Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On Filters, or How Instagram is Making Me More Honest

An Instagram photo of my daughter playing in our neighbourhood #filtered
I'm on Instagram (find me here) and love the idea of being able to edit and share the snapshots from my life with friends and family. Plus, I get to explore the various pictures from around the globe and stay a bit more connected with my long-distance friends and family. Even though I'm not enthusiastic about the constant stream of selfies, pictures of various dinners, or the increasing number of hashtags, one of these latter designations stands out to me:

#nofilter

Through the built-in filters and editing tools on Instagram, VSCO, and various other apps, the iPhone and other mobile devices quickly become portable photo editing stations. Instantly, my ordinary picture of my boring life becomes artsy and creative. That selfie I just took? Add a filter, and it's a veritable work of art. The random snapshot of my lunch? Adjust the shading and exposure to create an instant gourmet meal.

With Instagram photos, the filtered image often becomes more "real," more "cool" than the reality itself.

What if we could just remove the filters? What if we didn't need a filter to make our image appear cool or creative or unique or attractive? This is why the #nofilter tag stands out to me. It's essentially saying "this photo is creative and artistic enough that it doesn't require editing or filtering."

What if I lived my life with #nofilter?

What if we already had all the image we needed, the imago dei stamped into our souls? What if we could just revel in the beauty God has created without having to edit it? What would an honest, authentic #nofilter life look like?

Authenticity, messiness, being real. That's what matters, right?

Yes. 

And no.

Yes, we should revel in the authentic beauty of the imago dei, recognizing that we are inherently good and valuable and true. Vulnerability and honesty matter. Jesus had plenty of harsh things to say about hypocrisy and doing religious acts out of false motives. We can, and should, be open and honest about both our beauty and brokenness. We shouldn't feel the need to cover up and hide our flaws out of fear or condemnation, because there's no condemnation in Christ.

Yet editing is required. It's called sanctification, and it's the process of becoming more whole, more human, all through the salvific power of the Divine Artist who created us in His image. When we embrace authenticity and honesty without filters or editing, we end up reveling in our brokenness. No filter required; let's just be honest and real here. But this worship of authenticity doesn't lead closer to Jesus. It just leads to being more real about my inadequacy. As my friend Luke wrote on his blog today, "the temptation of the new age is to think that loudly proclaiming my 'not goodness' is being good." A healthy authenticity uses editing and a filter to hone and emphasize the image of God in us, while cropping and removing the grunge of our brokenness.

Let us live honest, gracious, humble, obedient lives of integrity. That's a better #nofilter way of life.

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