A startling study made waves earlier this year. Based on data collected from over 1,000 regular users of popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the study revealed that regular social media usage makes people feel bad.
Participants took a survey that measured their life satisfaction levels before and after accessing social media. Across the board, almost all participants indicated a decreased level of satisfaction after scrolling through Facebook and Twitter posts. Many participants also reported feeling increased levels of negative emotions like jealousy and envy.
I wasn't surprised.
How many times have we clicked on someone's Facebook post to see photos of their gorgeous new hairstyle, tiny feet dabbling in the surf off Cancun, and slimmer, trimmer swimsuit body?
How often have we sighed with jealousy at the pictures of a dozen long-stemmed roses that someone's thoughtful husband surprised them with on the 23rd-year-fourth-month-three-week-two-day anniversary? Gag.
And how about the magazine-cover-worthy family photos where everyone's smiling, even the dog? Has that ever happened at your house? Certainly never when a camera was around.
Well, I know what the problem with Facebook is.
We all lie.
We post the photos of the amazingly healthy Mediterranean Couscous with Twelve Veggie main dish recipe we served our family (you can bet Dad was out of town that day).
Instead of the chopped, formed, fried, died, and laid aside version of dinner that happens more evenings than we'd care to admit.
We post gorgeous pictures of the view from our once-a-year vacation spot.
Instead of the view we see every day.
We download a snapshot of the one day this month we actually ate a healthy lunch.
Instead of the grab-and-go version we often eat after stopping at the grocery store, dry cleaners, and pharmacy.
We don't intentionally lie, at least most of us; we just instinctively know that the out-of-the-ordinary is much more interesting than our day-to-day lives.
And be honest, which are we more likely to comment on--the post bemoaning how all five kids have come down with the stomach flu or the one that captures that newborn baby smile in all its sweetness and light?
Facebook is a wonderful tool for networking, sharing life, and connecting, but to keep it in it's proper perspective, we should remember a few time-honored principles.
First, when we sign on, we should be willing to, as the apostle Paul said, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn."
See a picture of Suzi's brand new BMW? Rejoice that every good and perfect gift comes from above, and that the same God who allowed Suzi to have a BMW loves and provides for you and me. He may not send us a BMW, but his gifts to us should cause us to overflow with gratitude no matter what's sitting in our driveway.
Read a post about someone's recent hospitalization or dying grandmother? We can take a moment to pray for them, post a comforting Scripture verse in the Comment box, or send a real-live-sent-through-the-mail card, mourning with those who mourn.
When my sister-in-law died while we were on a mission trip in Mexico three years ago, the overwhelming number of kind words and sweet prayers ministered peace and grace to our sad souls. Three thousand miles away, we were comforted through Facebook.
Are you scrolling through 127 pictures of Kitty's trip to Europe? Or Pat's kitchen remodel? Or Betty's recently graduated and married (in that order) daughter? Resolve to say with Paul, "I have learned in whatever state I am in (even South Carolina) to be content" (Phil. 4:11). Remember that God has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:4). This means that wherever we are, God is there, and that makes it a good place.
"Be content with what you have," Scripture encourages us, and Paul, who must have been divinely inspired with 21st century social media in mind, brings the point home: "With food and clothing (even if it's not Ruth Chris' steak or Sak's Fifth Avenue), be content."
Remember, while we're grumbling because we're not sharing the 6-course dinner at the Capital City Club in Janey's picture, someone else is probably posting pictures of orphaned children in Haiti eating from a garbage heap.
Do I think we should stop posting wonderful, beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime vacation or splurge pictures? Absolutely not. Should we post only pictures of the cakes that fall instead of the ones that turn out right for the first time ever? No way! What about the photos of our family, together oh-too-infrequently, and not always smiling, but smiling today? Post 'em!
The same good God who puts gifts into my life opens his bountiful hand and blesses you with every good and perfect gift, too. Sometimes his gifts come in the form of a week's vacation at the beach, and other times they come disguised as another day to breathe God's air or another opportunity to trust him when we don't see the answer.
The key, I believe, is thankfulness. If I rejoice with those who rejoice on Facebook, then I, too, am blessed, because I get to share in their joy. And that will increase my life satisfaction.
Wonder if they'll ever do a study on that?
What about you? How do you think Facebook affects you? How do you process what you see and read? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. I love to hear from you.
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