I’ve always had a self-esteem problem. I remember how badly I wanted to be seen as beautiful and cool like the popular girls in high school. I’ve always compared myself to others. Now, years after high school, it’s not so much about being seen as cool and beautiful — it’s about being seen.
The grass is always greener on the other side. It’s a cliché, but it’s also true. And now, with social media, it seems even more relevant, especially when an Instagram filter can alter the veracity of what we’re really seeing.
In my experience, social media can sometimes stir up jealousy that results in painful amounts of one-upping. With social media, you have complete authority over what other people see. You can project whatever image you want.
I see friends posting about how they landed their dream job upon graduation, about their exotic traveling experiences or about how the Lord has made His will so evident in their lives.
For some of these people, I know the truth. I know their lives aren’t as exciting as they proclaim them to be on Facebook and Instagram.
But you know what? Neither is mine.
I lived in an exotic country for months. While I worked and adventured, I posted over and over again about my experience in Thailand. As much as it pains me to say it, sometimes I wanted people to see what I was doing and feel jealous.
And sometimes it worked.
It was easy to make my life look glamorous online. Instagram filters were essentially created to do just that. When I was traveling, people would send me messages and say, “I can tell by your photos that you’re having an amazing time in Thailand!” I was projecting that image. My Instagram photos screamed it.
But if I’m actually being honest, I struggled — a lot. I struggled with depression and loneliness when I lived in Thailand.
Many times I found myself on my face before the Lord, begging Him to reveal why He had me alone in Southeast Asia.
If you looked at my social media profile, you would’ve never thought I struggled in Thailand. But I did.
Facebook and Instagram can be great outlets for creativity, honesty and communication. These forms of technology aren’t inherently wrong, and I actually think they can be dynamic tools that can better many components of our lives. A post might have such potential for good, but we, as believers, aren’t dismissed from checking our intentions before posting. In fact, I think that as believers it’s our duty to triple-check our intentions.
My arrogance often clouds my interaction with social media. Either I am accusing someone of being disingenuous or, more often, I am projecting an image that encourages me to puff up my chest and check how many “likes” I got on my last post.
Why is it that before an interview or before a difficult conversation, I am quick to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance? And yet, when I interact on social media daily or weekly, I completely abandon the Spirit’s authority in my life.
Maybe the next time I post or see what someone else is posting, I should recognize that my identity isn’t found in other people’s perceptions of me. At least, it shouldn’t be.
It’s easy to be consumed with myself. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by not getting enough likes on Facebook or to feel inferior when others post about where they’re traveling or where they work. What’s not easy is being content. It’s not easy to be OK with the journey the Lord has me on.
The truth is we’re all on a journey. We all have parts of our lives that are glamorous enough to stand alone — filter free — on Instagram, and we all have other parts that aren’t so glamorous. But if I’m consumed with how my journey compares to others, I think I’m missing the point of diversity in the body of Christ. I think I’m taking everything God has done for me and slapping Him in the face with it.
I’m still learning how to balance appreciating and loving where I’m at while also not using social media to one-up others. But as with anything, I think the most important thing for me to do is to pray that the Holy Spirit’s goodness and truth would saturate every part of my life — including what, when and how I post on social media.
Dani Fitzgerald lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When she’s not teaching English as a second language or freelancing for a local newspaper, you can find her listening to audiobooks while drinking copious amounts of mint tea.