I’m just going to come right out and say something that most people won’t like: social media is the source of a lot of your unhappiness, anxiety, disappointments, and frustrations. Want to know how I know? Because it’s absolutely a major source of those things in my life.
This applies to all forms of social media, but the one I’m talking about specifically is my beloved Instagram. Insta is my most favorite social platform because it’s easy to scroll, it seems to always be filled with the things I like to see, it’s full of photos versus words, which is totally my jam since I’m such a visual person; all around, it’s pretty rad. But all of those things are exactly what makes it a breeding ground for insecurities and doubt.
Have you ever clicked on that little magnifying glass on the bottom of your Insta app? Maybe you’ve stumbled on it without even knowing what it was, or maybe you intentionally check it out every day. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, let me give you a quick breakdown of what’s behind that magnifying glass.
That’s the Instagram Explore Page, which is made up of photos and videos hand-selected (i.e. robotically selected based on an algorithm) just for you. These photos and videos appear based on the types of things you like and the accounts you follow. They’re specific to you, so if you log in to someone else’s Insta account, their explore page is going to look much different than yours. What this means is that the Instagram algorithm probably knows you better than you know yourself.
Think about the types of photos you’re drawn to. They probably focus on one of two things; something you wish you had/did, or something you already have/do that you want to improve. Or both. For example, my explore page is usually filled with a combination of the following photos: vacations, pregnancy announcements, home decor, and creative posts like Bible art and hand-lettering.
By themselves, there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but when they’re viewed with that sneaky comparison lens, they take on a new form. Suddenly my vacation destinations aren’t exotic enough, our house isn’t styled the right way, and I’m not at all talented. And after just a few minutes of scrolling, I find myself feeling empty and grumpy, and wondering what happened.
When we were right in the midst of fertility treatments, I remember telling my husband that it felt like literally everyone was pregnant. I didn’t know it then, but now I understand; it felt like everyone was pregnant because everyone in my newsfeed was pregnant. I was checking out pregnancy announcement ideas, and how to dress a baby bump, and Instagram was simply making those things easier for me to find.
The things that show up there aren’t a coincidence, and it’s your responsibility to protect and guard your heart. We all have areas of weakness, triggers for anxiety, sadness, fear, and comparison; learning what yours are and how to avoid them will change your life. There’s nothing wrong with using social media for inspiration, motivation, and ideas, but when I find myself questioning my worth, disregarding my blessings, and wishing for someone else’s something, I know it’s time to take a step back, take a time out from social media, and tear down that bridge between me and those triggers.
If I don’t, it not only affects my mood, it changes my actions. I find myself doing things to satisfy my desires instead of seeking what God has for me. I’m focused on my will instead of surrendering to His. I’m jealous, resentful, ungrateful, and mean. And I’m full of self-doubt and fear; the two biggest things that keep me from doing anything really big and bold and amazing.
When my eyes are on the things I want, even if they’re good things, my eyes are taken off of Jesus. Remember what happened to Peter when he was walking on water? He was doing it! His faith lead him out to the open ocean. But when he looked away and allowed fear in, he started to sink. And when my eyes are on something else, it’s usually because I’m giving that thing my attention and focus, I’m desiring it and treasuring it. I’m looking to it for satisfaction and joy, two things that God wants to be our source of.
Scrolling can be so addictive, and it’s not an easy habit to break. Most times, I don’t even realize I’m doing it, until I start to feel that switch in my mood. It’s almost a guarantee that if I notice myself feeling like I’m not enough or doubting my value, I’ll look down and see my phone in my hand, open to social media.
We can all rest assured that this struggle isn’t new; it may be presenting itself differently than in the past, but people have been chasing joy in all the wrong places since the beginning of time. And the Bible offers us some hope on how to get through this, and all, struggles. Bring your longings to Him. Look to Him for your worth. Lean on Him for your comfort. When you’re devastated at yet another baby announcement, cry to God. If you can’t seem to quit the sugar and you’re comparing yourself to her, bring it to God. When you can’t afford the fancy vacations you want to take, seek God. After all, our desires for outward things are really masking our true desires for what only He can bring us; joy, acceptance, peace, and so much more.
It won’t be easy, but you can take steps to bring joy back into your moments and days, and I’m committing to doing just that by spending less time on social media, because I know that what I’m really longing for will never be found behind that screen.
Verses your soul might be craving: