Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Putting the Instant in Instagram

           One of the biggest draws to social media is its instantaneous feature. With Instagram, a photo can be seen by hundreds of people just within seconds of taking it; people can respond and comment online about something that literally happened within the minute. The instant part of Instagram has many benefits that can also be seen as downsides depending on the situation. However, within the Christian community when it comes to prayer, there are many upsides to this feature. Instagram knows no geographical barrier, and it serves as a way to connect people over a span of continents. It also can spread information very quickly, allowing instant feedback.
In my observations this week, I came upon three examples of religion being lived out through Instagram. One post was a picture of a women getting ready to go into the delivery room. Another was a picture of a girl sitting on an airplane. The last one was a picture of papers and books surrounding a laptop and a cup of coffee. What do these three pictures have in common? Prayer.
In the first picture, a very pregnant woman is laying in a hospital bed with sweat dripping down her forehead. The caption reads, “IT’S TIME. Please be praying!” Within just a few minutes, multitudes of people had liked this picture and were commenting with encouraging words. People all over the country had been following this woman’s story: she was about to give birth to her baby girl that was going to be born without a fully developed brain and was not expected to live longer than a few hours. Through this post, her followers were able to know that she was about to enter the delivery room and pray for her instantly and continually throughout the process.
In the second picture, a girl in her lower twenty’s was sitting in her airplane seat. The caption read, “Shameless selfie- Africa, here I come! Prayers would be appreciated.” Once again, it took only minutes for the likes and comments to come flooding in. Encouraging words were posted as this girl embarked on her journey to the Middle East during a time when there had been Al-Qaida threats surrounding her destination. In just minutes, people worldwide were covering this user in immediate prayer as she was stepping into a dangerous situation.
The third picture displayed a mess of papers and books all sitting next to a laptop and cup of coffee with a caption that said, “LSAT today! Pray for a miracle.” Within just a few minutes, many comments were made wishing this user luck and saying that they were praying. This is another example of how a user used Instagram in hopes to involve his followers in praying for him as he struggled through last minute studying for a make-it-or-break-it exam.  
In all three instances, the user is about to enter into a vulnerable position where they feel they need help beyond themselves. By posting something and asking for prayer on Instagram, their established online community was able to instantly respond and engage in praying over that person and situation. The users were able to inform their followers of what was going on in their lives at that moment and allowed them to be encouraged by the responses of prayer. Being able to share information instantly is a benefit when you are in need of prayer. This is yet another way that Christians use Instagram as a part of their daily devotional. Having now seen and analyzed examples dealing with bible verses and prayer, and I am looking forward to observing other ways that Christians live out their religion via Instagram. 

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