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Why I Love/HATE Social Media

It’s happened way too much lately.  We’re right in the middle of family time, enjoying each other’s company, and someone checks their phone.  Because I was online just a few minutes ago and follow most of the same people they do, I know what they will find and watch with a heavy heart.

Scroll.  Scroll.  Scroll.

There it is, the blink.  I feel it in the pit of my stomach as surely as if I have been punched.  They were left out.  Again.  One of my very favorite smiles begins to fade despite best efforts to keep it in place, and what could have been a fun and memorable family event is tainted by private feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and maternal anguish.

I have an eighteen-year-old son and a fourteen-year-old daughter.  This phenomenon transcends gender and age and is the reason that my relationship with social media is love/hate…mostly hate.

I know that social media can be and often is a good thing.  The Bible says to pray constantly with all kinds of prayer requests, mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice.  Social media lets me do that.  In fact, most of the prayers I’ve prayed over the last few years simply wouldn’t have been prayed had the need not come up on my feed.  Many of those prayers were for the comfort and peace of others in times of mourning.

It’s the whole rejoicing with those who rejoice thing that I struggle with sometimes. I am encouraged to see how many of my friends are happily married and/or enjoying healthy friendships. I get chills when I learn that they are expecting or adopting a child or becoming grandparents, and I love watching their children grow, overcome, and accomplish. I even enjoy new car, new house, and vacation updates, but that hasn’t always been the case.

Until five years ago, Todd and I shared a car, lived in a rent house, and pinched pennies in order to take modest vacations.  None of it really bothered me–I knew I was blessed–until I got on social media and saw pics of my friends driving new cars, living in big, new homes, and taking extravagant vacations. Then it became a struggle.

Satan used those posts like barbs to awaken the jealousy monster I kept chained in the basement of my heart, the one I should have already let God kill.  I truly wanted to believe that my friends, family, and acquaintances were unaware of the unrest that their posts caused me, but every “having a great time here at Disney World” felt like “don’t you wish you could take your family to Disney World?”  Every “closing on my dream home today” felt like “you are the kind of people that made us leave our old neighborhood.”  Every “my new toy” felt like “shouldn’t you at least have a car?”

That was five years ago.  Now the struggle is social, not so much for me, but for my family.  I’m a bit of an introvert and am okay, for the most part, with knowing that my friends get together without me, but it kills me to see what my kids go through because of social media.

Again, I want to believe that the incessant, for-no-particular-reason group pics and overused totem pole captions ( bae, bff, the best, my favorite, etc.) posted by this generation are not intended to wound, but I am suspicious.  I can’t help wondering how many are innocent celebrations of friendship and how many are actually aggressive attempts to stake social territory.  After all, kids will be kids, and that’s what bothers me.

Ultimately, there’s nothing I can really do about it but help my children find their worth in Christ, teach them to consider the feelings of others in all things, and model compassion myself.  I can’t control how other people respond to the things I post, but I can consider their feelings and keep my motives in check.

To post or not to post?  It’s the question we all need to be asking, and the answer is, “It depends.”  Are we trying to inform, entertain, or inspire, three completely benign reasons to post, or are we trying to persuade our audience that we are somehow happier, better looking, less lonely, more accomplished, more connected, more wealthy, more satisfied, more disciplined, more intelligent, more athletic, more original, or more spiritual than they are?

If our purpose is to somehow win King of the Social Media Mountain, we’d do well to save those tilted, filtered pics and clever captions for the family scrapbook.

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