Feeling Envious? Tips for Healthier Social Media Usage

I typically write blog posts about adoptive and foster parenting issues.  This post is very applicable to adoptive and foster parents, adoptive and foster teens, and really anyone who struggles with identity issues and uses social media.  It is written from my personal experience.

About a year ago, I significantly reduced my time on social media.  I did this for health reasons – my physical, mental, and spiritual health.  God was trying to get my attention through scripture reading, sermons, and other people about an attitude of my heart that needed changing.  I was not doing a very good job of listening to God but, thankfully, I started paying attention to the clues that were all around me. With God’s help, my ears were opened and I began to hear his message asking me to give him more time, place him first again, and give him control over my life.

I have been a Christian for 30 years but I was going through a transition and new phase of life. My husband and I were soon to become empty nesters when our youngest child went to college.  I was also having some minor health issues and life was just not going as I had planned.  For the first time in a long time, I was not needed. As a helper type and number 2 on the Enneagram, this was really hard for me! My life was changing and I had no control over it.  My identity was in flux and my eyes were focused on who I wasn’t and what I didn’t have.

As I scrolled through social media, I saw all the things I wanted – a fast-paced career, a large extended family, a picture-perfect house, grandkids, beautiful vacations, etc.  My heart became greedy and envious.  Instead of rejoicing with my friends and acquaintances over their good gifts, I directed my negative emotions into performance, inward complaining, and comparisons.

After hearing four sermons on identity in Christ from an eighty-five-year-old pastor who had just gone through an identity crisis, I finally got the clue!  I, myself, was going through an identity crisis and I needed to do something, specifically change the way I was using social media.

Before I share how I worked on securing my identity in Christ, being content with what I have, and having a heart of gratitude, I want to share three ways social media can make us insecure.  Our kids are most vulnerable but all of us are susceptible to this problem.

  • Social media can narrow our focus. 

What we focus our attention on directs our emotions, our behavior, and ultimately the outcome of our life.  When we focus more on ourselves and what we don’t have, we lose sight of what we do have. Life is difficult.  Change is the only thing that is constant. Everyone has good and hard times. God created us to worship him and live out the individual plans he has for us.  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

  •  Social media can stir up negative emotions.

According to the Oxford dictionary, envy is a desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to someone else.  Seeing the good things others have can cause us to believe that we’re cheated and think about how unfair we have it.  Jealousy may be the primary emotion but then fear arises and becomes the secondary emotion as we fear we may never get what we want. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30

  •  Social media can distance us from God. 

God made us all unique. He gives us individual gifts and abilities.  He has specific assignments for our life.  Sometimes we like the ways we are made and the tasks we are given. Other times we don’t.  At all times, though, God is in control and we have to surrender our desires and yield to his will even if we don’t agree.  Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

In order to heal and get better from distorted thinking, I had to make some radical changes and DO something.  Here is what worked for me:

  1.  Change phone usage.  Social media can be a wonderful way to stay connected and informed so I chose to not completely disconnect.  Instead of going on Facebook before I got out of bed in the morning, I placed a Bible and a devotion book (and some reading glasses) beside my bed so I could put God’s thoughts into my head first thing every morning.  After reading, I resisted the urge to go on my phone and instead got out of bed and completed a task.
  2. Set fixed times to use social media.  I decided that I would check social media at lunch time and after dinner.  I set a timer and when the timer was up, I got up and changed activities.  When the thought arose to check social media, I recognized the thought and knew if I distracted myself the urge to check would eventually pass.
  3. Take social media apps off the home screen.  I made it harder to check social media and decided I would only check Facebook and not any of the other social media sites.
  4. Work on identity in Christ.  I studied scripture, read books about this topic, made playlists on my phone of Christian songs related to this topic, and wrote out scripture and positive affirmations.
  5. Rewire the brain.  When my mind would go to the negative, I pictured a new road and told myself that if I could give meaning to my situation, think positively, and stop complaining or comparing, I would make new connections and rewire my brain.
  6. Pay attention to thoughts and emotions.  I labeled my emotions and thoughts, poured them out to God through prayer and journaling, and asked him to help me think, act, and feel the ways that pleased Him.
  7. Practice spiritual breathing.  I inhaled time with God and when I was tempted to get jealous and negative, I exhaled and immediately confessed my sin to God and asked him for help.
  8. Start volunteering.  I started volunteering with people who were going through really hard times.  I took the focus off myself and used my energy to serve others.

I am happy to report that I am much better now.  I’m finding security again in who I am and who I was created to be. I am enjoying the quiet times at my house and appreciate that I often get to choose what I want to do.  I still use social media but with a much healthier attitude.  I try to use the pictures and posts now to rejoice with others, thank God for making me unique, and pray for the hurting. If I notice my mind turning toward negativity, I know I have options and can change how I am using social media.

The next time you see someone’s “amazing life” on social media, remember this message by Robert McGee, “Because of Christ’s redemption, I am a new creation of great worth.  I am deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing, and totally accepted by God and absolutely complete in Christ.  There has never been another person like me in the history of humankind, nor will there ever be.  God has made me an original, one of a kind, really somebody!”

Please talk with your kids about these things.  I have been in the schools several times recently and our children are suffering record levels of bullying, anxiety, and depression.  There are many causes to that, but I am sure that social media contributes to these issues. Be a good example for your kids. Set limits and make room to serve others as a family.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:18-19