Can we just talk for a bit? Can we just let down our guards and breathe a sigh of relief as we pray for the Holy Spirit to formulate my words in such a way as to convey my heart? I actually have wanted to post about this particular issue for quite some time. I have written several drafts only to end up scratching them all because, well, they felt so impersonal and detached from the realness of such a struggle as the one I am going to discuss.
Social Media. Is this phenomenon the death of generations? Is it to blame for the anxiety, depression, loneliness, and discontentment that we are experiencing as women in America? Article after article seem to attest to this very fact, and as a user, a blogger, and a mom who posts pics of my kids, I feel convicted to consider where I stand on the issue.
So, I asked myself the following question: “Jill, in all honesty, how do you feel social media has affected you and the culture at large?”
My answer, uncensored, is as follows...
I love it, and I hate it.
I am for it, and I am against it.
I use it poorly, and I also use it for good.
Let me break that down for you a little. I love coming across content which builds me up spiritually as well as Bible verses and short devotionals which leave me inspired and challenged. Recipes - I adore the recipes. I love pictures of babies and dogs and cute clothes which I will never buy, probably, but love still the same. I love pretty kitchens and houses, even though I am resolved to knowing that my own will never look that way. There is an understood level of “unrealistic” that goes along with social media, and on most days, I am quite aware and accepting of that fact.
But there are other days when that assumption does not translate as well to my heart. On those days, I tend to scroll through Instagram with a cynical eye. This reaction may occur when I am having a bad day and feeling not so great about myself possibly because I lost it on my kids, totally blew it as a wife, or simply feel blah because it’s that time of the month and my jeans don’t fit. FYI, I do all those things. In those moments, the little voices inside my head can be nasty.
“she’s fake” “that’s filtered” “really? You mean to tell me that pic was totally random?” “Zach doesn’t love me like that” “I’m not a good mom” “I have no cute clothes” “now that’s a cry for attention” “seriously” “I am not good enough”
Perhaps I am the only one, and if that is the case, then let this post serve as a confession. My instinct in moments of insecurity, because that is precisely what they are, is to assign motives to others. To assume the worst about you is much easier than accepting the raw truth about myself - ouch! In these moments, I am convinced that social media absolutely is to blame for the ever-growing dissatisfaction among woman because who can compete in a world crafted for perfection?
But then God grants me this moment of clarity, not a beautiful moment, mind you, but one that forces me back into the realm of reality - the reality that exposes my own weaknesses. You see, if I am honest, it does not take a screen for me to find myself in a state of comparison. I do not need a screen or an app for my mind to go to a place of insecurity, doubt, and discontentment. I can manage to do that in the Target checkout line or better yet, from the church pew as I size up your super trendy look and perfectly dressed children. I look down the pew at my less than trendy, snot-nosed kids with untamed cowlicks and mismatched socks and exhale a sigh of defeat.
This realization leaves me in a conundrum because I must hop off the bandwagon of blame and address the matters of my own heart - the source, not the symptom. In this self-assertion, I discovered that I am a human being who struggles in my flesh. Not one who “used” to struggle but one who struggles in the here and now even as I am writing this blog. I struggle with scrolling through Instagram and thinking people are fake. I struggle with being fake (the filter just looks so much better). I struggle with impure motives and assigning motives to others in an attempt to hide behind my own faulty ones. I struggle with believing that God could really love me. I struggle with living under Grace and with extending that Grace.
Although I am admitting them to you now, this admittance is not my natural instinct, and perhaps that is why I avoided writing this post. You see, during these struggles lies an overwhelming desire to hide because who wants to admit those kinds of things about themselves? Yuck! The most comfortable and most convenient place to hide is often found in a small rectangular device. For but a fleeting moment, I may manage to feel the slightest bit better about myself as I pick your words and pictures apart. Maybe I even share them with my friends and laugh together at your expense (hypothetically, of course). However, if affirmation is what I am needing, then I will simply post a picture with a carefully thought-out caption. It may well be a stretch from reality, but the likes will make me feel better.
This coping method was designed by Satan himself to keep our hearts in a state of confusion. One that is so focused on ourselves that Jesus is many times reduced to a mere scripture posted in the caption of a photo which does not reflect Him at all. This tool that can spread the gospel to the ends of the earth has been highjacked. Satan knows our weaknesses; he knows that we long for acceptance, affection, and praise. He also knows how easily we become discontent, and so, with the simplest of distractions and misguided desires, we often settle for the fruit of man’s praise or the contentment in finding someone who is worse off than we are.
Is the answer to remove ourselves from social media? Is the answer to quit going to Target? (My husband would probably agree.) Is the solution to remove any and all people and places from our lives which could cause us to spiral down the path of comparison or cause us to portray ourselves in a less than accurate light? To that, I would say good luck. Perhaps you can find a comfy rock to hide under. Not to mention, as Christians, we have been commissioned to go into all the world (Mark 16:15), a world that is full of imperfections and temptations. How do we manage it all?
We manage it from our knees. The contentment we are seeking will not be found in what we choose to give up but rather in whom we choose to give it. It will not be found in the person we are pretending to be or the person we hope to be but only in the realization of who we actually are, a sinner in need of a savior. There is contentment found in understanding the depth of our depravity and then realizing that God never intended for us to hide behind it but wants to use us in spite of it. Even in the writing of this post, I feel a freedom. Yes, I hate the me who struggles with all of the seemingly petty, insignificant, middle school problems, but I love the me who, for this moment, does not feel the need to pretend that I don’t.
The only arrival place is to understand that there is no arrival place this side of heaven. In everything that God designed to be good, man will be tempted to distort. But even in the distortion, God will provide an established Truth that will unveil reality. Sometimes, this reality shows a side of ourselves that we do not want to see. Let yourself see it anyway. It is not through the lens of a perfect life that will draw people to Jesus but rather the confession of a broken one that is being pieced back together daily. A glimpse into this life, yes, because Jesus always grew a crowd among the broken.