6 Ways to Stop Social Media From Getting You Down
- Felicia Alvarez Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 18 Nov
“I realized that the longer I scrolled through her pictures, the more miserable I became,” my friend Lizzy admitted over coffee one afternoon. “I mean, this girl has tons of pictures, so obviously she has a great social life. And she just got married and posted pictures of their amazing new apartment, never mind the pictures of their Caribbean honeymoon. She looks good in every pictures, and she gets tons of likes.”
She stared dejectedly into her mug of coffee. “I’m lucky if I even get three likes! I feel like no one cares that I’m here. In fact, I defriended some people from church and they never even noticed.” Lizzy looked up at me and sighed, “I think I’m just going to delete my account altogether. It honestly just makes me depressed.”
Lizzy isn’t alone.
I could empathize. I had experienced similar feelings. After spending time on social media sites, I’d felt as if everyone had a better life than me—that everyone was more popular, loved, or happier than I was.
I felt sad.
Many people experience these emotions after perusing social media sites. In fact, in a recent study, scientists found that one in three people felt worse after logging on to social media. Their study revealed that “the most common cause of Facebook frustration came from users comparing themselves socially to their peers, while the second most common source of dissatisfaction was ‘lack of attention’ from having fewer comments, likes and general feedback compared to friends.”
And the reason we feel terrible is because we compare—we covet. We want what others have rather than being satisfied with what God gave us.
Thou Shall Not Covet
This commandment has been around since the time of Moses, but we don’t pay much attention to it. The Merriam-Webster definition of covet is to “desire (what belongs to another) inordinately.” Some people call covetousness greediness, and one pastor describes it as “the uncontrolled, inordinate desire for self-satisfaction.”
The Bible says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).
I believe God gave us this commandment because he recognized that our inner discontent doesn’t stay inside; it flows out into our actions. Joseph’s brothers demonstrated this principle. They coveted the attention he received from their father, and that inner covetousness/greed led them to sell Joseph into slavery and even to consider killing him (see Genesis 37).
Nowadays, we have the same struggle—not with our neighbor’s livestock necessarily (as mentioned in Exodus 20), but on a whole new virtual level. We are daily inundated with what our 500 friends post. It’s hard not to compare. We want the house, the cars, the relationships, the reputation, the success, the popularity, the looks, and the attention. Our jealousy may not lead us to sell our friends into slavery, but that comparison—that discontent—can still lead to action. The resulting feelings of depression, sadness, loneliness, or jealousy affect our attitude and the way we interact with others.
How do we live it out?
It all sounds good, right? Don’t compare and covet; just be content. But how do we do that? We’re covetous creatures, and we now have the opportunity for unlimited comparison literally at the tips of our fingers! We are constantly reminded of what others are doing—and what we are not doing.
We don’t necessarily need to run away from social media, but we do need to know how to engage in a godly way. So if you notice yourself responding negatively to online content, try some of these ideas.
1) Unplug. Refrain from logging in for a week, and use your typical social media time as a time of reflection. Write down how you feel. What do you miss about social media? What do you not miss?
2) Remember. During that time of internet fasting, remember who you are and what your life is about. Leonard Ravenhill said, “What does it mean to be a Christian? Your life is hid with Christ. You have no time of your own, no money of your own; Christ must become your complete master.”
3) Refocus. While it may not be necessary to ditch Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter forever, this time away from them may help you realize how much of your time was spent on them. Ask yourself: Is that how the Lord wants you to spend your time? Does it glorify him? Does it edify you? John Piper said, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
4) Participate with a godly spirit. Once you re-enter the internet world and are caught up in the swirl of information, view everything through the lens of love. John MacArthur puts it so eloquently when he says, “If a man loves he'll never covet because love is not self-centered, it's self-less.” Selfless thoughts will keep you from falling into covetousness.
Fight the temptation to be discontent/jealous with the fruits of the spirit. Pinning up verses of humility, joy, love, and gratitude near your desk are great visual reminders. Consider reading those verses and praying before logging on. As simple as it seems, it truly can change how you view things online.
5) Repeat. This won’t be a one-battle war. Covetousness is something we’ll struggle with our entire life; therefore we must constantly bring our social media habits and attitudes before the Lord.
6) Think of others. As you learn to socialize online with genuine love, extend that love to your own online actions. Consider that others could be struggling with similar attitudes of depression or jealousy. Before you post, think of them. Ask, “Will this post or the frequency of my posting cause others sadness?” If two of your friends just went through difficult break-ups, maybe you shouldn’t post ten pictures of you and your boyfriend? We should be sensitive in our posting, making others a higher priority than sharing—and perhaps even boasting—about ourselves.
My prayer is that the Lord fills us with satisfaction and teaches us to be wise and godly in our social media usage. Let’s not be distracted by it. Instead, let’s keep our eyes off of ourselves and on Christ—for he is the source and the meaning of life.
Felicia Alvarez lives in Southern California and loves avocados, sunshine, and serving her Savior. Currently, she teaches dance to over one hundred students and is working on her second book. Connect with Felicia on her blog or Facebook—she would love to hear from you.
Publication date: November 18, 2014