Picture this scenario: It’s 9pm and you find yourself spending a few moments (let’s be honest, way more than a few…) scrolling through your Facebook news feed.
You see photo after photo of handsome couples, beautiful sunsets, Pinterest-perfect projects, smiling children, delicious plates of food, and adorable pets. You read status after status of eloquent updates and scroll through poetic words describing the amazing details of each person’s day. Everyone on Facebook seems so happy, so in love, so appreciative of the moment, and so ridiculously photogenic.
Everyone, that is, except you.
And as you scroll through the photos, watch the videos, and read the stories, you find yourself wondering if maybe you’re missing something, or if somehow you’re lacking.
Have you ever had one of those moments? A moment when the world of social media brings you a moment of social anxiety? A moment when you measure your worst up against everyone’s best and feel that you are falling short in some way, shape, or form?
If you’re anything like me, sometimes what I call the “Facebook Effect” can get the best of us.
With so many details on display through social media, we can find ourselves caught in a comparison trap as we measure our life up against the lives of others. But the problem with this mentality is that someone always loses in the comparison game. Someone always leaves feeling broken, invalidated, and not good enough. And usually, that someone is us.
If you find yourself struggling with the Facebook Effect, there are a few important things you need to keep in mind.
1. Realize that Facebook is just a glimpse. If life is an iceberg, Facebook is simply the tip. It’s a superficial glimpse into the lives and hearts of our friends and family. In fact, my most recent Disney vacation is living proof of this theory! Scroll through my Facebook album last month and you would have seen beautiful pictures of my smiling preschoolers, affectionately hugging their favorite Disney characters. You might even see a family selfie of us joyfully riding through Tomorrowland with Peter Pan. But what you didn’t see is that moment where my three year old got motion sickness on the way there and threw up all over the car. Nor did you see that moment when our car battery died and we waited for 30 minutes in the blazing Florida heat just to get a jump.
The important thing to remember about Facebook is that it can only give you a glimpse. Life is full of ups and downs, joys and tribulations, trials and triumphs, and the platform of Facebook isn’t always sufficient (nor appropriate) to show the nitty-gritty details. If you find yourself comparing your life to the life of another, be sure to quickly remind yourself of the big picture. Behind every Facebook post is a real person whose life is filled with both highs and lows; a real person who is in need of love, of strength, of courage, and most of all, in need of a Savior.
2. Don’t allow the Facebook Effect to become a part of your real life relationships. I think the most dangerous thing about the Facebook Effect is that we can become so used to sharing our highs that we become uncomfortable with sharing anything less. We can get caught in the cycle of comparison and competition and, fueled by insecurity, we can fail to live transparently.
Though I don’t believe that Facebook is the most appropriate forum to share every single aspect and detail of our lives, I do believe that there MUST be a time and place for the big picture. The day-in, day-out, real stuff of life must have an invitation to become part of our face-to-face conversations and part of our real-life relationships.
God calls us into deep relationships with one another in the body of Christ. We are to share in one another’s joys and sufferings. We are asked to pray for one another, to encourage each other, to carry each other’s burdens, and to build each other up. But that type of community becomes impossible to engage in when we are only sharing the “status worthy” updates of our life, and withholding the rest.
One of the greatest challenges for those of us in the body of Christ is to make sure that we are engaging in real-life relationships in a way that reflects both our strengths and our weakness, our joys and our sorrows, our needs and our offerings. We must have the courage to be genuine and to be real if we are to be all that God has called us to be.
3. Remember that deep down, we are all just people. As you scroll through your Facebook news feed and read about your friends, ask God to give you eyes to see past their political bent, their embellished photos, and even their over-the-top opinions; and see them for who they really are: people made in the image of a great and glorious God.
Behind the smoke and mirrors of Facebook, we are all fellow-travelers on this journey called life. We experience the same emotions, work through the same fears, and long for the same desires. We are simply people, with unfulfilled longings, deferred hopes, and deep dreams. We face troubles and trials that join us together, reminding us of our need for one another, and ultimately, of our need for God.
May God give us the wisdom to see past the facade of social media, and into the hearts and lives of real people. May he give is the courage to live transparently in the real-life relationships he’s given us right here, and right now. And may he give us the strength to find our identity, not in the comparison or competition of social media, but solely and completely in him.
Publication date: June 16, 2015