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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Are Social Media Good? Four Ways to Make Sure They Are

I am okay with or without social media. I mean, when I go on vacation, I leave my computer at home. I don’t even own a smart phone. It’s a true vacation. I don’t need to answer anyone, and I don’t email or post anything. I lose touch with the world for a little while. I schedule some necessary posts ahead of time, and then I go away. I enjoy being with my husband and seeing new places with him. We have fun conversations, or we just slouch around watching the TV news at the end of a long walking day.

As you know, we live overseas. One of the ways I keep in touch with family, friends, and online friends with similar interests is through social media. It helps me reach out from my own living room. I can ask questions, get answers, check on the kids and grandkids, and send pictures almost in the blink of an eye.

I live a full life and am rarely lonely, but when I am, I reach out to others. “How are you?” is the question I ask most often. Then, we have a chat. It’s a wonderful thing!

But, social media can also produce nasty reactions, if you let them. Your online friendships can erode your contentment, eat away at your self-confidence, and make you feel like dirt. Just compare your collapsed cake with the Frozen-themed princess birthday party you saw on Pinterest. You don’t add up. Your kids will never forgive you for such a ratty party. This is what you think as you sit down in a funk.

Mr. and Mrs. So and So* must have a perfect marriage. After all, they get professional photos taken about every two months, and they’re playing together, hugging each other, and seem to be so in love. Your husband does not think you need to spend $150 for a photo session even once a year! So you start griping to yourself about Hubby, and you think what you’d like to do to him instead of loving him as he is—pictures or no pictures.

Letitia is always taking selfies. She is gorgeous, and you can’t blame her! Who wouldn’t take selfies, looking like that? You walk by the mirror and just about pass out from the shock. Your hair looks like a rooster walked across the top, and your make-up consists of … oh, that’s right, you didn’t put any on today. You begin to wonder if Letitia wakes up looking like her selfies or how many hours it takes to be that pretty. You become dissatisfied with your own looks. The extra pounds from your last baby, your crooked teeth—which you’re positive everyone is staring at—and your hair, which kind of has a mind of its own…. Oh, if you could only be like Letitia!

Sandra post-boasts about her latest purchase, a really cute purse. It was on sale for only $250—a real bargain! That would be your grocery money for the whole month. You start to grump about what Hubby brings home and how much isn’t left over after the necessary expenses are taken care of. Why can’t you rejoice about a $250 on-sale purse?

Mrs. Figbert shares photos of her home just about every week. White surfaces, no clutter, beautiful decorations, priceless art and antiques. It looks like no one ever cooks or sits down. You think of your five kids and two dogs and how long a white couch would stay white. You think of red spaghetti sauce and the gray and white rug under Mrs. Figbert’s dining room table. You compare your life—and your house—to hers, and you’re convinced you come up short. It’s another reason to grouse.

Lillie is at a specific restaurant with her girlfriends one night. Two days later, she posts photos of her husband with her and two other couples at a glamorous steak place. The next week, she’s out for fancy hamburgers at lunch with a co-worker. But, Lillie is nothing compared to Pam! Pam and her husband are always traveling. You count at least three exotic places in the past four months: Italy, the Bahamas for Christmas, and now, they’re in Tokyo, enjoying sushi.

You sit in your favorite chair, nurse your cup of cooling tea, and feel sorry for yourself. Social media has made you mad at your friends, husband—and kids, since they'd never keep a sofa white—and the dogs. You can't forget those lousy mutts! You’re disgusted with your face, hair, house, friends (or lack thereof), and financial status. You’re discontented, and you feel yucky.

How can social media be used for your good? Let me propose a few ideas:
  1. Don’t believe everything you see. A photo is only a photo. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
  2. Join a social media group of fellow Christians with similar values to yours. You can encourage them, and they will encourage you. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel. Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:9, 17).
  3. Use social media like a prayer list—and actually pause and pray. Pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16b).
  4. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others, and find contentment in your own circumstances and in the Lord. Other moms with five kids and two dogs don’t live in pristine white houses, either. Most children are quite okay with a collapsed cake, a few gifts, and lots of love on their birthdays. Moms with a bunch of kids usually don’t take a lot of selfies: they are busy investing in their family. Many other people live on budgets and do just fine. Be real. You don’t need to be someone else. You are you. Let your conversation (lifestyle) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).

* All of my illustrations are completely fictitious, though typical of situations found in social media.

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