessed that woman with the gift of a little life growing inside her directly into the face of a woman from whom God has withheld that gift, and compels her to send congratulations in the comments section to fulfill her duty as a loving friend. And if you think that’s bad, consider the shock of going to the profile page of a friend who recently contacted you about a non-pregnancy-related topic, and discovering that her profile picture has been replaced with a sonogram image. Ouch.

When you’re going through infertility or infant loss, these updates blindside you, and the resulting comments are no better. I appreciated how the blogger I mentioned earlier highlighted the disparity of comments on updates associated with pregnancy/children versus those pertaining to one’s profession or industry. Post about your kids, you get hundreds of comments on how cute they are, what fun it is to be parents, etc. Post about getting a promotion or some major accomplishment you achieved at work, and you get maybe 2 likes and/or a comment chastising you for boasting about yourself.

Again, I think this is human nature. Talking about your children and posting photos of them is fun, and despite my grief over not having a child yet, I still enjoy hearing about my friends’ families. It’s just a heck of a lot easier paying attention to the Facebook activities of friends who have been sympathetic and supportive of us through our struggles. Knowing that they care and still want to maintain a friendship with me even though I’m not a mom yet helps me love them and their children without feelings of jealousy or bitterness.

Of course, I could take the Matthew 5:30 “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off” approach and simply not log into Facebook anymore. As the Stirrup Queens blogger mentions in her post on this topic, some people question why these “barren b****es” don’t just get over it and delete their accounts. I agree with this to some extent, but think it should be noted that disengaging from connections with family and friends on Facebook would only further isolate those people who are hurting and in need of support. And when you feel alone, like you’re a social pariah who can no longer relate to most of your friends, breaking away from relationships and suffering in private only make things worse. Believe me, I know from experience.

That said, in lieu of upcoming events, I think I’ll probably need to go off the grid for an indeterminate time period, especially if/when we’re waiting to find out about the success or failure of IVF. To avoid any potential meltdowns, I need to become bubble girl for a little while and protect myself from Facebook-induced rages.

Maybe I’ll switch to Twitter. Or maybe I’ll convince Colin to start a Twitter account on my behalf: Bleep My Wife Says About Her Uterus, coming soon to a CBS station near you.