The other night I was lying in bed, simply wanting to check my Instagram and share a post that had inspired me. I had every intention of going to sleep within the next five to ten minutes. Before I posted, a friend on my home page caught my eye, so I clicked on her profile, and then I saw another mutual friend in her photo, so I clicked on his page to see what this long-lost friend was up to. I probably repeated this same cycle about nine times until I found myself on Reese Witherspoon’s page, and I was suddenly like a lost child in Target: How did I get here? Where am I? What time is it? I want to go home. I need to get out! I had just wasted a lot of time, and my heart felt empty. Somehow a feeling of insecurity, self-doubt, and anxiety crept in. How did this happen? I went on my Instagram to repost something inspirational, and I ended up feeling ugly 45 minutes later. I was comparing every “unfiltered” part of my life to someone else’s highlights.

How did I become so impressionable? I have my own career and am a confident
woman. But I have found that even the most confident person can still feel “less than” by simply looking at photos of other women (or men), and the clothes they are wearing, the homes they’re living in, their beautiful children patiently posed on the front porch stoop, the flawless lives they are living, and so on. This comparison game creeps in like a thief—one that breaks into our homes, heads, and hearts every night as we scroll through our phones or sit at our computers. And comparison has every intention of robbing you of joy and contentment.

As I took inventory of my suddenly saddened heart, I tried to unveil the root of my unhappiness. Here are two key factors that I forgot to keep in mind…

First, I permitted myself to daydream about COMPLETE STRANGERS!
Just because I loved someone’s outfit or the way she decorated her Thanksgiving table, I drew the irrational conclusion that she had a life that I wanted. I don’t know that person’s personal struggle, history, or heart. As I drooled over her gorgeous dining table, I couldn’t hear the baby screaming in the background as she clicked that photo. While I became captivated by someone else’s perfectly styled outfit, I couldn’t feel the distress of a recent divorce. It all just looked so perfect, and I wanted it.

Second, the next time you ask yourself, “How does she do it?,” please remember: she doesn’t, and neither do you. Allow me to shed some light from my professional background in fashion public relations and marketing. A lot of social media has become modern-day marketing. It is usual for these posts to come across as natural behavior, but it might as well be an advertisement on a billboard or a specially planned out commercial on the television. Depending on the quantity of followers someone might have (we call these people “influencers” in the industry), there are all sorts of checks written from companies for these influencers to endorse a certain product, service, brand, etc., in the most natural way possible. This isn’t meant to say that any of these influencers are bad people. They are simply doing their jobs, but it’s important for you and me to remember that, for many, these “perfect posts” are their jobs. These aren’t their natural, everyday, roll-out-of-bed snapshots.

After reminding myself of these two simple truths to pull me out of my emotional downward spiral on social media, the last question I had to ask myself was “Who am I living for?” Many times, we label a beautiful vacation, a gorgeously decorated home, perfectly smiling children, or a big engagement ring as #goals. But those things I deem as #goals are not realistic for me. Those things are fine, but truly, what are my goals? To live a life to impress and accumulate likes and followers of my own? I shouldn’t be encouraging people to follow me but rather to follow Jesus. Am I pointing people to the Bible, or am I pointing them to my blog? I should be leading others to love rather than fueling the fire to lust over the lives of others.

As I checked my head and heart, I felt an overwhelming sense of grace. The best part about a relationship with our heavenly Father is that He meets us where we are, even in the dark depths of social media. Often, I feel as though God is like my great-grandpa, sitting up in heaven, completely out of touch with the current trends of social media. It’s almost as though I can hear Him looking over my shoulder, saying, “Kristen, what is this Instagram you speak of? Can you show me, because I have no idea how it works. Technology these days has come a long way since I was young …” NOPE! God is VERY aware of what social media is, how it works, the dark side to it, and the incredible side to it. Nothing gets past our heavenly Father, so that means we can talk to Him about it!

I encourage you not to shut out the Holy Spirit when you log on to your social media and you feel yourself veering off course. Allow the Spirit to protect you from the thief of comparison, allow our gracious heavenly Father to guide your fingers as you type, and welcome the Spirit of discernment when reading things online.