The Facebook Lie We All Believe

What is your favorite parental duty? 

Maybe it’s teaching your child something important, like riding a bike.  Or fishing.  Or perhaps you relish the chance to impart wisdom about the world?  Serving others side-by-side with selfless abandon.

Me?

I like eating my kids’ leftovers at a restaurant. 

It’s a dad’s job.  Sheer bliss for a guy who loves kid food.  I once had corn dogs for every meal of the day.  At age 37.  My personal theology states that each time Audrey fails to finish her chicken finger basket, an angel gets its wings.  All in the spirit of teaching the kids that food is not to be wasted.

Unfortunately, there is an unwelcome corollary to this fatherly task.  And I’m not talking about the shameful feeling you get after eating your own Dairy Queen Blizzard and then downing the two Peanut Buster Parfaits that you forced your kids to order. 

It’s eating leftovers at home.

I have a slightly irrational fear of food gone bad, so anything sealed in Tupperware can be intimidating.  Even if it’s only been in there for a day or two.  On top of that, as a dad, I am often required to build a meal from random items to help make room for the next batch of food.

Case in point: Today’s lunch was a virtual tour of the world, consisting of two tablespoons of taco meat, some BBQ pork, Cajun potato salad, and a fortune cookie. 

You want fries with that?

I took my meal into my office.  There, I browsed Facebook while I stuffed my Facehole, praying for a peaceful resolution to the United Nations conflict erupting in my lower intestine.  As I scrolled through my newsfeed, I saw a beautiful photo of a recipe my friend was making for dinner.  Fresh salad, broiled chicken, baked apples, and a broccoli rice casserole that would make any church potluck jealous. 

The picture was perfect.  The chicken glistened like Fabio’s chest at a romance novel photo shoot.  Steamy and golden brown.  The salad looked like it had just been plucked from an exotic rainforest garden.  The casserole was cheesy and bubbling. And I’m convinced the apples had been photoshopped to resemble Beyonce’s backside.

I knew that no chef in the world could make food that looked so wonderful.  It was pure fantasy.  But that didn’t change this simple fact:

I now hated my lunch.

My potato salad was a bit bland.  The taco meat wasn’t “taco-ey” enough.  And my fortune cookie didn’t even contain a real fortune to guide my future.  It just said “you have a deep interest in all that is artistic.”

You don’t know me, Confucius!

But it didn’t stop there.  I scrolled through more posts.  People on vacations to exotic destinations.  Families dressed to the nines for a photo shoot.  A beautiful couple standing outside their new home.  Remodeled bathrooms and kitchens.

I looked at myself.  I was sitting in my messy office eating leftovers from a plastic plate.  My jeans were ripped. By accident.  I was sporting paint-splattered Crocs and dress socks.  I had a runny nose and a used Kleenex in my left shirt pocket. 

Then, I started to reflect on my relationships.  Gabby and I have hardly spoken in a week due to sheer busy-ness. I still haven’t read Audrey the horse book like I’ve promised for the last two days.   Jake was hungry last night, but I put him to bed without a snack because I was too lazy to unwrap a cheese stick. 

A cheese stick?!  Really?!  Who am I?

It’s in these moments where we move past hating our lunch straight into hating our lives.  We feel inadequate.  Staring at sanitized lives on our computer screens where no one is clicking my “like” button. 

And we’re not alone.

A number of recent studies have found that passive viewing of Facebook content can decrease life satisfaction and increase feelings of depression. Research suggests that the more time you spend browsing social media content, the more likely you are to fall victim to a phenomenon known as “social comparision.”  By itself, this wouldn’t be bad.  But the phenomenon is compounded by the fact that people tend to share information that shows them in the most positive light.

Guilty.

I checked my own timeline for a glimpse of my real life.  Sitting like a slug on the couch.  Feeling insecure about an upcoming business meeting.  Saying something stupid and hurtful to my wife.

Funny.  Didn’t post any of that.  Must have forgotten.

Image

We share the joys of life.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.  Good news brings smiles to faces.  The problem comes when we start comparing everyone else’s highlight reel to the cutting room floor of our own lives. It doesn’t help that we tend to “friend” people who are very much like us, so we mistakenly believe that our comparison as a valid one.   

Newsflash: it’s not.    

Unfortunately, that highlight reel we see becomes the benchmark for our own expectations.  And these unrealistic expectations pervade every waking moment of our lives.  And when my life doesn’t look like the pictures, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.

But it’s not Mark Zuckerberg’s fault. 

It’s mine.

My overblown expectations create a voice in my head, and it screams at me.  Day in.  Day out.  And I judge my worth by whether or not my life measures up.

And it can’t.

Because dinners burn in the oven.  Kids get sick on vacation.  Stuff breaks.  Husbands and wives argue.  Junior loses the big game.  Mom loses the big job.  Dad loses his keys.  And his cool.    

It’s called life. And it happens to all of us.

But that voice in our head still screams.

       You’re flawed.

       You’re broken.

       You’re not enough.

Wanna’ know a secret?   

We’re all just fighting for something we already have.  Like looking for the pen that’s tucked behind my own ear.  I scan my page for “likes” in hopes of finding a sense of peace.  To drown out the voice in my head.  My voice. 

But I’m looking in the wrong place. 

The approval I seek already exists deep inside me.  It was put there by the one who made me from the dust of earth.  Created in His image.  Perfectly flawed.  Wonderfully wounded.  And, as inferior as I may feel on the outside, the Almighty loves me to the core.  The corn-dog-eating, cheese-stick-hoarding, Croc-wearing, snot-nosed, narcissistic child of God.

And there is nothing I can do to change that.  

But I can change something.

I can choose to be the voice that uplifts.  The God-voice for others, to help them see their own beauty within.  To drown out the voice of expectation and inferiority. 

And I can choose to listen.  To hear that voice.  His voice.  A faint whisper.  Ever-present.  Saying,

You are worthy.

       You are enough.

             You are loved. 

* Like this post?  Follow us on Facebook.  I know… dripping with irony ;-(

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “The Facebook Lie We All Believe

  1. Tiz

    Listening to the radio on way home from improv classes last night…radio said people lie on FB. Gasp! We show pics of only the good moments. Well, um, do we really want to see the dirty house, crying kids, and silent wars between spouses?! Great post, Scott!!!

  2. K.Green

    Check this out. I’ve spent the last 2 years as a somewhat sort of social hermit. If I left the house, it was to go to work or to begrudgingly go to the supermarket. Facebook was my only social interaction.

    Adding insult to injury – The pounds kept creeping on me while everyone else seemed to always be off working out.

    I eventually had to kick my own butt and start getting out again so I did. You know what?

    All of my friends are just as overweight and out of shape as they’ve always been.

    Sheesh. I’m not saying they’re liars but….they might have also mentioned the cheeseburgers and fries they were having between ‘workouts’.

    • Thanks for sharing, K. Interesting stuff about the Facebook research… Using it for social interaction was actually a good thing. It’s the folks who were passive who tended to do more “comparing”, and therefore, were a bit more down on themselves. So… you get a free pass on being a “social hermit”, I guess.

  3. A friend and I were just grumbling about seeing other people’s FB pictures of Florida while we are still stuck here in the snow. And their children, always smiling, always doing something charming. I’m all for sharing joy, but sometimes it can make the rest of us feel inadequate.
    If we let it.
    Thanks for the post, and for the wise inspiration.

  4. drop1234

    Your blog represented my most visceral feelings as I entered a room of my peers on Tuesday evening for a lecture and subsequent discussion. Of course, in my delusional state of mind, my contemporaries seemed calm, cool, collected and ready to exercise an adroit sense of intellectual prowess. As for myself, I was caught in the grip of my own fears, trembling, bathed in a coating of perspiration, and couldn’t seem to conjugate two words.
    I also was caught in the phantasm of deflated sense of person and distorted self-perception. My associates were in the norm and I was the exception.
    However, as you noted, reality dictates a different truth. We are our peers, and our peers are us. Humanity’s care’s concerns, and struggles are demonstrated in an equal fashion across the human genome. No more, no less.
    And In the end, praise His holy name, we have all been created by the tender hand of a loving Creator and The Almighty God, across the human genome. No more, no less.

    Under His hand.

  5. All too true…where the comical and profound meet you will find my brother Scott telling it like it is. Another great post Scotty.

  6. Jeanne

    Very well written. I’m guilty of the lie of FB, too. Trying to please others, rather than live for an audience of One. I have learned that people don’t want to read the dirty laundry anyway. So, I only post stuff that I think will encourage someone, help them, or make them laugh. Otherwise, the drama gets to be too much. May we all take a hiatus on FB and get back to real socialization soon! 🙂

  7. Love this blog–it’s somethign I reflect on often. I actually opened a random cabinet at work the other night and inside taped to the shelf was a note saying “You are enough.” 🙂

    I generally only share the positive on FB myself b/c I worry about the opposite effect–being judged for my failures (as a person, wife, parent, nurse, whatever.) Weirdly enough, almost all the time when I do throw something up there, 90% of the comments are supportive.

    That said–why haven’t you liked the picture of my toddler in the sink? How else am I gonna make that thing go viral???????

  8. Social media used to be so hard for me when I was struggling, then I worked on myself (in many, many areas) and cleaned up it. I make sure to only be connected with and use social media how I would like to hope it was meant; to make laugh, to educate, to inspire, to make think and to connect! Thank you for this perspective, I loved it!

  9. Harah

    My friend and I actually get depressed viewing friends’ perfect life, hair, looks n stuff that we forget the joys in our lives. We just have to learn to count our blessings everyday!

  10. Been there, done that! As my age increases and reflection often recalls times I wanted “more”. “More” what? … like a spoiled child, what I had wasn’t enough. Yet with the benefit of time, I had “More” and in abundance. Proof that I’m a beloved child of God – in that there is no “more”. You post is an important reminder of all that I am today is because of that fact. Humbling and yet uplifting at the same time.

  11. Reblogged this on understandingsusan and commented:
    This is why I’m on a Facebook fast….I’m feeling skinny and light

  12. Nice post. Shared on fb 😀

  13. jeskahisrad

    Reblogged this on Jess Sayin' and commented:
    Wow. So true! This is exactly like a pod cast I listened to for my Media and Society class from On the Media. Let’s be careful not to take Facebook at face value. There is so much that lies beneath the personas that we present to others online. Even my blog is an online persona! Although I try to present myself raw and real, the internet is a stage, we are the actors portraying a character, and we need to be aware of the potential harm we can do to ourselves and others.

  14. I was thinking about this very thing after a conversation at my small group. And then I started analyzing my own use of Facebook and other social media – because no one wants to be a whiner, either. I guess it has as much to do with being a wise viewer of social media as it does with being a conscientious poster.

  15. I definitely post pictures of my tastiest food and usually pass on sharing my ugly food. Unless it’s scrambled eggs smothered in a gallon of cream gravy.

  16. Excellent post! I think I’m one of the few people on the planet who is NOT on Facebook. I prefer face-to-face communication. I need the real of laughing till you pee and truth-filled tears drenching your collar, and the honesty of greasy hair and wrinkled clothes. I prefer Face LOOK, because when mine’s in a book, I’m not focused on anyone outside of myself. I understand why FB is popular and how it can be a good thing. It’s just not how I want to spend my time. A verse that has comforted me when people scoff at me (and they do!) for not being on FB is: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” (Rev 3:20). Christ is my Friend. He sees me as I am and loves me anyway. That’s all the approval I need.

  17. I really loved this. It’s so easy to get bogged down in comparison, when all God really wants is for us to stop looking around and start looking up.

  18. Amen!!! I too have had been sent on a mission by God.
    Full of Information I couldn’t possibly know, but I had the knowing anyhow, many strange happenings and also the heart wrenching gut feelings.. Know one could understand me ….I began to question myself and cried out for GOD to help me prove what I was seeing hearing that I had some sort of proof to show the disbelievers , the weekend came then on the Sunday a glorious day god gave me my wish the proof I needed there in the sky a angel this was the most glorious sight I have ever seen whom stayed put until I found my camera looked around for batteries then I took the images most people are amazed but still few think its cloud formation but I know this was Gods work as my prayer was answered. You can see for yourself as I have them on my facebook please look as this was a gift for all.

  19. Monica

    I really loved this! Mostly because I can SO RELATE to the cheese string comment…boy have I been there. And although my FB friends are actually pretty honest and share the good, the bad, and the (really) ugly most of the time, it’s pretty easy to fall into the pit of comparing yourself to others when perusing FB gives us a constant feed of what we believe other people’s lives look like–other people’s perfect lives, or their humorous lives, or even their disastrous lives (how does she live life like that and still look so good!?). No matter what, we find ourselves coming up short. And we curate this FB persona so subconsciously we don’t even realize we are doing it. Lately I find myself experiencing beautiful situations and thinking about them through the lens of “how can I phrase this cleverly on Facebook?” or “I need a good shot of this angle for Facebook!” It’s definitely time to pause and give this some thought. Thanks for the jumpstart on it…

  20. This is great. I was just editing a photo to make the broccoli look greener. It sort of made me sad that the broccoli really wasn’t that green. How can I post my broccoli photo tinged with yellow and brown in a world of neon colored freshly picked broccoli?

  21. Pingback: Friendships Throughout Life | That Wife Life

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