Have you ever flip-flopped between two extreme emotions in the space of a breath? If you haven’t, I’m jealous and want to know your secret, but in the meantime I invite you to take a moment to peek into my crazy. If you have, you should identify a bit with what I’m writing here.
Often I love social media. Sometimes I hate it. And that can change in a heartbeat. It’s a double-edged sword for me and, I suspect, many, many other women.
I love the connections I have made and rekindled because of Facebook, the old friends from across the country I see almost daily, getting a glimpse into their lives and their families. I am truly blessed by the encouragement I have received through this medium during this hard (and often very isolated) year of health issues and the loss of my dad. I deeply appreciate the spiritual insights found in the posts of bloggers and ministries I follow. I love that I can encourage and pray for friends and family members as they genuinely share their struggles or heartbreaks. I look forward to the community interaction I have with women across the country who participate in an online Bible study I joined. I love that it’s a platform on which I can share my random musings through my blog. I love Facebook.
But. This same source of encouragement and blessing can bring me to a place of unexpected, irrational knots in my stomach. And that inexplicable dissatisfied feeling deep inside. And occasionally tears. I can be happily scrolling along and see freshly posted pictures of a group of people I know, all doing something fabulous together without me. Or events I haven’t been invited to join. Or pictures of holidays that look nothing like mine. Or things they’re doing that I can’t do. And it all crashes down. I hate Facebook. And I hate that it brings this out in me.
Again, I was happy until I saw these things, but holding my life up to this lens, I find parts of it wanting. I'm sure we've all been there. But why? Realizing this is an irrational response, I truly want to dig past the snarls of tangled emotion to the root, the cause of my gut reaction.
Honestly, my life is pretty great. More than great. Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying people shouldn’t post pictures of these kinds of things, recording the fun events of life. I do it myself. This issue is not with the people OR the pictures. It’s with my view of the world, my lens, not the fun my friends are having. Here’s the core of it: to quote my dear friend and prayer partner of nearly 12 years, Dana Phillips, “Comparison kills contentment.” So. True. I’m comparing what I have – and love- to what I see on Facebook. Yep, maturity abounding here.
However, (I am reminding myself, here, not just you) the lens of social media is a distorted one. No one posts pictures of their messy laundry room, themselves sitting at home alone in yoga pants watching The Good Wife, or having a “spirited discussion” with one of their people who live with them.
We often see the best and happiest moments, without the pain that is an inevitable part of life. Without the mess, the frustration, the loneliness. The perfection that is so prevalent on Facebook and Pinterest (my two sites of choice) is, like all “perfection,” an illusion at best and a toxic lie at worst.
As I look at something a friend has or is doing, I have to ask myself, do I want everything that goes along with it? Without even peeking behind the curtain of the smiles and beautiful pictures, I can say the answer is invariably, “No.” I will take my own burdens, thank you very much, and my own joys. (There’s a glimpse of returning sanity!) I am working on the contentment part. And trying to see through the social media lens more realistically.
The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about this, having a life that was far from photo-friendly. He wrote from prison and in deep want, in loneliness and pain, and often under threat of injury or arrest.
Here are just a couple of examples:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. I Timothy 6:6
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11b
If he could find godly contentment in his circumstances, surely I can. Finding that contentment can make me less prone to flip-flop, less likely to take a seat on that emotional roller coaster of mine. Contentment will remind me that my messy-beautiful life is so much more than what someone would see on Facebook. And so is everyone else’s. I have really come a long way toward learning these lessons in the past year, being open and accepting of what God has for me, content with where I am. I will continue to adjust my lens, refocus and recognize the blessing that is everywhere. But I still clearly have a long way to go.