Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Social Media and the Green-Eyed Monster

Social media - the term breathes excitement, fear, or sustenance to a variety of people.

For some, the thought of uploading a play-by-play of their life online causes paranoia or a prickly sense of privacy invasion. For others, like myself, social media is a tool (and upon occasion, a necessary evil) for keeping in touch with the friends, students, teachers, and family members scattered across the globe. For anyone born a decade after me, it's a lifeline. They'd stop breathing without it.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other hashtag-friendly folks have served a revolutionary role ever since they turned mainstream. Suddenly, the world is a much faster, much smaller place.

I can tell you what my college professor had for breakfast.

I can gasp judgmentally at how my cousin's cousin's cousin's drastic weight gain looks far worse than mine.

I can even be regularly informed of which Avenger, Disney Princess, language, color, or inner child my once-upon-a-summer-camp high school friend is supposed to be (even though he or she categorically denies being any of the above).

Because of social media, life is now so much more complex, so much more riveting, and so much more suffocating.

Because, to be honest, most of the feelings I harbor as I scroll up and down my feed, unless duly kept in check, are rather on the sinful side.

Covetousness, self-righteousness, impatience, and misplaced pride are just a few to start off the list. There's also the invariable materialism that constantly lurks in every other post.

Sometimes I wonder why I so eagerly gobble up this stuff.

Hedonism? Check. Narcissism? Double check. Selflessness and true learning? I'll admit I've had my share of timely reminders from inspiring quotes with flowery backgrounds.

But most of the time, the primary sentiment churning to the rhythm of my heartbeat, as I survey post after post, is plain, ol' jealousy.

Yes, jealousy - along with discontent, ungratefulness, condemnation, indignation, and all their accompanying evils.

Someone got a new car. Well, good for them.

Someone is on vacation, again. Don't they ever work? Okay, fine, Paris was so last month. Florence is a whole different story.

Another baby.

Another grandchild.

Another wedding - and God forbid it looks fancier than mine.

Another baby? Oh wait, that's the same baby. They just need to upload an hourly picture of him. Baby sitting, baby standing, baby sleeping.

Another graduation, medals and all, while I struggle to pass my classes.

Another parent publicly boasting about their pride for their children's achievements, while I wait for mine to remember that it's my birthday.

Another wedding. Wait, didn't she already - oh, that's her baby sister, who happens to be five years younger than I. Oh, well.

Another -

Okay, hyperbole aside, here's the deal. Since everyone wants to post disgustingly happy things about their lives to make me uncomfortable and jealous and hurt - maybe I should return the favor?

I eat a good meal - snap photo, upload, and wait for LPP (likes per post) to go up.

I have a staycation - snap photo, upload, celebrate new and higher LPP.

I mention something sentimental about my family - make collage, upload, and stand triumphant over reaching three-digit territory in LPP land.

I make a post about lunch. Hm, this is going slow.

I rant about homework - this should do it. And it does! LPP average back on track.

A week later, I lie depleted on my bed, depressed that the latest picture of my new haircut barely got sixty likes.

What happened? It's not like it was my fault. I just treated them the same way they treated me, right? Right?

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn," Romans 12 commands. If anything, social media should be the perfect aid to fulfilling that Bible verse. What better way to know exactly how to empathize than being told by the person himself, often with photo evidence?

The only thing in the way - is that stubborn, narcissistic self in me.

The reason that envy can become such a powerful driving force behind my actions is that I forget how little this world is about me. If someone posts pictures of their beautiful family enjoying God's blessings, the way I click the "like" or "heart" button doesn't have to come with a tinge of bitterness. It's not about me. When someone frankly pours out their struggles, what better chance could I have to comfort and edify, perhaps immediately?

And then there's the other me problem.

Why do I post something online in the first place?

If my goal is to inspire jealousy and draw attention to myself, then I am no better off than the people I so rashly judge. If my purpose is to feel better by getting human affirmation, then I'm diving headfirst into a giant black hole.

If I share something - be it photo, quote, article, link, video, or note - because I believe it would glorify God and benefit others, then there just might be a higher chance that it would.

Dear social media, I don't know what I'd do without you. But maybe right now, what matters more is what I do do with you - be it through what I contribute or what I consume.

Because, at the end of the day, it's not about me.