She had it all: beautiful and brainy, a track star at an Ivy League school, supportive parents, well-liked by her peers, and an Instagram account that boasted successes and happy smiles. Yet in an instant, she was gone. Her suicide was a shock to everyone who knew her. Her mom remembers looking at a photo on her feed and saying, “Madison, you look like you’re so happy.”
“Mom,” Madison said. “It’s just a picture.”
The majority of us present an edited version of life on social media. We share moments that reflect our ideal life, our ideal self.
Before the internet, we mailed letters or called people on the phone, sharing only what we wanted the other person to know. With social media, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young people growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered.
Checking Instagram is like opening a magazine to see a fashion advertisement, except we all know that models are Photoshopped and airbrushed. Instagram is passed off as real life.
I’m not saying that we need to grumble and complain or share our deep and personal struggles publicly on social media, but we should consider how what we post may affect others.
As Catholic Christians, we are called to evangelize. Pope Francis says,
“We cannot forget that evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. Many of these are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face… Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction.’” (Evangelii Gaudium, 15)
If someone you don’t know looked at your Instagram or Facebook, would they know you are Catholic?
I challenge you to use your social media accounts to share your life in a way that praises God that thanks Him for the blessings He has given you. Share your joy, but don’t disregard the one who is the source of that joy. Offer prayers instead of “positive vibes” to those whose statuses indicate struggles. Send a private message to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile, and sincerely ask how they are doing and if there’s anything they’d like prayers for.
Instead of portraying a false and perfect life, let’s portray ourselves as who we truly are: sons and daughters of a God who loves us.
For more on social media, evangelization, and the Catholic Church, visit www.tweetingwithgod.com to find what a Catholic priest says in reply to 200 daring questions on Twitter from young people about God, faith, and morality.