At Seacoast, we’ve been talking for the past few months about the “hungers” of the human heart and about the many dead end roads we travel down in pursuit of satisfaction. Whether our hunger is for intimacy, security, purpose, or identity, the world is full of alluring enticements that promise fulfillment but ultimately serve only to distract us from the true source of contentment and satisfaction: Jesus Christ.
Of these distractions, perhaps the most attractive – or certainly the easiest to fall into – is the comparison trap. It’s the temptation to look to those around us in order to answer the question “How am I doing?” as opposed to directing the question to Christ and the “capital T” Truth revealed to us through scripture.
This comparison trap is nothing new. But it was only recently that we developed a searchable, scrollable, interactive archive of each of our friends’ lives. This is the magic of the Facebook News Feed. And, for all the benefits it provides, it has an unavoidable downside. It provides a daily reminder of where exactly we stand in relation to each of our friends, family members, and random people we used to know who we haven’t gotten around to un-friending yet. It’s almost never good.
Someone in our Life Group made the comment recently that, “Facebook is a great place to go anytime you want to see which of your prayers God answered for someone else.” We all laughed about how depressing that sounded, but it didn’t take much effort to see the element of truth it contained.
Because know this: whatever it is you “hunger” for – be it marriage, kids, career advancement, travel, home ownership, retirement, or even a deeper relationship with Jesus – there is someone on Facebook who is doing it better than you are.
- That perfect career you’ve been dreaming of since you were fifteen? Your friend from high school got the job last week.
- Those kids you and your wife have been trying to have for the past three years? Your cousin just got pregnant for the 3rd time.
- That ex-boyfriend you still think about sometimes? He just got married to someone else.
The flipside of this situation is just as bad. For every Facebook friend filling your heart with envy, there are probably two more who make you look like a superstar. We sit at our computers and pray our personal version of the “Pharisees prayer” from Luke 18:11, “Oh Lord, I thank you that I am not like my Facebook friends – sluggards, gossips, drunks – or even like this one friend who has gained a bunch of weight since high school.”
At this point, the conversation usually turns to the lamentable side effects of our hyper-connected age. We blame social media and treat it as the scapegoat. There is much hand wringing about all the time we waste online, and usually at least two people promise to delete their Facebook accounts within the month.
But what if that isn’t the point at all? What if our response to all of the situations listed above says more about the “hungers” of our hearts than they do about Facebook? If social media is making it hard for us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15) maybe the problem isn’t with social media, but rather with the orientation of our own hearts.
With that in mind, we’d like to propose a test. The next time you log into Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest or some other really cool platform we haven’t even heard of yet, take stock of the emotions that rise to the surface.
- Do the careers, relationships, vacations, and milestones that clutter your feed(s) become a source of jealousy or judgment in your life?
- Do you find yourself worrying about who you are in the eyes of others?
- Does your time spent on social media leave you feeling empty or angry?
The answers to these questions can help reveal where our hearts are looking for true satisfaction. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, that may be an indicator that we have fallen into the comparison trap.
When viewed in this light, social media can actually be an incredibly helpful tool. It is a mirror reflecting what our hearts truly believe…about God and ourselves. Instead of being the problem, your Facebook feed actually reveals the problem.
If the posts and pictures of our friends cause us to feel small, insignificant, overlooked, or incomplete, chances are we’ve rooted our happiness and identity in a source that can never satisfy. That is a problem.
When we count on Facebook to validate our lives, we’re not only giving social media a job description it was never meant to have, we’re also saying in our heart that God isn’t enough. We’re saying that it is up to us to establish our own sense of worth. This unbelief is nothing new. In fact, it can be traced back to the Garden of Eden. It’s what got the human race into trouble in the first place, and it’s why we need Jesus.
Only Jesus can free us from the comparison trap. In Christ, we have all the acceptance and approval we need! He himself is the Source of our contentment, identity and satisfaction. Because of what Jesus has done for us, there’s no longer any need to prove ourselves to others.
It’s when we forget this that we begin to be ensnared by the comparison trap, and a great way to know if you’ve fallen into the trap is by paying attention to what is going on behind the scenes in your heart when observing the lives of your friends.
Does any of this resonate with you? Share your comments below.
By Kent Woodyard & Matt Carlson