Summer: A Season of Social Media and Self-Comparison

I love Summer break. It’s a season full of swim days, sandals, and late night hangouts with friends. But as our days are filled with fun, so are our social media feeds. On the surface this isn’t a problem. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to share your study abroad trip on Instagram, or filling up your Facebook with family vacation photos. But during the summer I’ve found myself guilty of becoming obsessed with other people’s online lives.

Last May I had a much needed foot surgery which required me to move back home and left me bed bound for a month. For the first week I enjoyed my time bingeing Netflix and having my mom wait on me hand and foot. But soon, my mom went back to work, I finished my TV shows, and the boredom set in. So what’s a bedridden girl in the 21st Century to do? Obviously check her social media. Constantly. Hours of my day became dedicated to what began as an innocent check up on friends and quickly turned into jealousy trolling my social media feeds. There I was, stuck in a house, while others that I knew were jet setting around the country, enjoying lake days, and taking beautiful pictures of themselves. I couldn’t help but think, “Why am I not there?”, “Why didn’t I get that opportunity?”, “I wish I looked like her”. I wanted to do anything other than lay in bed, but moving around for more than 5 minutes resulted in tears and a throbbing foot. So there I sat, in a bed of self-pity that I had built for myself, trying desperately to live vicariously through people and comparing my life to other people’s online highlights.

Around the third week, I’d finally had enough. I couldn’t take the sadness, loneliness, or jealousy that I was feeling anymore. My emotions were starting to consume me, and I could feel myself becoming bitter and hard-hearted. One morning I looked over and noticed my Bible peeking out of my backpack that I hadn’t touched since my surgery. I immediately felt a rush of emotions flow through me, but mainly guilt at the fact that during my time of self-pity and selfishness I had put God and my spiritual life on the back burner. I could feel that the entire time I was feeling bad for myself, God was waiting for me to realize that He was there, if only I would look to Him. I opened my Bible looking for guidance, and found this verse in Psalm that brought me comfort:

Psalm 139: 13-15
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

When I was putting myself down, and comparing myself to other girls online, it never occurred to me to consider all the effort that the Lord put into me. And then I came across this verse in 1 John:

1 John 2:15-17 The Message (MSG)
15-17 Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

The highlighted portion spoke to me especially. The entire time that I was obsessing over my social media, I never gave God a thought. I created my own cocoon of gloom and was consuming the world’s ways and refusing to let God in. The jealousy of not being where others were, and the desire of wanting cool pictures of my own to post, had made me forget who entirely who I was, and what my purpose is. We are placed on this Earth to love God, obey his commandments, and love others. But we can’t do that effectively if we let things like social media consume our lives and our thoughts.

I had a moment of clarity, but what was stopping me from falling back into this trap? I was still going to be immobile for a couple more weeks, and if that part wasn’t going to change, something else had to in order for my to keep my spiritual sanity. I decided the best thing for me was to delete my social media until I felt God telling me I could handle it again. I removed all the apps, and whenever I felt the urge to check Twitter or scroll through Instagram, instead I prayed and read scripture, or journaled about how I was feeling. This helped me to rely more on God in my low times instead of on myself, and strengthened my relationship with Him.

After a couple of weeks, I was finally in a place where I was mobile and no longer in pain. And not just physically, but mentally as well. Deleting my social media and becoming more engaged in my spiritual life had seriously upped my quality of life. Now summer has come back around, and though I’m not housebound, I’m still on alert for comparing myself and my life to those online. The main thing I’ve learned from this experience is that comparison is the thief of joy. I know now that it’s a weakness of mine, and summer is a time when I have to be on top of maintaining and strengthening my relationship with God.

Now maybe your weakness isn’t social media or self-comparison, but if it is, just know that you’re not alone. There are many others like you, including myself, but we always have our Lord and Savior, who are with us as well.

Romans 15:13
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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