When Instagram Ruins Your Day

It happened again this week. That pit in the stomach, that flush of the face, that feeling of shame and discontentment, right in the midst of a particularly beautiful day in my own life.

And it had been a lovely day. The warm summer sun stretched into the cool breeze of the approaching Fall, creating an ideal weather morning, which George and I took immediate advantage of by walking through nearby neighborhoods for over an hour. We came home to enjoy a snack together and read books in bed, played with his wooden cars and planes, and opened the windows to let light and air flood into our cozy and clean apartment. Eventually, the day’s activities robbed George of his steam, and he went down for his afternoon nap. High fives to all moms out there for nap time!

I poured myself a tall glass of iced green tea and began my afternoon duties. First, I caught up on emails and responsibilities for work. Once completed, I closed my laptop and turned my attention to the house. I picked up toys tossed in the storm of toddlerhood, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, folded and put away two loads of laundry, swept and mopped the floors, dusted the high-traffic areas, and prepped dinner. In short, it was an unusually highly-productive nap time. Rarely do naps or motivation endure long enough to complete those tasks, so you understand that their completion left me feeling accomplished, like a good wife, mom, and employee.

George was still sleeping, so I plopped into our old leather rocking chair with a book and my glass of iced green tea, now sweating soft drops from the afternoon heat. My heart was full and my hands tired, and I figured it was a great time to spend with the Lord. My prayer that afternoon was one of immense gratitude. Remember, at this point, I’m feeling on top of the world – and I let Jesus know. I thank Him for all our blessings, I thank Him for the struggles we’ve been facing over the last year and for the massive spiritual fruit they have born in the heart of our family, I thank Him for providing for us, for guiding us, for loving us, and for spoiling us with His silent signals of grace, which today have rang as loud as cymbals.

Floating in this white cloud of peace and quiet joy, I finished my book and checked the clock. George would be up soon, so I decided to grab my phone and check social media “real quick”.

I opened Instagram (my favorite platform!) and began scrolling through images that friends had posted of their kiddos, food, trips, books, and of course, selves 😉 I love Instagram for providing me with small glimpses into people’s lives. I love the, yes, edited, squares of what’s making them happy, what they’re finding funny or joyful or hard, and what they’re up to that day. I’ve always known that Insta doesn’t show us the whole picture of someone’s life; rather, it presents one small, solitary square picture of their entire reality. And that’s never bothered me. I’m not one to believe that what a person posts on Instagram is a grand summary of all their minutes. I’ve been around the blogging and online world enough to know that that’s a bunch of boo-hockey.

Nevertheless, while I my eyes and mind were intaking lovely images, I came across a particularly lovely one that struck my heart, and not in a good way. It had nothing to do with the image itself, for it was beautifully laid out and captioned. It had everything to do with the feeling in my gut it produced.

That pit in the stomach, that flush of the face, that feeling of shame and discontentment, right in the midst of a particularly beautiful day in my own life.

I suddenly forgot all the goodness that had been painted across our morning. I abandoned feelings of gratitude for feelings of abandonment. I leapt from feeling confident in my abilities as wife and mom to feeling completely inadequate. I spent my spiritual money on the lies about my failures and shortcomings and sufferings than the Truth about the grace given to me by the One who gives me the kind of confidence I experienced earlier.

In a matter of seconds, friends. Seconds.

I’ve become a familiar foe of this feeling, for it’s a byproduct of having even a little bit of your life online, and having other people’s lives online for your viewing pleasure. So I have trained my heart to recognize when this massive avalanche-like shift occurs in my heart, mind, and soul. In these moments, I force my mental rationale to take over until I am able to give the reigns of my heart back to Jesus.

Maybe you’ve felt this same unintentional discouragement from time to time. Maybe something you see online just hits you in a weird way, at a weird time, and serves as a catalyst for feelings and thoughts that, at the end of the day, have nothing to do with what you saw online and everything to do with the insecurities your see in yourself. Like I said, I’m very familiar with this feeling as well.

If you’d like, I’d be happy to take you through the process I take myself through when these feelings arise.

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Whenever I sense this shift from gratitude and contentment to resentment and feelings of inadequacy as a result of seeing an image/post on social media, I take myself through the following mental checklist …

What am I feeling right now? Sad, lonely, misunderstood, inadequate, angry, fat, poor, failure, a waste, wanting, not provided for, unfriendly, unsocial, ill-spoken, calumniated, undesirable, unsettled, unloved, unnoticed, etc. Identify it. Name it. Don’t shirk it or run from it. Call it out of the dark, dusty corners of your heart into the radiating light of Christ.

What exactly made me feel this way? Identify the exact image, post, or other content that triggered these emotions. Identify it. Name it.

Why did it make me feel this way? The picture/post displays something I want but don’t have, a clean/large/stocked home, happy children, exquisite recipes, a fit body, a united family, someone in the spotlight, an abundance of knowledge I lack, fun adventures, luxurious vacations, heck, even just an Insta feed bubbling with beautifully staged photos. What about the photo or post is making you feel the way you do? Identify it. Name it.

As a result, am I fostering ill-attitudes or thoughts about the poster? This is a big one. Is your emotion leading you to envy coated with negative thoughts/wishes about the innocent person who posted the photo? If so, identify it. Name it. Take it to the foot of the Cross. Repent of it. Give it over to Jesus and, for the love, pray your socks off for that person in that moment. The Enemy wants us to turn against each other; the fastest way to kick his ass in this capacity is to replace envy with a sacrificial heart of prayer.

What truth does the Lord have for me in this? This person is very successful in her field, and I am successful in many ways throughout the day, too. This person has a gorgeous home, and I have a home that reeks of our family’s personality. This person is beautiful, and so am I. This person has well-behaved children, and mine are well-behaved at times, too. This person has unshakable dignity and purpose in this world, and so do I. Identify it. Name it.

What am I grateful for? A quick way to battle these emotions is to start listing off things that you’re grateful for, from the small to the large: your family, your career, your iced green tea, your trainer at the gym, your pastor, your grandma’s old knitted blanket she left you, the beautiful day, the way your dog seems to smile when you arrive home, your yoga pants, the way your husband holds your hand at the dinner table, your toe nail color, etc. Thank Jesus for it all! Identify it. Name it.

Most of the time, at the end of this exercise, my rational mind has won over my wandering heart to the light and to the Truth, the kind that sets me free from these random feelings that threaten to rob me of my peace, passion, and purpose. But if I’m still feeling iffy, I keep social media closed and spend more time in prayer with the Lord, often quoting Scripture passages to myself. And that always works, because “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).

Phew! Toasts of gin and tonic to you if you have persevered through this post! I hope that this can help some of you if you find yourselves in this storm-tossed boat of humanity from time to time 😉

Comments

  1. I love how you put the focus on yourself and your feelings. Usually the advice you read for this phenomenon is to focus on the person who generated the feelings–to tell yourself that you are looking at a curated moment and that their life is not perfect either. I like how you turn these moments into an occasion for introspection and prayer.

  2. Great post, Olivia. I have gone to this exact place in my mind a time or two… Thanks for writing out a really awesome strategic plan to battle through this!

  3. Thanks Olivia! What a nice way to walk people through introspection. It applies to so many times in our lives. Well done.

  4. YES Olivia!! This can be hard for me sometimes too…this is something I think if all of us were honest would admit to struggling with. Thanks for walking us through what to do with it…saving this post for sure!!

  5. This is so wonderful, Olivia – thank you for writing it!

  6. So good for me to read this! Thank you for articulating the battle and giving us a strategy to combat it 🙂

  7. Love this post, and especially how you walk us through the steps of moving away from those really awful feelings and thoughts! Especially your last point — gratitude! I just went to a small women’s retreat about how to get over feelings of resentment, and the biggest point they kept talking about was practicing gratitude. I just bought a journal, actually, to write down some grateful thoughts each day! Thanks for sharing this! It’s nice to see I’m not alone in having some of these struggles 🙂

  8. Great post, Olivia! Check out the book, Happy Are You Poor. Since reading it, many of the envious feelings about what others have have left me. And it gave me much food for thought, very compelling.

  9. I really enjoyed your article, I have found that eliminating social media from my life entirely has made me much happier and more peaceful. When I did have social media I spent entirely too much time going through the type of exercises you suggested and I realized I probably wasn’t cut out to enjoy social media for what it had to offer me. What I found it offered was the snippets of people’s lives that they chose to share and focus on (the positive and wonderful) and very little reality (the dirty house, kids bad grades, arguing with your spouse). I think giving oneself permission to drop out of all the social media is very liberating. Chose instead to read blogs of moms like yourself who offer advice and wisdom to carry you through your own life, with respect for others and a heart filled with gratitude. Thanks for being one of those voices for me:)

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