Dear Social Media: It’s Not You, It’s Me.

making nice with social media

social media problems

I hear it on the radio. I hear it from my friends. I hear it in my own mind. Social media has caused me to feel inadequate. I want to have more, be more, and envy those who appear to have better lives than mine. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the problem wasn’t with social media. The problem was with me.

During lent last year, I decided to fast from what I considered to be a bigger problem in my life than doughnuts or red meat— I decided to fast from Pinterest. The purpose of my fasting was a spiritual one. I found myself, first thing in the morning, sitting down with a cup of coffee and scrolling through Pinterest— beginning my day with feelings of inadequacy. It was something I was doing as a fun, stress-free start to my day, but the daily habit had turned into a distraction from the enjoyment of the life I had, and definitely sucked me into a materialistic mentality. I thought if I completely cut it out of my life for 40 days I would be free to replace that time with reading and meditation, which I decided to be disciplined in doing, lest I replace my Pinterest habit with another equally pointless one.

It was something I was doing as a fun, stress-free start to my day, but the daily habit had turned into a distraction from the enjoyment of the life I had, and definitely sucked me into a materialistic mentality.

In addition to redeeming the time I lost on Pinterest, I had hoped that breaking from Pinterest for a time would help me with a problem I had noticed was stealing the joy from my life. I found myself constantly planning what new thing I would buy for our home or my wardrobe. My Pinterest boards were a reflection of what I wanted my home or body to be, which caused me to feel a bit shabby about the home and body I actually had.

So I fasted. I replaced my use of Pinterest with words of wisdom from the Bible and authors I respected. I spent time praying and considering how I could better engage in the lives of my friends, family, and community. When those 40 days were over, I felt refreshed and actually didn’t really have a desire to jump back in to my old Pinterest habits, though I had required a fresh perspective that showed me that my issues weren’t even about social media all along. My issues came from deep in my heart and weren’t solved by just choosing not to open a particular social media app.

social media problems

social media problems

It might seem difficult to take a step back from whatever social media outlet you enjoy, but really, stepping away is kind of the easy part, and actually won’t solve your deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. Maybe walking away from whatever social media outlet that you think negatively affects you the most is a great jumpstart to begin some healing in your heart, but long term, if you want to fix the real problem, you’ve got to look in the mirror.

It’s easy enough to blame social media for our issues. “Social media has caused us to have an unhealthy view of what is normal.” It’s a good conversation that we’re seeing more and more in the media. But in reality, we are the ones who decide what is expected of us. We set our own standards. We decide what we will work for and deem important in our lives. Don’t blame the big time blogger who always wears new clothes and perfect makeup, and don’t pin your problems on the stay at home mom who only shares pretty pictures of her seemingly care-free days. Look deep down and consider what is in your heart that causes you to respond with these feelings of inadequacy.

Once you’re able to take responsibility for these unwanted feelings, it’s easier to identify negative self talk that comes from within. Sure, this mental self-talk often begins when you’re looking at social media (or magazines, or whatever it is in your life), so perhaps it is a real trigger, but the important thing is to notice when that self-talk begins. As soon as you notice it happening, turn it around and replace those thoughts with healthy ones. Speak words of truth and encouragement over your self, because chances are there isn’t someone beside you who will do it for you.

social media problems

I am enough, do enough, and I have tremendous value. My home, cluttered or simple as it may be, is my haven and where my friends and family experience a togetherness. My children are treasures and infuse my days with laughter and excitement. My single life gives me tremendous opportunities for travel and experiencing the world. Whatever it is that you are feeling in those weak moments of inadequacy, they are most likely lies and should be replaced with truths. Truths can be much more elusive than lies, so you’ll need to look harder for them. Speak those truths over and over again, in your head, or preferably out loud. Talking to yourself out loud might feel weird, but it’s a really useful way to retrain your brain.

social media problems

You may find it exhausting to combat the feelings of inadequacy that come from within you when scrolling through social media, and if that’s the case, it’s probably a good idea to step away for a period of time. If you do step away, I encourage you to do so with a fasting mentality— where you replace that time with something positive in your life instead.

Do you feel inadequate about your home? Spend less time sulking at pictures of professionally styled homes and think about simple projects you can do in your own home to enjoy it more. Maybe it’s as easy as giving the place a good cleaning and purging things you don’t need or enjoy. Do you feel dissatisfied with your body? Maybe you’re ready to make a healthy change in your life to eat better food or to become more physically active. If you spend less time on social media, you’ll be more available to work through these goals— just make sure you’re doing it for you, and not in response to jealousy or self-hatred. What about feeling dissatisfied with your life or even your family? Take time to invest in relationships in your life that are suffering. Shift your feelings from selfish thoughts to instead consider things you can do to enrich the lives around you. Take time and save money to travel and explore more with your friends or family. Once you start replacing social media time with these positive changes, you’ll find that you are enjoying life more than you thought you could, and your thumbs probably won’t miss scrolling through posts on Facebook or Instagram.

social-media-10

When I returned to using Pinterest after lent last year, and when I more recently returned to using Instagram more frequently, I had to really be watchful of my heart. I didn’t want to fall back into a materialistic mentality, or a pattern of thought that considered the appearance of my life more than the actual quality of my life. I also had to be careful about how I viewed others on social media.

Yes, we all know we’re usually only shown only the best of the best on many social media outlets, but it’s easy to forget about that. Like I said, truth is more elusive than lies— especially on the internet. Instead of just observing the beautiful lives of those I follow on social media, I have made a concerted effort to engage with these women I admire. Engaging in their lives, considering their hearts, and taking part in their passion pursuits (whether it be their blog or businesses) allows me to be their ally and friend, rather than a competitor or envious observer.

social media problems

We all have our struggles, our shame, or our feelings of inadequacy. Even those who appear the most perfect of all! We need to remember that and decide to encourage each other through our participation in social media, using it as a tool for building community rather than a tool for materialistic dream building. That’s when you’ll notice a perspective change in your heart when you log on and see the lives of those around you.

15 Responses

  1. Mikalah says:

    I LOVE this. What a great post to sum up some things that I’ve been feeling lately as well! It’s time to take responsibility for our own hearts and how we respond to social media. =) Thanks for taking the time to write this and share it!!!

  2. Victoria B. says:

    I totally agree and truly appreciate this post! I always try to keep the phrase “comparison is the thief of joy” in the back of my mind not just in life but also on social media. It’s so easy to get sucked in to how people portray their lives on social media and the blogosphere. We’re all human–we all do it–but I really resonate with your words and want to get better at changing my perspective. Thank you!!

  3. jamie says:

    I love this! I’ve had a hard time with wanting all the things lately and not being happy with what I *do* have. The jealousy monster has been getting me good lately.

    I gave up GOMI for Lent. I didn’t post much but I definitely went there to read gossip and to see if other people had the same critical thoughts I had. I guess it gave me validation to know I wasn’t the only one wondering “What the heck?” over certain blogs. I unsubscribed from the blogs that drove me bonkers and hope to not go back to GOMI again. I’ve found myself having much more positive thoughts and when someone posts something I don’t agree with, I just move along instead of running to talk about it with other people. I have been so much more productive in my own life now that I have more free time!

  4. Your message is so powerful. You are such an inspiration to me. I have a wonderful husband, kids, and home and yet I always want more when I see it. I have all that I need. Thanks for letting me know that!

  5. Bekah Jones says:

    This is so true! Thank you for sharing, Mandy. I find myself doing the same thing, constantly judging my life, home, food, clothing, even looks , by what I see on social media. I think you are totally right, the problem isn’t social media…it’s us, and the truth is, at least for me, cutting out social media won’t fix that. Only changing my heart and mind will. Thanks for sharing, and so glad to have you back!

  6. Diana says:

    I love your points. I think the problem with social media for me is too much stimulation, all at once. I recently deleted Facebook. I loved logging on, it was a positive place for me to go, see what people were up to, but because of the ads, imaging, constant updates (and I had less than 100 friends), it really made me sweat, true story.

    • Mandi says:

      This is such a good point, Diana! I have noticed that I have a weird ability to devour inspiration and visual stimulation these days— like I can’t get enough at times. When before I became active on the internet, I would just slowly soak in each image I saw in magazines. On one hand, I am much better at concisely deciding if I like something or not, but on the other hand, there is less involvement and too much demand for more, more, more.

  7. Lizzy says:

    Thank you so much for this – it’s nice to know I’m not the only one feeling this way!

  8. Elena says:

    A great post Mandy. I’m constantly reminding myself that all social media (and blogs to a certain extent) is a filter through which people promote the best of themselves and their life. I think it’s OK, but just something we all need to be reminded of frm time to time – so thanks for the reminder ;)

  9. bonita says:

    What an inspirational post Mandi, thank you so much for writing about this. It’s so easy to get lost in the stream of media, and not realize that the problem is sometimes in our own thoughts and not out there.

    Thank you for reminding us of that. ?

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  10. Ashley says:

    This was really beautiful & inspiring <3 Thanks Mandi

  11. Hannah says:

    Hey Mandi, I have only been over to your blog a few times but I just wanted to leave a comment to say how much I admire you for writing this post. It’s something I’ve been very aware of in myself lately and it’s nice to know I’m not along. It’s so easy to compare yourself to others! You inspire me to take a fast from social media and all the trendy blogs I read. Thanks for being an inspiration and being so vulnerable. It’s inspiring!

  12. Angela says:

    HA, what excellent timing! I just finished a break from pinterest and Instagram for Lent as well. It was a wonderful time with the Lord and I felt like I learned so much. For me the first time I got back onto Instagram I was quick to see how much envy (there, I said it), annoyance ( did I mention I have a black heart?), and comparison I made scrolling through. Quickly my joy was gone and a lot of my identity came into question. It was quite a shock, but like you said we are in charge of our feelings and I was glad it was so bleak returning honestly because I made me really question why I get on there. I have to counsel my heart with Truth not feelings and frankly if I cannot handle Instagram in a healthy way then perhaps I need to keep away. Anyway long story short, I am glad I am not the only one who questions these stirring feelings with social media. Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy it!

  13. Allison says:

    I couldn’t agree with this post more! I really enjoy social media, but I’ve seen it start to take away my joy and I’ve seen it cripple people with guilt. But, like you said, the problem is not with social media but with our own hearts. Thanks for always keeping it on-the-real!

  14. Great post Mandi! It’s so easy to get swept away with social media, and I think half of the time we’re not really engaging with the images fully! Which is a shame really because it can take a long time to take a good photo :)
    Also very poignant point about engaging with the people we follow. We are all real people behind our user names, and it’s a lovely way to make friends and build community.