Is social media stealing your joy?

You know the phrase “Comparison is the thief of joy?”  You’ve heard it.  We’ve all heard it.  But what does it mean and how does it apply to me?

I’ve never really been interested in social media.  I used it in college because everyone else did.  Ridiculous I know.  If everyone else jumped off a bridge, should I?  But for whatever reason, once I got married I decided to ditch social media as I just didn’t see much value in it.

Recently I was hashing out some relationship issues with a very dear friend who was about to get married and she asked me, “Do you think you are happier since you don’t use social media?”  Yes!! I told her.  We had been discussing husband and wife relationships, so I assumed she meant happiness as it pertains to marriage.  It really got me thinking.  Social media is affecting people more than I realized.  This is supposed to be the happiest time of her life, and she is wondering if social media is playing a role in her happiness?  It’s no longer just an annoying way to see what Becky cooked for dinner, or what funny thing Susie’s cat did.  It is making people question their happiness with their spouse.  Marriage is already hard enough.  Love alone, while powerful, rarely cuts it.  It takes sacrifice, compromise, dedication, and more.  But to add pressure from social media? I was shocked and saddened when I learned that my dear friend was contemplating this.  And it’s not just marriages that fall victim to the comparison.  Its new mothers, college students, people starting new businesses, buying or building new homes, and even impressionable young children.  There is always going to be someone doing something better than us.  Faster than us.  Bigger than us.  But how does this serve us?  Does knowing that a friend from high school has a bigger house and a newer car make you happy?  Does that information do anything to help you live the life you want to live?  That is where we must know where to draw the line about whether or not it is worthy of our time; the days that make up our lives.

If it does serve you and help advance you towards your goals, by all means, do it.  But why are you here? My guess is that if you’ve made it to this point it is because you’re familiar with this thief that is comparison.

So what do we do?  For starters, we have to take a step back and reevaluate our ‘why’.  Why do I use social media? Is it simply to see the pictures of our cute nieces and nephews who live in another state? Is it to keep in touch with those college roommates we share so many memories with?  Is it to feel inadequate as a wife and mother?  Is it to remind us that no matter what we do, it’s still not good enough?  Do you see where I’m going with this?

Personally, I don’t see a lot of value in comparing my life to others.  We are all in different seasons with very different circumstances. I have my goals, and I try to seek out information that will help me attain them. 

A few years ago I was looking for a community as a young mother.  I wasn’t meeting a lot of people in my area that shared the same values, so I did join a social media site.  However, I decided ahead of time that I was only using this particular platform for things that served my goals and interests.  So I joined a few groups of like-minded mothers, a cooking community that’s very supportive, and a local group where I can ask livestock questions. I felt very encouraged by the community that I had found.  It wasn’t too long after I signed up that I started getting requests from friends and relatives.  I thought about it for a bit, and eventually decided to ignore them.  I didn’t join this in order to see how my friends were spending their weekends, or to get into political arguments, or hear everyone’s opinion on everything.  This doesn’t mean that I am opposed to hearing other people’s opinions.   Rather, I love a good conversation with someone who I don’t necessarily see eye to eye with. But as far as social media goes, I didn’t feel like that was the best way for me to use it.  I joined it to find a particular type of information and I had accomplished what I set out to.  So why let all of that other ‘noise’ in and spoil it for me?  I knew based on the complaints I heard from others that this could easily turn into something very negative.  I have told my husband more than once, “It would be a miracle if we could go a whole week without someone mentioning something crazy they saw on facebook.”  It’s sad but true.  Even my own grandmother routinely tells me about something she saw on facebook! There’s so much else of substance to actually talk about. Why are we letting this crap infiltrate our happiness?

That same dear friend that I mentioned before told me recently that she took some time off from social media just to clear her head.  What she found was that she felt great, more productive, and less emotional.  All from simply avoiding social media.  She said she wasn’t even aware of the impact that it had on her until she took a break.  Amazing, isn’t it?  It sounds so simple and yet so difficult for so many people. 

I hope the takeaway here is that it is okay, and I encourage you, to take a step back every now and then and make decisions about how social media plays a role in your day, and your life.  Is it life giving, like the adorable pictures of your nieces and nephews that bring a smile to your face?  Or is it life draining, like the picture of your friend’s clean kitchen and perfectly cooked dinner while you were busy cleaning vomit off the floor or sick in bed because of chronic illness?  Take a step back and think about if using it is adding measurable value to your life.  Is it helping you get closer to your goals, or distracting you from achieving them?  Does it provide you with tools to strengthen your marriage, or leaving you feeling like you’re not enough?  If it’s not serving you, take a break.  Even if it’s just a week.  And then be honest with yourself about how you feel.  You might be surprised.

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5 Comments

  1. Lacy Robinson

    I wish I had had the courage to leave social media when I was pregnant because it brought so much unnecessary comparison on me as a new mother! This article really resonated with me!

    1. Sarah

      Lacy, I’m so sorry you dealt with that. The upside is that you are aware of it now and can hopefully encourage other new mamas with your wisdom!

  2. Terri

    The more my man spends on FB, the less I want to. I’ve started resenting how much he looks at his phone! It’s like you said, it only makes me feel inadequate, etc. I like the jokes and uplifting quotes but then there’s the political and opinions I do not agree with. No matter what someone posts, it eventually turns negative. I’ve started only checking FB twice a day for Birthdays and weather warnings. I’m about ready to delete the app. I just haven’t taken that step yet. Thank you for all you wrote on this subject.

    1. Sarah

      It is so sad to me that this affects so many people! I agree with you, it always ends up negative. I am sorry that you deal with this. Have you spoken to him about how his time on social media affects your relationship? It sounds like you are very well aware of how detrimental it can be. Go ahead and delete the app, I dare you 😉

  3. Terri

    I just can’t take that step yet (deleting the app) but I’m getting there 😉

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