After swearing off all sorts of social media, I had fallen into the trap once again. Here I was, mindlessly scrolling through photos that offered glimpses into the lives of my 1,000 closest online friends.
I admired the scenic views. I salivated at the perfectly prepared gourmet meals sitting on the table posing for pictures. Travel logs documented where flights were going all over the country, complete with photo albums from worldwide vacations. Pictures of new little ones entering happy families permeated my newsfeed.
Celebrations, milestones achieved, and smiling faces all decorate the internet for outside observers. From the looks of things, everyone else is living a utopian life.
It leaves a sense of wanting to join the party.
I recently thought I should fulfill my cyber duty, as if to fill an imaginary quota, but I was lost for something that fit the above criteria. I checked my history for when I had last posted something to find that my wedding video from eight months ago was the last time I had shared any part of my life.
While the wedding was a blast, it was just one night in the midst of months of remaining bedridden due to pain and spasticity. I joked with my wife that a real-life Instagram feed from the last few months would look a lot more like this:
Seeing everyone’s highlights posted on social media can raise the question, am I the only one struggling?
We all long for our lives to reflect the comfortable, carefree, and exciting lifestyles depicted by our peers; yet it feels so unattainable when the majority of photos we post are exceptions and do not accurately represent the overall status of our lives.
Why don’t we see selfies of Netflix binging, the ride home after losing a job or hearing a bad diagnosis, struggling in the midst of addiction, or a lonely Friday night? What about posts that depict the mundane or feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, inadequacy, or fear?
While Jesus promises to ultimately turn the suffering of his followers into joy, he assures us we will have trouble in this world (John 16:20, 33). There is no avoiding it. There’s no filter on Instagram for it either.
At the same time the Bible tells us to “rejoice in our suffering” (Romans 5:3). This is a difficult enough command to follow while in the trenches of life without being bombarded with photos of everyone else’s summer nights out on the town, fun vacations, and carefree evenings.
Studies have shown that the more time we spend on social media, the less satisfied we become with our own lives. Personally, I have noticed this to be true. How can I expect to be content with God’s plan for my life if I am busy coveting the highlight reel of every distant acquaintance I’ve ever known?
Social media can be a great outlet to share the highlights of our lives with our friends and communities, but if we’re not careful, we can get swept up in envy and dissatisfaction.
This is something I want to avoid at all costs. The truth is, even if our lives were nothing but a series of fun events and beautiful photos, it could never be enough. Deep down, we all know that as great as a particular season of life may be, something still seems to be missing. This is why when hardship arrives, the hole that was there all along becomes that much more obvious.
While I may often desire that picturesque lifestyle, it’s important to remember how much I’ve been able to grow through trial and, most importantly, recognize my need for Jesus, which would not have been possible any other way.
I guess it’s a good thing life isn’t as perfect as it seems on social media.
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