From time to time I see articles or blog posts saying there is a downside to Facebook in that it can make us depressed or at least miserable. Why? Because everyone’s life supposedly seems happier than ours.
I don’t know about anyone else’s Facebook experience, but mine is a wide variety, People post funny observations, family news, interesting quotes or links to articles they’ve found valuable. Some use it to vent frustrations. Some post hymns or Scripture or prayer requests: one friend who was in the hospital Easter day said the songs, quotes, and Scriptures everyone shared were a help to her as she missed being in church that day.
But even if it were true that people felt miserable because everyone else on Facebook had more or better “stuff,” more friends, seemed happier, got more comments or “likes,” may I humbly suggest that the problem isn’t Facebook? The problem is in our own hearts.
The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice. If someone got a new job or house or whatever, good for them!
Same with someone who seems to have more friends. “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). If you want more friends, take the initiative and be friendly to others. And I don’t say that lightly: I’ve always been shy and introverted and had a hard time initiating friendships. But though it is hard, it is not impossible. Sometimes we have to extend ourselves beyond our comfort zones.
If people only seem to post “happy thoughts,” know that they do have their down times as well as anyone else. Be glad, in fact, that they don’t post every little mundane thing. I had one FB friend who did that and I had to adjust which of her posts I saw because I was being flooded with her plans for the day, itinerary, what she was making for dinner, etc., etc., several times a day.
Whatever gifts, talents, or possessions we have, someone else is always going to have more or better. The Bible does warn us about envy, calling it a mark of carnality. It also warns us about comparing ourselves with each other.
These reactions aren’t new or exclusive to Facebook, of course. Facebook is just a microcosm of how people think and react. One of my closest early married friends used to constantly compare herself unfavorably to others. She thought her home, her clothes, everything, in her eyes, was less nice than other people’s. That’s not really humility. It can be a symptom of discontentment. I don’t know what it was in her case, but I am fairly sure that no one else looked on her that way. She was generally thought of as a sweet, warm, creative person. We were all in a state of “early-married poverty,” as I call it, and none of us had heaps of nice things. But even if one of us had…that’s between them and the Lord. If He allowed them those things, then they’re stewards of them. And even if other people do actually flaunt what they have, that’s a problem in their hearts and shouldn’t be a problem in ours.
Besides feeling that other people have more or nicer things, sometimes we feel other people accomplish so much more than we do. I had trouble with that with another close early-married friend. We were both married with a child or two. But she worked part-time, was active in various church ministries, sewed for her family and home, her house was not only clean every time I was there but nicely decorated. Meanwhile I felt like I was fighting to keep my ahead above water. Often I asked myself how she did it and why I couldn’t. Once her family had ours over for dinner. I don’t know if she sat still more than five minutes at a time: she was constantly up and down, getting something, doing something with the children, doing a little here or there. I thought, if that’s what it takes to get as much done as she does, not only would I never be in her league, but I didn’t want to be. Honestly, as a guest I would much rather have had her sit down and visit with me: it was not a very restful visit to have the hostess constantly on the move. I’m not condemning her: I just realized we were very different personalities, and that was okay. No one was comparing me to her or thinking I should be like her except me, and I learned to stop it. 🙂 There was much I could learn from her, but I didn’t need to try to be just like her or beat myself up because I wasn’t.
Another time when I learned that a man who had been a younger college classmate a couple of decades ago was about to become a college president, at first all I could think was, “Wow. A college president, and he’s younger than I am. So what have I been doing with my life?” Well, I was raising children, keeping my home, ministering in various ways. Our callings were different from each other, neither necessarily better than the other in themselves.
If we’re doing what God wants us to do, we don’t need to feel inferior to anyone else, and we need to stop being preoccupied with comparing ourselves to others. If someone else accomplishes more because they’re more diligent, better managers of their time and efforts., etc., we can learn from them and be inspired to make whatever changes we need to, but we don’t need to sit in a corner feeling sorry for ourselves.
If Facebook truly makes someone miserable for these reasons, perhaps it would be best to give it up. But a better approach might be to go to it without comparing ourselves and our status to anyone, seeking to be a blessing to others, grateful for and content with the gifts and life God has given.