With summer comes the inevitable social media feed of my friends and family members on their amazing vacations. All sorts of feels as I scroll through lovely photos of beaches at sunset, the Eifel Tower, Italian gelato, and lakeside houseboats. On one hand, I’m so happy for those I love who get to have these experiences. And if I’m real honest, I have to tell you about my envy. Sigh.
For many reasons that I won’t bore you with, vacations are not part of my reality in this phase of life. So, it’s easy to experience moments of jealousy, insisting that the grass is greener in the lives of my Facebook “friends”.
And this, my friends, is the issue. Social media is ripe for breeding comparison issues. It’s no wonder rates of depression and anxiety are up in our teens and young adults.
In the famous words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
It’s certainly true with body comparisons. Many have admitted to me their tendency to compare themselves to others in a room full of people. Then imagine the body-check game that likely occurs on social media, where we don’t have to be discreet about our side glances or stares! Social media provides the perfect storm on a bad body image sort of day.
Researchers have actually found a correlation between time spent on social media and a negative body image. So just eliminate social media, and we’ll all be happier, right?
If only social media wasn’t such a mixed bag! We crave to connect with others and we have a beautiful way to do so – especially with friends and family who live far away. We can rejoice with one another in our joys and send prayers and blessings to those experiencing trials. And there are amazing bloggers and Instagramers to follow with important messages that can bring encouragement, laughter, and healing. You may have never discovered the body and food peace message from our BodyBLoved ministry, if it wasn’t for social media!
So how do we relish in the blessings of social media while protecting ourselves from the comparison thief?
Honestly, I’m not totally sure.
But here are a few strategies that might help:
1) Pray. Say a prayer prior to tapping that icon. Be intentional about your social media time with the pause and pray method. “Search my heart, oh God!” Are you in a good place to be scrolling at this point in the day? If yes, then scroll away. But maybe say a prayer before opening Instagram that the Lord will protect you from feelings that surround comparison such as envy, jealousy, and pride.
2) Mindful scrolling. While on social media, check in with yourself. What do you need in this moment? If you have time to scroll, then you likely also have time for a little personal TLC.
Ask yourself this: “Is being on social media the best way to take care of myself in this moment?”
In some moments the answer might be yes. If your greatest self-care need is in the realm of connection, then maybe this is the best self-care practice in that moment. And sometimes a phone call to a friend might meet that need better.
At other times your heart might be in an icky, dark place and social media time might be the very worst idea on your list of self-care strategies. This is an invitation to simply notice how you feel and what you need. Notice in a self-compassionate mindful way whether what you’re doing is serving you well in the moment.
3) Consider your own posting habits. Like most moms, I have a tendency to want to share about both the cuteness and the achievements of my offspring. “We won the baseball tournament,” I want to tell the world. “Check out the amazing piece of art he just painted!”
While it’s fun to invite my friends and family members to share in the joy of a parenting victory, or an incredible moment, there is certainly pride at play…as much as I hate to admit it. I don’t think the answer is to completely avoid posting these fun moments. Perhaps the answer is to just be aware of the sneaky little pride issue and to ask God for discernment and direction towards humility in how we live out our lives and our social media posts.
4) Limit. Perhaps a break is in order – large or small. There are many ways to sabbath in the realm of social media. Some choose to go “off-line” once a week, others choose to take entire months away from their accounts. And still others choose to limit time per day on social media. There are many options to explore and discover what works best for you, if the Lord is calling you in this direction.
5) Remember that it’s not always how it seems. We are good-news posters. The other day I noticed a colleague’s amazing houseboating photos. The colleague returned to work and I asked him about the trip. He said the houseboat was infested with spiders!
And I’m no different. Tournament win? Yes! Almost breaking his arm while being tagged at home plate? I think I’ll just leave that little piece out. So, that means that we need to remember that social media posts are half stories, half-truths, if you will. We can aim to be more authentic in our posts, while also remembering that there’s always more to the story than what we see while scrolling.
6) Meditate on scripture. Two verses come to mind that can help with comparison and pride issues bred by social media. The first is from Galations 1:10, which reads:
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
And the second addresses comparison and is from 2 Corinthians 10:12:
Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
Words that God gave the Apostle Paul to keep us in line. Words that stand the test of time.
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Dawn is an Associate Professor of Nutrition and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She is a wife and a mother to an amazing 11-year old boy. Dawn enjoys finding creative ways to spread the word that God’s unconditional love can bring healing to every broken relationship, including one with food.