Facebook: Think, Before You Envy

Ironically, it was while sitting on a chair at the beach that I saw the article.  An article much like others I have read that present similar facts:  Facebook creates envy in women.  Paralyzing envy.  Envy so significant it has been linked to depression, anger and general life discontent.  But what was striking about the article is that it suggested that the greatest cause for envy among women was two-fold: marriages and vacations.

Gulp.  There I was, enjoying the sight of the Gulf Coast in front of me, snapping photos of our family and our experiences one after another.  And every couple of days, uploading some of these memories to be shared, on none other than Facebook.  I sank as I read, wondering if I was a contributor to the sobering statistics of women held captive.  If I was unknowingly helping the author to compile even more research by my snap-and-shoot-uploading!

I spent some time thinking about the place Facebook has in my life, while walking the beach one morning.  And churning over in my mind: Does Facebook hold me captive to envy?  Or worse, do I contribute to the problem?

I thought of the author’s example of vacations stirring up the deepest feelings of jealousy.  And I came away with 2 angles to the approach of the Facebook-vacation-envy quandary, which I think might be helpful for us to consider when we scan our friend’s photos and feel the green-eyed monster glowing.

1.  The Snapshot: Facebook is a tiny snapshot.  It shows the sun, the beach, the lake, the beautiful European city.  But it shows form without emotion.  It does not show the tears that preceded the trip as the marriage was stretched.  It does not portray the pain of the learning disability in the child struggling, and Mom’s weariness over it all.   It does not highlight the tension that job-loss has created.  It does not make visible the general worn edges of family life, making the whole vacation necessary.

I have known couples who have gone away because a marriage was bullet-holed through with pornography addiction.  I have known friends who have gone out of town because their children were rebelling against them, and their family life was exhausted.  I have known friends who have gone away because the pain of their circumstances would not lift, and they had run out of hope.

There are a million reasons why your Facebook friends go on vacation.  Many times, it is genuinely to find refreshment and to gain fun.  But behind the smiles, there might be a background of need that you do not know about or understand.  And this is where we need to assume that the vacation snap-shots are just that- a snap-shot.

2.  The Percent:  Vacations are exciting, because they are rare.  If the average American receives 2-3 full weeks of vacation days each year, that works out to be math between between 3% and 4%.  If I received a 4% on a test, I would be devastated- 4% is a tiny number!  So when your friend is standing on a beach in the sun, or sitting on an Adirondack chair at the lake, or posed along a cobblestone street in Italy, she is enjoying the 4% of her life that is “off”.  She is enjoying the good gift of rest.  She is reveling in the rare joy of being still with her family, without her daily and overwhelming stresses.  After her time on the water or the cruise or the jaunt through Europe is over, she returns home to her every-day normal where she resumes her 96% of her life.  Which is her “real life”.  And this real life is non-stop, committed and hard work.   So be glad for your Facebook friend in her moments stepping away from normal.

I am convicted of the need for grace when engaged with Facebook.  Grace and Joy.  Proverbs 14:30 does not mince words when it states that envy does little more than rot the bones.  I do not want my attitude to smell like rot when faced with joy that is not mine.  While gazing at a vacation destination from the laptop in my living room, I can choose the small world of envy or I can choose the broad world of joy applied.  And when I choose joy, I elevate my friend.  I share with her in her tiny snapshot, her small % of life “off”. I support her in her fun and her moments of restoration that enable her to hit the ground running again,  stronger and better for the task.


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12 thoughts on “Facebook: Think, Before You Envy

  1. Interesting thoughts! I recently talked to a woman who said she and her husband couldn’t go away for their 10th anniversary this year because their daughter has severe disabilities and has required so many operations this year that they simply can’t even entertain the thought. I admired the way she said it without any complaining. Still, I do wonder what it must be like for someone like her to see vacation pictures. But, at the end of the day, I know contentedness is the calling for us all. And, like you said, remembering where people are coming from in their lives.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful reminder! I seem to fall victim to Facebook jealously on a regular basis and this is something I struggle with. As a full time working mom I am very envious of my friends who get to stay at home. Over the years seeing “snapshots” of play dates with neighborhood friends my kids couldn’t attend or girls time out I wasn’t included in because of my schedule has created frustration and resentment. I know it is “always greener on the other side” and I love my job. I work to provide for my family and there is no other option for me in this season of life right now. I don’t post on Facebook my daily struggles, kids behavior problems, issues I am dealing with and instead my posts are focused on positive times, events I am present for with my kids and happy times with my family. I try to remind myself that others are doing the same and just because someone only posts positive things doesn’t mean they have a “perfect life, marriage, family” but rather those are moments they chose to share with others.

    Thank you for the needed reminder that we should not be envious or saddened because of the “snapshots” others post, but rather be whole heartedly joyous for them in that moment of happiness they are having.

    • Kim, I am so glad to “see” you on here! I love your little ones, and they are above all, KIND. What an amazing Mom you are to juggle so well, so many things! Love living near you!

    • I like reading your blog and seeing the pictures of your family. You are making memories with your children that cannot be replaced. They grow up so fast and these are precious moments. We hope to plan an outing in the late spring or early summer. The Helms Family needs to be making memories together. May God Bless your family. Love to all. Aunt Sandra and Uncle Lewie Davis.

  3. I just started reading your blog and this one post hit me hard. I was feeling rather jealous that some people I know went on girls trip. I needed this today. Thanks.

  4. Ugh, such a great post on an area that needs to be addressed (in my life). I was thinking yesterday that this applies to real life as well. When I talk with someone and think, “Wow, THEIR husband sounds amazing, their kids don’t do this..” It’s just as dangerous, but still, just a snapshot.
    Betty recently posted…The Last Week and a HalfMy Profile

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