The Lonely Side of Social Networks

I will be the first to admit it: at times, I find myself scrolling through my extended network of friends or countless pages of pins only to reach the realization that my life feels exceedingly plain. The truth is, these websites, though designed to connect people, often leave us feeling disconnected, lonely, and even inferior at times. What’s worse, is that this cycle of comparison almost becomes addictive.

Engagement celebrations, missions trips, graduate school, awards, expanding families, covers of popular songs… this sea of excitement, talent, and opportunity can make it difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice, especially since  I can’t speak of any of those things being a part of my life at this point. Even the fiery debates that are constantly flooding my wall can made me feel dumb or uninformed. Countless studies have been done regarding this phenomenon, many of which have concluded that we think less of ourselves after only minutes of browsing through the profiles of others.

So what can we do about this growing problem? Here are some steps that you may find useful to combat the cycle of cyber comparison:

1. Unplug. Take some time away from the screen to focus on bettering yourself and others around you through activities that you enjoy. Start a weekly book club, make time to exercise, or look for opportunities to volunteer. Make a to-do list and focus on one thing at a time, perhaps using social media only as a reward for accomplishing other tasks. Without the constant attachment to keys and screens, you will feel more productive and less stressed.

2. Start a conversation with someone you view as successful. What is different about them? It could be beneficial to learn how they modulate their time and energy. Be supportive and respectful. Keep an open mind and look out for ways that you might be able to change your behavior in a way that is healthy for you.

3. Trigger alert. Be aware of the things that tend to make you feel low, and take back their power. Don’t stop to look at someone else’s engagement photos, travel blogs, or Youtube channel. If the debates make you agitated, try getting your news from a source outside of social media. Be intentional.

4. Know that everyone has weaknesses. I remember a time when someone told me they thought I had it all together. It was confusing and humbling to think that anyone could view me that way, given that I am so aware of my own shortcomings. No one is perfect. Social networking tends to be like resumé building in that we often only share the best about ourselves. I once heard someone say that it is as if we are  comparing our behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.

5. Find your identity in Christ. Scripture says that in the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy. He came so that you could have an abundant life. Time spent wishing you were someone else is time lost to its intended purpose. You were created exactly as you are, with your unique story, in order to bring glory to the Lord.

6. If you need help, talk to someone. If find yourself growing increasingly anxious or depressed, talk to a friend, professor, or Barnabas leader. We also have a phenomenal team of counselors in health services. Don’t hesitate to reach for community and resources that are freely yours.