This week a friend posted an article on Facebook that dealt with what was termed "Facebook Envy". The whole premise of the article is that many view Facebook as a stressful environment because they feel jealous of pictures and posts of their friends' relationships, vacations, etc. The author of the article went so far as to suggest that Facebook's creator should be somewhat worried about the long term effect of this trend.
This article found me in the middle of a week of cutting back on Facebook for some of the same reasons. Of course, one of the reasons I have wanted to cut back is because simply browsing Facebook has become too time consuming for me. I go on to see a picture or post a comment, and an hour later I go offline wondering what on earth I accomplished in that time. Or I'll find myself sneaking on during the day for fifteen minutes here and there, which adds up to an hour or more of time that I could have been playing with the kids or cleaning or enjoying the little moments that pass so quickly.
But perhaps the more sinister thief of my time is that feeling of discontent and jealousy that comes after any amount of time on Facebook. Has your internal dialogue has gone something like this: "Hm, I posted something absolutely hysterical on Facebook and got about two 'likes'. Meanwhile Julie posted the healthy thing she ate for breakfast and got twenty 'likes'. Good grief- what does that say about me? Which reminds me, I think I ate part of a brownie for breakfast- why am I such a failure at dieting?? Ah, and there is Bert raving about his recent outing with Stacy- I swear I don't remember the last time I hung out with those two. They are probably systematically pushing me out of their lives. Well fine. And when was THIS picture taken? Where was I? *sigh* Trudy's haircut is amazing- Trudy's new outfit looks amazing- I really wish I had the money for an awesome outfit and haircut as well. Seriously, this is like the fourth picture Jenna has posted of her kids reading novels at age 3- I am a terrible mother. Gah, Ted posted some vague political reference and three of my friends LOL'd. I must be such an idiot if I can't even figure out what they are referring to."
It is an exaggeration, but all embarrassing and childish, none-the-less. In fact it reminds me of when I and my siblings were younger. My mom or dad would praise one of us for doing something well, and the rest of us would be deeply offended. "But Mooooom, she's not the only one- I can do that too!! Watch me, watch me!!" In some twisted way, we would sometimes take recognition of our siblings as a slap in the face. If my sister did a somersault and got complimented, I would infer that Mom and Dad were ignorant of the fact that I, too, could do a somersault- that I was practically a professional somersaulter, and had obviously been capable of them long before my sister. What I was struggling to grasp at the time is that MY worth to myself, and to my parents, was not contingent on my abilities or my siblings'. My sister's accomplishments and abilities in life are part of her own purpose- they do not add or subtract from my own. One person's success, joy, or friendship, does (or should) not diminish my own through questionable comparison.
And that is what I find myself struggling with at a different level as an adult. I have certainly prayed about my reactions to many of these things, and yet I still battle with those negative feelings brought on by comparison. And I'm reminded of a verse. Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. (NIV)
At first glance it is a horrific verse- truly Facebook wouldn't be an issue, period, if we all ran around chopping our hands off. But I believe that Jesus is being hyperbolic here- and the point is that sometimes we need to be willing to take extreme measures to avoid falling into the same old ruts and negative issues that we are prone to. For me, I've decided that even though I'd like to be strong enough to not waste time worrying about or envying what other people are doing, I am not at that point right now. My solution is to cut back to using Facebook only once or twice a week over the next month or so. And I'm hoping that as a result, I will find myself more at peace- free from so many pointless thoughts, or mental and emotional angst.
And ultimately, I hope that more and more I will be able to truly "rejoice with those who rejoice" as Paul commands in Romans. Or , in Facebook terms, like when other people's posts get "likes"- be happy when other people have happy friendships- and feel joy for those who feel joy on vacation in the sun (even if you are feeling a bit miserable in the cold and snow)D. ;o)