Facebook, Social Media, and Discontent

Yesterday I read a thought-provoking article from one of my favorite authors. Karen Hancock, author of Arena and the Legends of the Guardian-King series, takes time to blog about her writing process at Writing from the Edge. Her most recent post is about “Facebook envy:”

All right, I’ll confess: I’m not a fan of Facebook. Yes, I appreciate my husband’s drawing my attention to various updates of mutual friends (some of them more my friends than his) or family members. Sort of. Mostly…

But overall, the way it’s set up, the sheer number of people you end up “interacting” with (I use the word with reservation), the superficiality of it all… not for me.

Especially not for me is all the “liking” and collections of comments on posts and… oh, my. No. I could see that my flesh would have a field day there. It could be immensely stimulating, sure, but not in a good way, and it also holds the prospect of being very distracting and even debilitating.

She goes on to reference a recent study by a German researcher that found that many people who spend time on Facebook are making themselves miserable:

A recent German study has determined that at least one third of Facebook users end up with negative feelings after browsing. The primary cause of their negativity is envy: they become jealous of their fellow Facebookers’ perceived happiness and accomplishments, and discontent with their own, which seem much less than other people’s.

Apparently people tend to portray their lives as happier and more exciting than they actually are. As a result, many people are miserable because they believe their lives are not nearly so wonderful as their friends. The comparison leads to envy and discontent.

This mirrors very much what I have been experiencing with Facebook in recent months. Such-and-such friend is losing weight, but I’m not. So-and-so is running a marathon. Me? Never gonna happen. Posts about cool meals and fabulous restaurants just remind me that it’s been ages since we got to have a date night. Vacations pictures are a great way to combine the above: look how great she looks, we haven’t been on a vacation in YEARS, and we can’t afford one right now. Everyone’s life is cooler than mine.

Even the more mundane things begin to weigh on my mind. Why isn’t anyone commenting on my post? Other people get loads of “likes” and “comments.” What’s wrong with me?

Of course, I don’t think Facebook is all bad. I absolutely love keeping in touch with family and friends from around the country. My friends have been wonderfully supportive of me through hard times. My problem with Facebook is really with myself. As Karen Hancock mentions above:

Especially not for me is all the “liking” and collections of comments on posts and… oh, my. No. I could see that my flesh would have a field day there. It could be immensely stimulating, sure, but not in a good way, and it also holds the prospect of being very distracting and even debilitating.

Ultimately, there is only One whose opinion counts, and He loves me. My name is written on the very palm of His hands. His banner over me is love. What does else could possible matter?

So, I’m going to be making some changes to help reduce my unhealthy dependence on Facebook. I’m not deleting my account or going on a “fast,” but I will be reducing my time spent online. I’ve already taken the Facebook app off my phone. Did I really need to know every blessed comment as soon as it was uttered? In the spirit of putting on something in place of what I’m putting off, I will be spending more time living my life and focusing on Him instead of on myself.

I’ll leave you with the verse I’m pondering today:

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

3 thoughts on “Facebook, Social Media, and Discontent

  1. lorisadlibs says:

    Very good observations! There are many shortcomings that a person can be faced with by spending a lot of time on facebook, but overall it’s much safer than any other social media I’ve seen. I agree with you that the problems we experience are inherent to ourselves–they’re our problems. When we envy people on facebook, we would also envy in real life. I would also add that social media takes us too much away from real life. It’s too easy to ignore what is happening around you when you are living virtually. It’s a great escape, way to keep up with friends, put ideas out there to see what people think, and see what your kids are talking about! But it should be limited and put low on the priority list. It’s an escape just like a movie, video game, or t.v. show is an escape.

  2. Joanne Goonewardene says:

    Your comments about comparing ourselves to others and envy and discontent reminded me of a friend who some years ago told me that she had similiar struggles every December when the Christmas cards from friends with update letters started arriving in the mail. Same temptation, new technology!
    Your post has me thinking about how we can use this technology for good, to encourage one another and build each other up. Thanks.

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