I write this on Sunday after church, lunch, a nap and suffering through a Tracy Anderson work-out DVD. Many Sundays are like this for me. Not too eventful, as productive as I can manage with some rest and some writing mixed in. I love Sundays for this reason. But this Sunday after waking up from a too-long nap, I began to scroll through Facebook on my phone. I saw many posts about people playing volleyball, going to parks, going hiking, eating brunch. They were with other people and enjoying summer. Suddenly, my to-do list seemed so lame. I didn’t have plans to meet up with friends later. I hadn’t gone somewhere cool for brunch and I wasn’t “soaking up summer.” I sat up from my reclined position and began to feel embarrassed about my life. I began to believe it wasn’t measuring up.
People have been calling out the social-media comparison epidemic for a while now. I wrote it about it for my friend Katy’s blog in the context of relationships. I particularly enjoyed this one by Shauna Niequist on Relevant. I’m glad we’re being honest about this problem and being honest in the conversation. But as much as I read and talk about the dangers of comparison online, I still do it. I still compare myself to everyone I see on all of my feeds: Facebook, Twitter and, the worst culprit, Instagram.
And sometimes my solution to not comparing myself is worse than the actual comparison: I think bad things about people. Like, “They probably took that last week and are just now posting it to make it look like they’re having ‘the best day of their lives.’” Or, “So he got you flowers again? Isn’t that getting old?” And my most favorite, “Her life must really suck right now if she feels the need to post so much scripture and positive crap.”
Welcome to the reality of my sinful mind. It’s not pretty to write about, but I have a feeling others have had these thoughts at least once before when you’re in low place.
I have moments though when my thoughts aren’t so dark as I peruse the photos and status updates. Those are the days I feel like “liking” everything my friends and acquaintances are sharing. I call it giving virtual high fives. When I’m feeling secure in who I am and liking what my life has to offer, I can like all of the other great things in people’s lives. But when I’m feeling lonely or like my social calendar has way too many gaps, I hate what others are posting and offer no high fives.
The word that came to me today as I felt shame over my big plans to visit the grocery store and write a blog post and felt jealousy toward the volleyball players and picnic eaters was gratitude. Ah gratitude, isn’t it always the obnoxious answer? But something inside me said that if I could pull away from my smartphone screen long enough to list off a few things from my own Sunday I was thankful for, I would probably feel a little better. So I did, and it turned out there were several things: I had gone to a wonderful place to worship God. I had had lunch outside with a friend I love. I had successfully taken a nap, which I often can’t do. I had a missed call from my sister whom I also love.
Allison Vesterfelt recently wrote an article about people who are abandoning social media (I have been one of these people, twice). She talks about how the problem with social media isn’t social media; it’s us. How true. This is evident in my ability to some days “like” everything I see on Facebook and some days want to unfollow each person who is having a better day than I am. It’s not my Facebook friend’s fault; it’s something that’s going on in me. And it could be, just maybe, an opportunity for gratitude.