Social media and I have a peculiar relationship. I use a few different services and each to varying degrees. Twitter has been my go-to and I use it largely as a news feed, whether within my social circles, my Mizzou Tigers, or whatever else I’m interested in at the time. Instagram is my favorite place to see something entertaining, whether a video someone has shared or just a silly picture. I have a love hate relationship with Facebook. I deleted my account a few years ago because I didn’t understand the purpose of it anymore. All I saw was people using it for their ranting or soapbox or woe is me attitudes, or I kept getting a ridiculous number of Farmville invites. Despite all of that, I reluctantly rejoined this year because I have a desire to write for a living and see Facebook as an opportunity to share my writings. The drama and silly games are still there, but I typically pass those things over because I now have a purpose for it. My relationship with social media is peculiar because I go through phases in how much I actually use it. I may go weeks without posting anything on Twitter simply because I’m not one to post something just for the sake of posting. My follower count is puny compared to others, but I really don’t care. Not anymore anyway.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of being consumed with our social media statistics. 15 minutes of fame has become 10 seconds. We are obsessed with how many retweets, likes, or shares we get on a daily basis, and our mood and perspective on life for that day rise and fall with the stats. I am so guilty of this, especially with my blog. As an aspiring writer, of course I want to know if people are reading what I post because that helps me gauge my effectiveness. However, I tend to constantly check the stats page and I get frustrated at times if the response isn’t what I think or hope it should be. The fact is, I feel a burning in my soul to write and need to be faithful and obedient to write no matter the outcome. It raises the issue of contentment. The Apostle Paul talks about this in his letter to the Philippians:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)
Contentment. My 20 year old self would have found this concept boring and without adventure. “I want the American dream!” But today, with many more life-miles on me, I find it appealing. Banning Liebscher, founder and leader of the popular Jesus Culture movement, talks about the dangers of social media and how they can cause us to be discontent with the assignment God has given us. We compare our real world lives with other people’s social media lives and get jealous. As Banning said, we aren’t just comparing our lives to other’s social media lives, but their high-point social media lives. We all want to share our high points and keep our low points in the shadows. You don’t see selfies of the sucky moments of life. The problem arises when we forget that others are doing the same thing and we begin to think their lives are just perfect. I have a friend who likes to post pictures of all the wonderful food he eats as he travels, and then I compare that to the frozen pizza I just pulled out of the oven. I forget that he likely doesn’t eat that way all the time. The social media world allows us to create an image of ourselves that’s a fabrication so that others will like us more. It feeds our self-absorption and narcissism. At the root of it all is a desire within each of us to be known and feel significant and that’s why it’s vital that we maintain a perspective that life is God’s story and not ours! God knows each of us intimately and we can only find true, lasting significance in relationship with Him.
Banning encourages us to be faithful and obedient to the assignment God has given to us. If that’s to serve behind the scenes at your church, work hard at your job, or love your kids the best you know how, then that’s what you must do. Not every person is called to be influential to the masses. In fact, those are rare assignments. We are simply called to work hard and be thankful for the tasks He has given us in the present time of our lives.
Is social media leading to discontentment in your life? Are you guilty, like I am, of comparing your real world life to other people’s social media high points? I encourage you to take this time to fix your eyes on Jesus and ask him to help you be content in life, no matter what highs or lows you encounter.