Sometimes I’m stunned by one’s ability to sum up something so profound in so little words; and not only that, a statement that holds so much weight and truth. With twitter’s 140-character limit, I’ve slowly learned and had to work at summing up simple thoughts, which has been a wonderful challenge for me personally.
Comparison, if you think about it, really is the thief of joy.
Thank you, Theodore Roosevelt.
He was tweeting before twitter ever existed.
Comparison, over the years, has changed its game. Where as we used to compare ourselves literally in person and face to face, we now compare ourselves not only in face to face situations, but on top of that, we’ve added the wide world of social media to compare literally everything.
A few weeks ago before Beth posted this profound blog about doing the thing we’re called to do, she asked me if I had anything for the blog that day cause if not, she had a word pressing and wanted to share it. (We make sure not to double up. Awkward!) Of course I told her to go ahead because I was in the middle of working on a post, but it was far from presentable.
I actually didn’t read her post until later that night, but it stopped me dead in my tracks because, although she wouldn’t have known what I was in the middle of writing about, our posts were very similar. I shot her a quick text to tell her that her post was amazing and indeed, needed, and then explained that the one I said I had been working on but wasn’t ready yet, was one about comparing our lives to everyone else’s via social media. She was gracious as she always is and was afraid that her post might have in some way ruined mine, but I assured her that wasn’t the case.
Ironically, the longer I thought about it, I decided I might as well not even post this blog, because, you guessed it, hers was way better than mine and obviously fitly spoken, but then it dawned on me, that’s exactly what I was talking about. Comparing our lives via the ever so brilliant social media. If the Lord had given me the words to type, then I would be disobedient not to post for fear that it wasn’t as well received. Or for fear that, comparatively, hers was way better. What an ugly truth I kept telling myself.
What I was about to keep from posting was the very thing I felt like sharing.
I think it’s obvious that I need this word more than anyone.
Allow me to explain.
We live in a generation that is more connected than ever, and for the record, over-stimulated, yet lonelier than ever. I know that is old news to most of us, but it is our current reality and every now and then, I think it’s appropriate to revisit.
Not only do I see it in the young girls I work with, I see it as being prevalent among all generations. Most of us, if we were being honest, have been sucked into the vortex that is social media.
Before we go any further, you need to know that I’m game for all things social media. I love it. It is, in fact, a part of job title here at LPM. I don’t just love it, I’m swimming in the deep end.
With that said, a few weeks ago as I was getting a pedicure, I picked up one of the magazines sitting on the table next to me and happened to flip right to a short article explaining that those who spend more time perusing facebook tend to be more depressed than those who don’t.
I may have gasped audibly and even said under my breath, “Well, duh!” because to me, that made perfect sense.
What we otherwise would have known nothing about 10 years ago, we are experts on now.
Experts on what? On how other folks are living their life and what we’re missing out on.
For goodness sake, it can be even really good things that can become distorted to us.
Say for instance a string a tweets or facebook status updates that took place from a handful of members from a certain church. (Hear me loud and clear, I’m using this example because I have done it. I did it. I am doing it.) You may love your church, but reading those updates you may get a sense of discontentment from your church. All the sudden you may get the feeling that your worship isn’t good enough. The teaching is mediocre. Childcare is iffy. Your church will never measure up! What a lie! When in reality, our church could just have more tweeters than yours. (What a weird sentence to write!)
Maybe you become aware of a party or gathering that was blasted on social media that you didn’t get invited to.
Maybe you couldn’t attend a certain conference for one reason or another, so instead of enjoying your weekend, you spend countless hours on twitter reading every last tweet and throwing yourself a pity party. FOMO, the fear of missing out, has you handicapped.
Maybe you find out from facebook that your ex-boyfriend is not only dating somebody, but is now engaged and getting married in three months.
Or how about your twitter followers? How often do we compare our number of followers to our friends? Why is this person following so-and-so and not me? And boom, they unfollow me, so I unfollow them. You just got served. Or better yet, it becomes a popularity contest throwing us back to the middle school years. We start to evaluate who’s in the “in” crowd and who’s not. I don’t know about you, but I want to leave my middle school years in their rightful place, and that is in the past.
Forget followers, let’s just talk about twitter replies. Can I say something that gave me so much freedom? You and I have the right and freedom to respond to whomever on twitter. I think some of us feel an obligation to respond and converse with the millions on twitter, but can we all give each other a little slack and be free? Can we not get jealous when someone gets a reply and we don’t? Even typing that out sounds so unbelievably silly. But you and I both know it’s the sad reality and truth. If any of us have struggled with people pleasing (hand raised!), we can get stuck in trap where we now feel the obligation to people please online as well. Oh, the pressure!
Or, to throw it out there, how about “likes” on Instagram. That alone could throw us for a loop if we think we’ve posted the best or cutest picture ever and it only gets 18 likes. Or maybe we’re so in it for the attention that we spend more time instagramming and less time socializing.
Do you see how we’ve become hyper-aware of what we’re lacking, or what we think we’re lacking? We’re setting ourselves up for failure and rejection and the fact that we all know that social media isn’t going anywhere, and in fact, only growing, means that we have to learn what our personal balance is. Things we never would have known about, and nor probably even cared about ten years ago are throwing us into a pit of despair. A pit of loneliness. A pit of discontentment. Nothing will snatch our identity in Christ from us quicker than comparison.
One thing I’ve discovered, and maybe it’s just me, is that I tend to interact more on social media with those I’m not interacting with face to face. Now, in some cases that’s not true, like say for example when my BFF posts a picture of her baby, it’s everything in me not to like it 100 times and retweet it to the entire universe. And by all means, I love a good joke or word of encouragement to a friend on twitter, but most times, when I send a tweet, I am choosing to interact with a world of people I do not know personally, all the while expecting them to care and respond like we’ve been friends for 15 years.
As if rejection doesn’t take a serious toll on a human being as it is, we’ve now added another dimension. I’m almost tempted to call it imaginary rejection. Rejected by those we’ve never even met. Nor talk to on a normal, consistent basis.
With comparison comes jealousy and I’m not sure anything steals your joy quicker than feeling jealous.
I read a quote by Steven Furtick recently, the pastor of Elevation Church, that said, ““One of the reasons we struggle with insecurity is because we’re comparing our ‘behind the scenes’ with everybody else’s ‘highlight reel.’”
Although I’m an optimist and actually prefer to view the highlight reel, simply because that’s the fun of it, the problem is we start comparing everything good about their life to everything wrong with our life. Not only are we comparing our behind the scenes to their highlight reel, everything we desire is now magnified. Where 10 years ago we were doing it in person maybe at church or school, we’re now doing it among our 600 facebook friends, or 1800 twitter followers. All of the sudden, we’re the only ones and our every desire is magnified.
Facebook happened to be released my senior year of high school, so although I’m not of the generation that’s grown up on it, I’ve lived much of my adult life on it, so I think it’s safe to say that, starting with me, we have become a generation that is addicted to affirmation. We know how to manipulate the media better than anyone and it’s a serious distraction. Not only that, but it’s created us to be narcisitic monsters. It’s the cause of much despression in our culture.
Recently a friend told me she got off twitter because she was just feeling really left out. I think she’s wise.
Can we feel left out or rejected minus social media? Absolutely. We’re all human and in fact, it’s nearly unavoidable.
But the truth of the matter is, it’s our responsibility to take control of what we let rule over and own us.
Can we not take facbeook at face value?
Life itsn’t always what it seems, not matter how many posts suggest one thing or another.
Does it mean we quit facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram and so on all together? No, it just means that those sites can’t be responsible for your happiness. Nor can they be your measure for reality. I think one wise thing we can all do is take a look back at our posts no matter where they are, and be sure we’re giving off a healthy balance and dose of reality. Are what we tweeting and saying true of us? How do we come across to the outside world lurking in?
The past year I’ve been thrown back into the stage of making new friends. Can we all agree that making friends is just plain hard? You inevitably face awkward conversations, and awkward dinner every now and then, and for lack of a better term, after much investment, you may just come to find out the chemistry (not romantic) just isn’t there. Also, for a sanguine girl who wants to be friends with everyone, I’ve realized that’s a far cry from reality. Because of this new season and revelation, I’ve found that reverting to the internet to bring me community and companionship is just as easy, but it lacks true intimacy and vulnerability, which to me, is no relationship at all. While making friends and creating community takes time, work, patience, vulnerability, initiation and so much more, the reality is, we were created for face-to-face friendships, not face-to-screen. We want to be known, loved and accepted, but we fear rejection, so we are more comfortable to correspond with people on twitter, as opposed to calling up a friend to meet for dinner.
Although I am guilty of it, when I’m among friends and family, I spend less time perusing social media. The “be with” factor is fairly effective. It’s times when I’m bored or lonely that I peruse and then fall into a pit because people are having fun, and do they know how boring my life is?
What a lie we’re trapped in.
Make a deal with me, will you? Let’s not let social media steal our joy. Let’s not let comparison get the best of us. Especially when we know that one day, none of those sites will even exist. Just like we knew middle school had an end, so does social media.
Instead of letting it make a fool of us, let’s be the first to reign in it. If we don’t do it, then I fear all hope is lost for those coming behind us. Let today be the day we put on a different thinking cap. Instead of comparing, let’s start affirming those around us. Speak life, not resentment to somebody.
I don’t really know how to tie this post up with a pretty bow. But I feel so strongly about it, so I’m just going to ask the Lord to prove us different. Prove me different, Lord.
After all, as my pastor always says, joy is our birthright. To that I say amen! Let’s not let something, or someone steal it.
I love y’all.