Is my social media being used to bless others with encouragement and love or am I really just boasting on myself and feeding others’ unhealthy comparisons to me?
Well isn’t that a heck of a question?! Over the past month or so, I have been churning through Lysa TerKeurst’s (I can never spell her name without looking!) book, Uninvited. This book piqued my interest because I came to El Salvador with the expectation of former friendships made here to immediately grow and for everyone to become my bestie, available 24/7…and that didn’t exactly happen. My friends had lives they were living that needed tending to. They are college students, professionals, missionaries…they have job titles other than Ashley’s Friend. Add that unrealistic expectation to the feeling of being an outcast when in groups because I couldn’t understand what everyone was saying (#spanish), and pretty quickly I began feeling left out and lonely. And that is exactly what Lysa’s book speaks to – “Living loved when you feel less than, left out and lonely.” As you can imagine, I’ve underlined basically every word of this book.
This particular chapter talks about how the devil uses our feelings of left out-ness and not good enough-ness to tear us down and attack us at our weakest. I have been both the victim of comparing myself to someone else’s perfect Instagram feed and the culprit, trying to make my life look lovely and shiny and full of beautiful, God-fearing unicorns (yes, my vision of a perfect life includes unicorns). And there have been times when I am both the victim and the culprit simultaneously. With one post, I am desperate for affirmation from friends and strangers and possibly causing those same friends and strangers to fall into the trap of comparison.
There is nothing we can do to control what others post. But what we can control is our intentions and how we react to others’ posts. What is my intention for going to social media? Am I bored? Looking for inspiration? Wondering what my friends back home are up to? Or am I looking for proof that someone else’s life is just as sucky as mine in that moment and desiring affirmation for my sucky feelings?
If I can identify in the moment why I am mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I may be able to save myself a good amount of emotional stress. If I am looking for affirmation of my negative emotions, perhaps the better thing to scroll though is my Bible. That book is full of people who have felt rejected and left out. David for example – his own father didn’t even think he was good enough to be considered for king. Our parents are supposed to see and proclaim our wonderful abilities and qualities, but all David’s father saw was a scrawny shepherd. Yikes. Parental rejection is the worst.
Of course, there are many, many encouraging posts on Instagram that can help us learn to look to God in the tough times, become better prayer warriors, get closer to God….the list goes on of the amazing posts I have seen and leaned on in times of weakness. But before turning to the bloggers, I should turn to the Great Writer.
And then there are the times when I am truly just bored, scrolling through, looking at pretty pictures of flowers and adorable puppies and being inspired by insightful Christian bloggers and BAM! Yet another person engaged, who, really, I never in a million years thought would have a boyfriend, let alone get engaged before me! Really God?!? Like, do you even know what you’re doing up there?? I’m 32! THIRTY-FREAKING-TWO! I should be married, have 2 kids and know how to make the perfect pupusas and delcious browies all in the same hour! But NOOOOOOO….!! WAHHHHH! This, dear friends, is the perfect (and oh-so-real) example of an unhealthy response to a friend’s happiness. And this can be controlled by choosing to flood my spirit with God’s truths. Immediately, the lies of not good enough-ness and never going to happen for me-ness flee in the presence of God’s truth. The truth that God DOES love me. God DOES care about me. And above all, God DOES have a plan for this life He created.
So friends, let’s be careful about what we post on social media. Let’s ask ourselves if we are hoping to encourage others or show off how immaculate our lives are. Because let’s be real – life is messy and it helps to know we aren’t alone in our mess.