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?
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.