There are many aspects of today’s culture that can cause us to feel less than. Social media is a big one, especially with Instagram stars living staged lives. It’s easy for our casual scrolling to fall down the slippery-slope of disappointment and despair.
Social media has created this mindset that we--our brand-- is defined by things like the curated image of brunch we had with friends on the perfectly adorable neighborhood patio that we rode to on our vintage cruiser bikes adorned with a basket filled with puppies.
You get the point.
And I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. Studies show that 60% of social media users say their time scrolling through social media negatively impacts their self-esteem. And another 80% report it’s easier to be deceived by others through their sharing on social media. It’s impacting us, whether we like it or not.
In my profession, as a storyteller for a public relations firm, I don’t have the opportunity to break away from social media. It’s part of my job to curate content, monitor, and engage with social media platforms. But I have, in the last little while, seen a need from a personal standpoint to considerably narrow down my Facebook friends and Instagram follows (if you ask my husband, there are a few additional people I should delete sooner than later!) Why? Because I am starting to notice that following certain people stirs up less-than feelings. I get anxious and cranky and, well, jealous when I see certain people’s posts. It just isn’t healthy.
In theory, I like to view my time on social media as a relaxing pastime, a way to zone out, and a means to connect with friends. But in reality, it has the potential to, at times, turn into something that makes me feel terrible about myself. Sometimes I let social media, without even realizing it, define how I see myself based on people’s (curated) lives.
And I know I’m not alone.
In all of this, the thing I’m continuing to realize is that we aren’t the first generation to look to sources outside of God for our identity. We read throughout the Bible that people lusted after other nation’s possessions and lifestyles. They felt inadequate at times and, in turn, they would be filled with jealousy, anger, and frustration (sound familiar?). But no matter how far His people dug themselves down into a hole of despair, God was there to remind them who they really were. They were His and that was the most important part of their identity.
1 Peter 2:9 states, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." And 1 John 3:1 says, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him." These are just two examples of God constantly reminding His people--us included--who they are in Him. We are His chosen people. We are God’s special possessions. We are so loved that God calls us HIS children.
When I put what I read in the Bible into perspective with my current emotions, my concerns regarding Facebook posts or Instastories seem quite silly. But, the negative impact of social media on self-esteem isn’t a myth. So, if you’re feeling rage-y after scrolling through social media, block, unfollow, or mute people’s posts who make you feel like you’re less than God’s chosen child. We don’t need one more avenue in our lives distracting us from our true identity!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying social media, or even curated social media, is bad. But, we need to eliminate distractions that keep us from knowing who we are in Christ. And if that’s social media for you or blogs, or lusting over your neighbor’s car . . . do what you need to do to keep those negative thoughts away!
I have to credit Jen Hatmaker as my inspiration for slimming down my social connections. She recently shared an Instagram post (see, I can’t get away!) that really grabbed my attention. After sharing the relief, freedom, and happiness she experienced in response to purging her social media channels, she said:
"You know what I want from our social media community?.
Passing the baton to each other.
Cheering other people on.
Good, important advocacy.
Less staged selfies.
More real life.
So here is me suggesting to you that if the people you follow regularly make you feel bad, sad, mad, or less, unfollow, mute, or hide them and see if you don't notice an immediate difference. Let's protect our minds and hearts because we need them to be healthy. They have too much work to do. Since social media won't censor ITSELF, we have to censor it for OURSELVES.
Let's hop out of the fury soup. "
So, what do you say? Let’s spend more time focusing on Whose we are and building up our community in a way that helps individuals see their identity regardless of their Instagram followers or what some girl from high school did on a Monday afternoon last week. Because the reality is we can’t always unlike or unfollow the things that make us feel less than. We need to look inside ourselves and do the heart-work, shedding our insecurities and handing them over to our Father. It’s then that we can truly be open to the love and encouragement of our community--whether that’s on social media or not. Maybe that looks like exchanging heartfelt cards with a friend every week to or unfollowing everyone from high school. Do whatever you need to do to help you (and your people) remember that in God’s eyes you are never less than. You are always enough.
Written by Kelli Gilmore