Facebook has over 1.7 Billion users. That means that within the last month over 1.7 Billion different accounts have been accessed and used to connect with one another to view, share, and like post by other users that they may have never met but consider “friends.”
Social Media. The place that we go to hide in the open. We escape into a land of hashtags and picturesque photos of our latest vacations or the most recent newlywed couples that allow us to believe the fairytale others choose to tell us.
One of the most interesting things about social media is that it attempts to preserve the lie for the user that whatever site you’re using allows for your followers and “friends” to get to know you better. If you’ve been on any social media site for any length of time you know this to be untrue. In the pursuit of followers, likes, and shares we tend to lose ourselves and create a false facade as we post only those things that make us seem exciting and perhaps even those things that might make others envy us and our supposedly adventurous lifestyle. Unfortunately, for most of us who are using these sites on a daily basis we quickly find that we are spending more time comparing ourselves to others on the site than we do sharing our own life waiting for something to happen we deem worthy of sharing.
You might be saying to yourself, “What’s the big deal? Why does it matter if I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Periscope, etc. like it’s my job?”. Or perhaps you’re thinking, “Could social media really be harmful?” because it’s something that we choose to interact with daily. My answer is that it is an incredibly big deal and it can be incredibly harmful because it can lead to an incredibly hurtful cycle of comparison.
Before we continue, I want to be sure that you understand that I’m guilty. I peruse social media daily, sometimes like it’s my job. I use more social media accounts than I can keep up with: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat just to name a few. So, I write this seeing others struggle with this fight against comparison but also being in that fight against comparison myself.
What do I mean by Comparison?
Comparison is a dangerous struggle that happens when we look at the lives of others and question why it is that we are unable to live our life in that way. What do they have that we don’t have? Perhaps someone just began a new relationship that seems perfect. Perhaps someone just landed their dream job. Or maybe, someone just bought the cute little starter home with the white picket fence. The list goes on and on of things that are posted every day that allow us to be envious of others.
How is it Harmful?
Often during times of comparison people tend to become depressed and feel as though they are doing something wrong in life that keeps them from getting these things that others have. A person wants to know what they have done not to deserve the blessings of another. This becomes especially dangerous when a person believes in the idea that if they are following God’s will only good things are meant to come to them. They begin to struggle with and become preoccupied with the sin in their lives they believe might be keeping them from obtaining these things that others have when in reality it might be outside of God’s will that they obtain those things, at least in the current moment.
Dealing with Comparison
As long as there are things that others have that you want there will always be envy and comparison. While comparison existed long before social media began the culture of being over-connected ramps up the intensity of comparison because of the type of sharing that happens on social media sites.
A couple only shows the pictures from date night but doesn’t show the ugly argument that was had the night before. The person who just landed their dream job doesn’t share that the salary is barely high enough to make ends meet. The house with the white picket fence has an annoyingly leaky faucet or a leaky roof.
All those examples are just meant to show that just like an iceberg on social media you’re seeing at most 10% of that persons life. You get a glimpse into a person’s life with these sites but you’re only getting a cleaned up version, you’re not actually getting a real life understanding of what is going on beneath the surface. As you see post on social media you have to understand that no one has a perfect life. Everyone has their own struggles being either internal or external. You cannot allow yourself to believe that you’re the only person that has things that they desire and seem not to be able to get or achieve.
The first way to combat comparison is to look at the root of the issue. Are we believing that God has chosen favorites because He’s given one person this thing and not another? Do we believe that God has forsaken you and moved His love to someone on your friends list? What about sufficiency, are we believing that in Christ we have more than enough to find joy? For believers we must refocus our desires on Christ and following His will. Christ gives us what is good for us in the time frame that is good for us.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)
The second thing that can be recommended is to get into sharing life with actual people and not a world of “fictional friends” on a screen. When we interact with real people in life we are understanding that no one lives the perfect life except Christ and even his life wasn’t free of trials. It allows us to understand that while people are enjoying the good things in life, those don’t come free as struggle as social media would like us to believe.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 ESV)
Lastly, limit the amount of time you spend engaging in social media. If you find yourself being anxious about the things that you’re seeing while you’re online then find a way to get off those sites. Afraid you’re going to be missing out on specific people’s updates? Get their information so that you can make actual contact and not just have view of an outsider looking in on their life.
How much of your life are you comparing to others on social media?