We post the best of ourselves on social media. We post pictures of us looking our best physically and of us having the best time. We do not post a picture of us while we are anxious, stressed, and tear covered. We don’t post selfies of that face we make right when the light gets flipped on immediately after waking up. We want others to see the best of us, even though that’s not always reality.
I read a book recently called Uninvited: living loved when you feel less than, left out, and lonely. It touched a little bit on the unrealistic-ness of social media bringing people down. The book said that according to a study they conducted in 2015, women ages 18 and older in the U.S. go to social media looking to connect and feel better about themselves, but only 14 percent walk away feeling encouraged. That means that 86 percent of people who go to social media to feel less stressed and more encouraged and loved end up feeling more empty and alone than before. Last week I came to realize that I am most certainly part of that 86 percent.
When I am stressed, my natural instinct is to scroll through pictures of other people’s perfection on social media. I look at what they’re having fun doing while I am alone and wishing I had made plans. I look at the physical appearance of others and instantly compare myself. I look at the lives of the people I follow that Instagram makes look like perfection. Scrolling through social media when stressed does more harm then good, and ultimately leads to me feeling even more anxious, stressed, and alone.
So, I gave it up.
Well, I gave it up for a week. But overall it was one of the most eye opening and rewarding weeks of my life. If you know me, you know that I am a fearless Instagrammer who breaks each and every one of the rules: I post multiple times throughout the day, I post pictures that other people have already posted, and I am not afraid of a good Instagram story… I basically just do what I want. As for Twitter, I am less fond of it, but I do find myself mindlessly scrolling through tweets at any time throughout the day where I have a little break. Facebook is really just a place for me to post stuff for my mom and her other mom friends to see, and of course to repost Buzzfeed videos. I’ve never been one to shy away from social media by any means, so giving it up for an entire week was harder than it seems.
This past week has been really tough for reasons unrelated to the social media fast: friend trouble, college stress, exams, self image issues, and teacher conflicts. I am being vague on purpose, but my point is that it was tough to be an optimist, and I believe that if I would have had social media it would have been a lot worse. I constantly found myself looking for the apps on my phone so I could scroll through pretty pictures and funny posts to distract myself from my problems at hand, but of course I deleted the apps, so I was left wondering “What could I do instead?”
I prayed… a lot. I carried around my bible and my journal and I read scripture a lot more than usual. When an upsetting circumstance would arrive, instead of distracting myself, I asked God for help. Once I eliminated the distractions that hid my blessings, I started to really experience God’s healing a lot more clearly, and without these distractions, I leaned on God and His perfection a lot instead of people and their false perfection.
I read an entire book (yeah, that one I mentioned earlier called Uninvited.) The idea behind this book was perfect and incorporated every struggle I was facing in its pages. Less than, left out, and lonely- that’s what I, along with 86% of women, feel after going on social media. This book gave me the answers on how to live loved despite those seemingly inevitable feelings. What we see will violate what we know unless what we know dictates what we see. Desiring other people’s apparent perfection on social media violates the Truth we call God unless we learn to use the Truth to look at ourselves as God does. The lies we feed ourselves when we are down and lonely flee in the presence of Truth.
Prayers were answered, and I felt the comfort of God in the midst of one of the single most stressful weeks of my life more evidently than ever before. When it hit the one week mark and came time to download social media again, I was thoroughly unimpressed. I didn’t scroll through Instagram for hours catching up on what I missed, and I didn’t instantly feel the need to look through my feed because now I know that there is something greater to turn to in not only times of trouble, but all the time. The comfort of God is truly incomparable to any other good feeling in this world. This week has most certainly taught me that while I am distracting myself from my issues instead of going to God, God is waiting patiently for me to run to him for help and healing that only He can give me.
If you find yourself relating to the 86% of people who feel down after scrolling through social media, I highly recommend simply deleting the apps from your phone for some extended period of time, so that you can instead read a good book, pray a lot, journal more than ever, live in the moment, and go to God. He is good, people!!