Guest post by: Leah of LeahEGood.com.
According to Social Media Today, the average person will spend almost two hours on social media every day, but an article from Time says that, “taking time away from social media seems more likely to brighten your day than bum you out.”
You probably don’t have to read these articles to notice the trend. FOMO is a buzzword, and it seems like everyone is talking about how social media causes them to unfavourably compare their lives to others’.
Is it possible to balance the Biblical call to contentment with the digital world we live in?
Personally, I love social media. I even studied social media marketing in college. It’s part of the world I live in, and I’m okay with that.
When Jesus prayed for his disciples in John 17, He told the Father that He wasn’t asking for His people be taken out of the world, but that they would be protected from the evil of the world.
I think this prayer applies to our relationship with social media.
Here are a few practical tips for pursuing real-life contentment without becoming digital hermits.
How to be Content with Your Real Life (Without Quitting Social Media)
1. Cultivate Gratitude Instead of Pride
What motivates you to pull your phone out and take a picture? What is your primary goal when you hit “post” on Social Media?
All too often, people miss the important moments of life because they’re focused on capturing an image that will earn a certain brand of digital approval or obtain a certain number of likes. This obsession with our online image is a form of pride, and the Bible warns us that nothing good comes from pride.
It’s no surprise that a preoccupation rooted in sin causes us to be discontent, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The same behaviour with a different mindset can lead to a completely different experience.
One of my favourite things about photography is how it invites me to slow down and take notice of details. Social media can do the same thing. When you pause to make a post, use it as an opportunity to absorb and appreciate the favourite moment you’re sharing with family and friends.
An attitude of gratefulness can transform our social media posts into a reminder of the ordinary blessings we might otherwise overlook.
2. Choose Your Online Friends and Follows Intentionally
Almost all of my social media connections fit into one of three categories:
Friends or acquaintances that I genuinely want to maintain contact with (or who I can encourage with my follow)
Accounts that encourage me in my spiritual walk
Accounts I can learn from
These guidelines help me cultivate edifying social media feeds. Don’t feel obligated to accept every friend request or reciprocate every time someone follows you.
Every few months, take some time to edit your list of people you follow. If you never have time to do the crafts that one account posts, unfollow. They’ll still be there if you have more time in another season. If your annoyances with your spouse are exacerbated every time you read a complaining post from your Facebook friend who is in the middle of a divorce, you can unfollow without unfriending.
You can make choices that maintain connections without jeopardising contentment.
3. Real-Life Connection Aids Real Life Contentment
One of the fastest ways to banish social-media-induced-jealousy is to experience real life with real people. You probably can’t invite all of your Facebook friends over for lunch, but there might be a handful who live locally enough to visit.
When you experience everyday life alongside people, you realise that their Pinterest perfect kitchen only looks that way on Tuesdays (when “clean the kitchen” is on the morning schedule). The angelic children pictured on Instagram bring their parents joy (just like your kids do), but they also throw tantrums when they miss their nap (just like yours do).
An edifying social media feed is great, but it’s no substitute for tangible connection. Invest your time and energy into meaningful activities instead of trying to look put-together online. It’s easier to be content with your real-life when you are intentional about what you fill it with.
4. Equip Yourself with Truth
Do you ever hop online and wonder how other people’s lives look so much cooler than yours? For me, jealousy creeps in when I see friends’ travel pictures. I wonder how they get the money and vacation time to travel so often.
I’ve found that it helps to create a handful of truths to remind myself of when other people are posting about the experiences that I want to have.
- Social Media warps reality. Does it seem like all your online friends moving into larger homes and each post intensifies your wish for your growing family to have more space too? It feels like the entire world is reaching the milestone you long for because the silent majority isn’t making Facebook posts celebrating another day in the same, feels-too-small space. You are not alone.
- People are in different life stages and have different priorities. Maybe saving for that bigger house your growing family needs is keeping you from spending money on the exciting summer activities you see on Instagram. If a new house is your priority for this season, remind yourself that your kids aren’t playing in the garden hose instead of at Six Flags because you’re a bad parent. You’re making the choice right for your family for right now.
- God has us right where we’re supposed to be. Proverbs 16:9 tells us that man plans his way but God directs his steps. This is the most important truth to remember. No matter who is doing what, online or elsewhere, we want to be where God wants us to be. If keeping up with the Joneses isn’t where He wants us, it’s not worth trying to be there.
5. Set Limits
If we want to enjoy both social media and everyday life, we need to set boundaries. You won’t lose friendships by removing your voice from the clamour for a little while.
If you find yourself distracted from the task at hand, close Pinterest and focus on reality. If you find Instagram robbing you of contentment, put it away and find joy in the little things right in front of you. If you can’t escape the politics on Facebook, escape Facebook altogether for a few hours, days, or weeks.
Because our phones are such an integrated part of our lives, good intentions often fail to produce healthy boundaries with social media. Pick one or two ways to build habits that make boundaries an easier “autopilot setting.”
- Delete social media apps. Do you find yourself automatically tapping your social media app when you really logged onto your phone to look up a recipe? Delete the app for a week to break the habit or choose one day each week to go on a social media fast.
- Set Media-Free Zones. The dinner table, Bible time, dates, and family game night are all great candidates for a media-free zone. Pick certain times or activities that phones aren’t invited to.
- Pick Old Fashioned Alternatives. Create some margin by leaving your phone behind in favor of less socially connected devices. Charge your phone in the kitchen and use an alarm clock, or take a real camera on a hike and leave the phone in the car.
- Assign a Designated Phone Carrier. We’re so used to being connected that we’re afraid to leave our phone behind. What if the car breaks down? What if the babysitter needs to contact you? Pick one spouse or one friend to take a phone, leave that number with the babysitter, and leave your phone behind.
Be creative. Have fun coming up with your favourite ways to create social media boundaries. We all know our phones can be addicting. Be an overcomer, not a victim.
Choosing contentment with a front seat view to other peoples’ successes and happiness can be difficult, but the root of our problem is sin, not social media. If we take responsibility for our thoughts and turn to God for help, we will find that He is the source of contentment for our generation just like He has been for all the generations before.
How can you navigate social media without detracting from real-life contentment?
- Do you post memories you are grateful for and want to share with friends? Or do you post things you think will impress your followers? Chose the former and when discontentment comes knocking, you’ll have a chronology of moments to be thankful for.
- Who can you friend or follow online who will point you to Jesus? Who is causing you to stumble that you can unfollow?
- Which of your online friends can you invite over for dinner or a playdate?
- What truths do you need to remember when social-media-induced envy comes knocking? Write them down.
What do you struggle with most when it comes to social media and contentment? Which of the suggestions above resonated with you?
Article supplied with thanks to Equipping Godly Women.
About the Author: Leah E. Good is a lover of stories, homeschooling enthusiast, orphan care advocate, and daughter of God. She lives in beautiful New England where she stays busy with volunteer work for her church and a full time job in data management.