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3 Things to Tell Yourself When Social Media Makes You Envious

April 3, 2017

If you’ve ever spent time on social media and felt like everyone else’s life was more glamorous than yours, their marriages more romantic than yours, and their kids more behaved than yours, I understand. And so does my friend, Karen Ehman. She’s guest posting on the blog today to help us hold on to truth in the moments where the comparison struggle is so very real and to teach us where to fix our eyes at times like this, enabling us to find true contentment and purpose. Don’t miss more information about an online Bible study based on her latest book that teaches us how to do this at the bottom of this post!

I sat in the waiting room of the dentist office, leisurely scrolling through the feed on my cell phone. Perhaps reading a few articles might help me forget about the needles and numbing I was about to receive. So, I scanned the various links I spied, clicking and reading, and then clicking some more.

One title caught my eye—an article about how social media can make you envious and perhaps even unhappy.

The article asserted that we escape our real lives each day by going to a virtual vacation destination: the land of social media. Our little excursions may start out benign enough—we see a friend’s post about being late to work or our cousin sharing her new favorite funny video clip—but, if we stay on long enough, the digital excursion just might take an unpleasant turn. Why? Because all that swiping and scrolling your way through the feeds can sometimes trigger feelings of envy. It may even tempt you to migrate your mind to a place of extreme sadness. As I read the article, I started to ponder whether I thought this concept is true, and I have to say it is!

So, what are we to do? Is there any way to stop letting the pesky green gremlin of envy ruin a perfectly good scrolling session?

Yes.

We need to learn to watch our words.

Oh, I don’t mean the words we might leave in a comment on social media (although we certainly should do that too!) I mean the words we speak to ourselves. Phrases like “Must be nice” “How come she always has everything so easy?” and other unhelpful conversations we have with ourselves. Instead, we need to learn to preach a few sermons to our very own souls.

Whenever I begin to feel envious, I lecture myself with at least one of three recalculating catchphrases. They go like this:

1. Remember, you’re only seeing the finished screen shot, not the reality backstage.

Social media is a best-foot-forward platform. We don’t create an account in order to share the not-so-nice aspects of our lives. Due to this, you might see the final results of a perfectly staged picture, but you don’t see what really happens behind the scenes.

When I was in college I was active in theatre. Our drama troupe put on fabulous musicals and compelling plays. What happened on stage was worthy of the curtain call applause we received. However, backstage our dressing rooms and the prop tables were in complete disarray! We hurried to change scenery—and to change clothing—leaving the backstage looking like a disaster zone. Social media is much the same. You never know what a mighty mess might be behind that perfectly staged photo.

2. You’re looking at the wrong person.

My mom taught me a valuable lesson in junior high. She told me that whenever I feel down about life and discontent with my current circumstances, I need to remember that there is always someone out there who is worse off than me. “Go find that person and make their day” she advised. “In some strange way it will make yours as well. Get your eyes off yourself, honey.” And you know what? She was right! What if, instead of being envious of those who have more than we do, we searched for the person who has it worse off than us and then did something to brighten their day? Yep. It snaps us right out of our melancholy mood. Jesus’ words ring true: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) Stop wishing to receive the same seemingly wonderful life as someone else. Go and give instead—a small gift, some kind words, a thoughtful gesture, or a helping hand. Make their day. It will make yours as well. And finally…

3. Spend more time touching lives than you do touching screens.

What we might need most is a break from our phones, laptops, and tablets. We spend loads of time touching screens each day yet considerably less time actually touching hearts and lives. So, shut off the phone, log out of your laptop or turn off that tablet. Spend time with someone you love in person. Take a walk and catch up on life. Go out for coffee and inquire how they are doing and then really listen WITHOUT ever checking your phone! Connect heart to heart with a friend or loved one without the presence of any device. When daily we touch screens—leaving comments and liking statuses—we might feel we are connecting with others, and certainly in a sense we are. But not in the most important way. Never let touch-screen communicating take the place of up-close, in-person, real life relationships. It can help to reset your emotions when you spend time with a real-life friend.

Let’s vow this week to use social media properly and not allow it to trigger envy and sadness or to tempt us engage in destructive self-talk. Then, we can learn to leave the land of “Must be nice!” and instead dwell contently in the middle of the exact life God has chosen for us.

If this post resonated with you, you’ll absolutely love Karen’s new book Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World. I’m thrilled to announce that we are hosting an online study of it through Proverbs 31 Ministries that begins today! We’ll give you the first two chapters free so there is still plenty of time to join our community. Click here for more info or to sign up. And we’re giving away 3 copies of Listen, Love, Repeat today! To be entered, comment below with which one of Karen’s points you’re going to implement this week.

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83 Comments
  1. Christy Altazan

    You’re looking at the wrong person – WOW! I never thought of it this way but it is so much better to help those less fortunate than to be focused on things that other people have and I don’t. I’m going to work on this all week and I just bet i’ll start feeling a lot better about myself by the end of the week 😉

    Reply
  2. Bitsy

    Yes, this is so true!!! I am going to step away from the tablet a bit this week…

    Reply
  3. Melissa

    #2 Looking outward rather than inward…how I can bless someone else?

    Reply
  4. Beverly Wright

    I want to work on touching others lives more than touching screens. As a stay at home mom, it’s easy to be caught up in my little bubble. I want to be more aware of others needs and step out of my own little comfort zone to possibly bring some comfort, love, and encouragement to someone else during the week!

    Reply
  5. Christine

    I don’t have Facebook and hope I never will. I only write an occasional blog on WordPress but I don’t engage in other social media. I do save cute cat pictures and some drawing and illustration pictures in Pinterest but I don’t engage in comments or socializing on it. I just like the pictures. I do free graphic design work for my church. My main purpose in life is to serve the Lord. Paul said “To live is Christ.” Where do you get your identity from? God or some fluff on the internet?

    Reply
  6. Andrea

    I’m going to do the third point: spend more time on lives than screens. I can certainly call a friend rather than follow her posts on Facebook!

    Reply
  7. Ashley

    #3

    Reply
  8. Janelle Terrance

    I am always conscious of not using my phone when I am with my children…life is to precious and time is not to be wasted when I am spending time with them! I make it a point to leave my phone in my purse when I am out to eat with them, or when I am at home…nothing more important than my kids!

    Reply
  9. Jessilyn

    I’m going to spend more touching live rather than screens. In the evenings when I’m home from work I’m going to make a continue to make a conscious effort to put my phone up and really be with the ones I love most 🙂

    Reply
  10. Sheri

    I’m going to implement #2. This is so timely. I was just praying about this issue this morning. I confessed & asked the Lord to help me with envy. Then I read this post. Wow… it really ministered to me. Thank you!

    Reply
  11. Sue H

    # 2 and # 3…great ideas…thank you!

    Reply
  12. Donna Peterson

    I am seriously working on #2. I have had to quit working due to my health and during this time of waiting for disability to start we have had to rely on standing in line at the food bank. I have discovered my witness in that line can be negative (agree with everyone in line when they complain or worse keep quiet) or positive (standing up for what is right). God has been giving me the strength to speak up.

    Reply
  13. Shirley

    To make sure I don’t miss hearing those heart drops from the family and friends I visit with.

    Reply
  14. Shirley

    To make sure I don’t miss those heart drops from family and friends I visit with.

    Reply
  15. Donna

    I truly want to work on listening to others, especially loved ones. To hear or inquire about the things they are not saying. To offer clarification. To take the details and remember them the next time I am with them to show I really do care.

    Reply
  16. Marilyn

    I need to work on connecting more with people face to face and NOT FaceTime or Facebook. I need to get off the electronics and get in touch with people.

    Reply
  17. Cynthia

    I am going to help others and try to make their day better!

    Reply
  18. Christine

    I really need to turn the phone off and stop checking and scrolling on Facebook as much as I do. I notice a difference when I’m on it a lot.

    Reply
  19. Tiffani

    Touching others!

    Reply
  20. stacie robertson

    You are looking at the wrong person

    Reply
  21. Emily

    #2! I will look for an opportunity to help someone in need!!

    Reply
  22. Laurel Wycoff

    I’d rather spend time touching lives than touching screens

    Reply
  23. Beth

    I love your wisdom to spend more time touches MG lives and less time touching screens!! That’s my goal for this week!!

    Reply
  24. Carol

    Good words. I have been slowly backing off of social media & people are wondering what is wrong. Nothing I’m choosing less social media. Give me more of Jesus & less of me. Amen 🙏🏻

    Reply
  25. Tiffiny Palm

    All of these ideas are great reminders! Will work on #3 making more effort to touch the lives of others. It makes a huge difference in myself when I take time to put someone else first over myself. It doesn’t allow for me to be stuck in self pity when I touch the life of someone else.

    Reply
  26. Shannon

    I’m going to work on knowing that social media only shows the finished screen shot. I really found myself struggling with this during the season that my husband and I are in right now. He has recently had a change of employment and I am not adjusting well. I’ve been comparing us, the things we do and things that were able to do two other people who live totally different lifestyles. If feels good to be able to say it and try to figure out how to work on it now.

    Reply
  27. Chrissy Kennedy

    I can’t tell you enough how much I love Proverbs 31 – I have passed along to many. I just read about the social media issues in our lives. I personally do not have a Facebook page . I can for sure make more time to do for others though … social media has some good and a lot of bad …. Please register me to be put in the Drawing for the book … would love to read it

    Reply
  28. Brittany H.

    I am going to work on touching lives not screens. I am so bad at looking at my phone or other things and not focusing on quality time with my daughter. I want to be a strong woman of God for her, but how is she going to see that if I’m always “busy”. I am starting today, right to focus more on our relationship while I still can! Thank you for that great reminder!

    Reply
  29. Erin McGreal

    My issues with social media would definitely be, negative self talk. I was also one of those little girls whose Momma’s told them, “someone always has it worse off than you.” It definitely stuck in my head and I’ve repeated it to people plenty of time because I thought it was such good advice. But I’m only human, and the negative self talk is something that still happens from time to time. Another issue is needing to get off of my iPhone & iPad and simply spend real time with those around me, specifically my fiancé. I have recently began COMPEL Training and I love watching Bible Journaling tutorials, so it keeps me disctracted and I know it’s an issue. I will try to work on my problems and pray about it now that it’s been brought to my attention and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’m going to go along with this study and attend the FB groups, blogs, and FB live, even though I don’t have a book. I would feel absolutely blessed to win one but that’s in God’s hands. God Bless You and thanks for the amazing question! 😊❤🙏

    Reply
  30. Kelly B

    #2. Look out, not in. Be aware of other’s need.

    Reply
  31. Marilyn

    Wow, I do not have the book yet 🙂 All three of the ideas I can work on and I absolutely LOVE how our whole family can learn from the LISTEN LOVE REPEAT book!!! Thank you Karen for serving the LORD! God Bless YOU!!

    Reply
  32. Cassie

    I am going to implement the first one this week. Remembering that it’s not all about the finished picture perfect picture posted on social media. There is always more than meets the eye!

    Reply
  33. Heather

    Yes! With that wonderful read I will be signing off…thank you for the reminder to not focus on the highlight reel of others!

    Reply
  34. Sandy

    I’m going to implement touching lives instead of screens. I love that the “must be nice” phrase was mentioned. Yup. Said that one many times. Thanks for putting a positive twist on that.

    Reply
  35. lorrie

    I will work on 3, putting the phone on silent and in a different room.

    Reply
  36. tiffany

    All three!

    Reply
  37. Karen

    All of the points are good and a wonderful challenge~~ I think I will focus on reaching out instead of in! I need to get out of my own head and problems and focus on finding good things to do for others.

    Reply
  38. Gayle Meagher

    I will work on destructive thoughts and self talk. I will work on listening better to my husband and my friends.

    Reply
  39. Janet Miller

    “Spend more time touching lives than you do touching screens”. This is SO needed and I need to focus on faces in front of me, not on my device. And I also really agree about the focus being on the wrong person when we obsess over social media. I need to look for actual people who are hurting or in need, and look at my own heart and see the sin I need to confess and muck that needs cleansing there instead of prettied up pictures. The world needs less selfies and more selflessness!

    Reply
  40. Cheryl

    This is so timely! I have been dealing with comparisons most of my life and definitely agree that social media magnifies the feelings of not measuring up. And now with a new role as pastor’s wife old familiar thoughts of “not enough” have crept in.
    I think I will try to unplug more & connect in person or in other ways this week. This is something I know I need to be doing. I don’t want to look back & have regrets…wishing I had put the phone down more & spent more time with the ones I love. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
  41. Lauren Marcela

    My focus would be on the first point this week to remind myself that fb friends post the good times in their lives and that my fb friends have bad times in their lives, too just like I do.

    Reply
  42. Leigh F.

    I want to bless someone today and let my kids be a part of it so they can learn to do the same as they grow up.

    Reply
  43. Kathy W

    I am going to seek out someone less fortunate than myself and do something to lift their spirits.

    Reply
  44. Ronda Ceynar

    This is so true! Luckily, I am able to put down my phone and spend time with my husband and our dog! I am also blessed to be able to give back to others! God is good!

    Reply
  45. Julie

    I recently completed a group bible study on this book!! The book is positively awesome and we all got so very much from it!! I have shared it with other friends and definitely “copied” some of Karen’s great ideas on truly loving those around you!!!

    Reply
  46. yvonne williams

    Thanks for the encouragement! You always hit the correct button! Only God! Have a Wonderful Day!!!

    Reply
  47. Misty

    “Get your eyes off yourself” Wow…what a beautiful reminder. If we want to live in a less self-centered world, we need to start with ourselves.

    Reply
  48. Toni Johnson

    I’m going to spend more time touching lives rather than touching screens! Wow! What a powerful statement!

    Reply
  49. Debra Schrater

    This is exactly what I need in my life right now. I am so happy that I’ve never had to “seek” out a new study when one ends because God puts it right in front of me & it is so clear. Just finished uninvited, excited to start this one!!

    Reply
  50. Moma Tee

    It was nothing short of a God-thing that this email dropped into my inbox this morning. Just last night, I told my husband that I was feeling invisible and ghost-like…in my own church, of all places! This is mostly due to social media. Being a loner and someone who prefers to do behind-the-scenes stuff doesn’t put me in the limelight of everyone’s social activities, and I can easily be sitting in a room full of people but fee left out and alone.

    Point #3 will definitely be what I strive towards this week, and for the weeks to come. FBook will take a back seat for a good bit. I’m driving now.

    Reply
  51. Tiffany

    I absolutely love this blog entry. Too often I find myself thinking why can’t I afford those types of vacations or gee, I don’t look that good on my best day. I needed to read this today and remember Karen’s point #2; I’m looking at the wrong person. Maybe I don’t have it all in the world’s eyes but instead of focusing on that I will focus on the less fortunate and what I can do to help.

    Reply
  52. Emmylou

    I will remind myself this – You’re looking at the wrong person.

    Reply
  53. Betty

    It’s so easy to focus on me. I realize I need to walk in some one else’s shoes and listen to where they are physically and mentally to understand where they are emotionally.

    Reply
  54. Jenn

    God put this on my heart recently. I decided to take a facebook fast and see what more productive, more meaningful things could fill up that time instead of scrolling, coveting, and judging on social media. In the morning, I made my husband’s lunch and took time to write an encouraging note to place in it. I spent extra time playing with the kittens, walked two miles, came back and made a huge spinach omelette, and read 4 chapters in Isaiah. At night, I was able to extend my prayer time and started befriending a young inner city teen who need some guidance and discipleship. The blessings of unplugging have been so abundant I may never go back. Thank you for your post and reminder of why God called me to step away from social media.

    Reply
  55. Jessica

    It is so important to remember that what we see on social media is the “perfectly staged photo.” I will remember the first point throughout this week and all the others to come. Thank you for this article!!

    Reply
  56. Mary Christopher

    I want to spend more time touching others than touching screens!

    Reply
  57. Sheri

    I have to keep coming back to being content with the life I have. In so doing, I can see others needs and minister grace, love and kindness.

    Reply
  58. Anne B

    spend more time looking at myself and quit worrying so much about what other people are doing and listening to them and see where I can help.

    Reply
  59. Kirstin

    This article was such a good reminder of concepts that are easy to grasp, but hard to implement. I’m making more of an effort to have in person connection, especially with my husband. He was out of town on a business trip for 3 days last week and you know what we did when we got home? Sat on our phones only a few feet apart, engaging with the phones but not each other. Since the importance of in person connection has been on my mind.

    Reply
  60. Kay

    I find that life is much more positive for me when I take time to share my my day with others. I went to visit my friend & her brother at the hospital two weeks ago. He is developmentally delayed & recovering form a hip replacement. He is an adult in a child’s mind still playing with matchbox cars his age. It really gave me an appreciation of life that was special.

    Reply
  61. Felecia

    I definitely need to work on number 3! It’s easy to not give my kids my full attention when they are talking. I’m always trying to do one more thing but it’s at the cost of not being fully present. This week I’m going to be intentional about listening and talking with my kids instead of half listening and picking up my phone to respond to one more email or send one more text.

    Reply
  62. Heather H

    I am really going to spend time listening to people when they talk and especially listen for clues to what makes them happy or what Incan do to put a smile on someone’s face :-). I will make it a point to write these things down and pray over how God would have me use these “heart drops” to love on those around me !!!

    Reply
  63. Helen Marshall

    I am a self taught Milliner. There are so many times I wonder and think about the success of other milliners. Many people like my hats but I’m lucky if I get one sale a month. I try very hard not to be jealous. It is hard.

    Reply
  64. Denise

    I have deleted facebook from my phone. I can still see it on my computer, but it isn’t on my phone for easy access. I’m choosing to spend more face time instead of media time. I do foster care, have two littles of my own and care for my grandchildren, face time is what I want and what my babies enjoy! I went on amazon to order the book and study guide and they are out of stock.

    Reply
  65. Trish

    More time TOUCHING LIVES than touching screens…Amen!

    Reply
  66. Jennifer Smeth

    I’m going to practice being more present and not being so focused on social media … especially what looks like a “perfect life”

    Reply
  67. Brianna

    Putting the phone down and truly connecting with friends and family.

    Reply
  68. Christine Glasford

    I am going to work on number 3. I tend to allow my phone is take up my time and i don’t spend my time wisely nor do I give people my full attention.

    Reply
  69. Courtney

    I’m normally a Chatty Cathy around most people I’m familiar & comfortable with. So, I need to work on listening more sincerely. I definitely need the most work on loving, unconditionally, especially the unlovable porcupines (lol).

    Reply
  70. Lisa Haines

    I am going to implement the thought that “I am only seeing the finished screen shot”. I am a quilter, and I love to scroll through IG and Facebook to see what others are doing. Before you know it, I am frustrated and jealous because I don’t have the time or skill that others have to make these beautiful quilts. I find myself thinking, “wow, I wish I could stay home and do more quilting, or, wow, she is so talented. I have found myself being envious of my sister, because she does it better than I do. She is posting like quilt after quilt and they are gorgeous! And when she posts them, they are staged beautifully, in a beautiful flower garden, or hanging on a beautiful fence, or on a fireplace….like Better Homes & Garden! So this book would be an excellent read!

    Reply
  71. Bella Zavala

    I love the realization that the picture you see is only a screenshot of what is truly going on and it is so true because I have good friends that confide in me about certain issues yet their postings reflect the exact opposite and so I have seen past the screenshot. As for me, I live a very private life and “my story” is just that my story, I don’t share much, if at all. But I am great listener.

    Reply
  72. shawna

    Thank you for this! I was just doing this today…searching to get away on my lunch break and see my friends on vacation, a new car, a new dress, etc. and here I am trying to figure how to pay bills, medical bills, my son’s super expensive scout trip, and do our driveway (that is slowly eroding.) But let’s face it even if we are on the other end and getting said new car,etc. we always want more! We often need to check ourselves and ask God to help us get past ourselves to be happy for that person and for that item. Say something like thank you Lord for giving them this blessing and thank you they are my friend! (Listen I am preaching to myself here too!) i love the idea to go find someone less fortunate than you and help them! I plan to do this! I know when we recently visited the local food pantry it had a huge impact on my Girl Scouts and me!

    Reply
  73. Doris

    I’m going to remember that it isn’t all it seems to be on FB. And there are others worse off than me that I need to find & minister to.

    Reply
  74. Vanity

    I always find myself looking at other people lives on social media & compare mine but it is true there are others worse off then me I need to spend less time scrolling & devote my time to making someone else’s day

    Reply
  75. Tanya Klepper

    I plan to reach out to someone who had less and share this with my teen daughter. Thank you.

    Reply
  76. Brooke

    This along with everything I have read of Lysa’s is so spot on for those of us who wrestle with the same issues. I have recently deleted my fb account because of the very thing of which she writes. I took a break from it for a couple weeks and was truly amazed at the happiness, contentment and general good mood that flooded my person!!! It was like… “oh yeah, there is this thing called real life of mine and it’s incredible!” I love deeper, listen more intently and enjoy everyday much more. Not to discount the everyday whispers from the enemy I wrestle with, they are less without all that mess to distract me. Peace my lovely friend!! 🙂

    Reply
  77. Eva

    I love what Karen’s Mom taught her: “Find someone down and make their day”.
    A great lesson not just for junior high but for all ages and stages. THANK YOU!

    Reply
  78. JLgrace

    I will pray fully ask for wisdom in my eye sight. To focus on hearing his voice. Stop focusing on the wrong one.

    Reply
  79. Jessica Ritter

    I am going to implement the third point, ” Spend more time touching lives than you do touching screens.” I have always had phases of being glued to screens, and not caring about them at all. I seem to have started the glued stage again recently, and I want to break that quickly.

    Reply
  80. Joanne Thompson

    Your looking at the wrong person is what I’ll keep in mind today.

    Reply
  81. Samarpan Thorat

    Dear Lysa

    I am so blessed with this article.

    Keep up the good work.

    God Bless you.

    Reply
  82. Bettyjo Jury

    Please pray that I can help others come to god

    Reply
  83. Dina Semikina

    Great post, and so true! I actually found that I am very judgmental. The Lord told me that once as I was scrolling and reading others’ posts. It made me judge people in my heart and thoughts and also the Lord being the Loving, sense-of humor-filled God, showed me that I am also very hypocritical. Ouch.. so as bad as social media can be, it can actually be a good thing when it shows you your own heart and convicts you! May the Lord Bless all of you!
    Dina @faithfulandbeautiful.com

    Reply
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