It’s hard to believe, but it was only a few years ago where what we saw in public from our friends and neighbors was our only glimpse into their lives. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are a few of the social mediums that have changed this. Now we can look in and see a family sitting down at dinner, siblings playing, an exercise selfie, an amazing homemade dessert, or a new haircut. We get a camera view into the private lives of families with a touch of a button on our phone or computer.
But is reality what we are actually seeing? Do we really get the fly on the wall glimpse into the lives of our Facebook friends and people we follow on Twitter? Think about it. Not many people post pictures of dishes in the sink, pouting and screaming children, fights with spouses, dinners burned, or a host of other messy moments of life as a sinner living with others as imperfect as ourselves. Yet we know those moments exist for everyone.
Those positive pictures, however funny or cute they may be, don’t tell the whole story. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but as we look at those thousands and thousands of words in our Instagram feed, it’s still not a complete reflection of the people we are seeing.
I took a picture of my kids a few weeks back. I had envisioned it earlier in the day: four (super adorable) kids smiling on their bed right before bedtime. I picked out nice pajamas, and asked the (adorable) kids to get on the bottom bunk for a picture. Three (adorable) kids complied. One (not looking so adorable at the moment) boy cried and refused. He balled himself up on the floor and started a tantrum. All of the kids had freshly brushed teeth and were moments away from being tucked in to bed. But I really wanted my picture, so I resorted to a form of parenting I don’t endorse. I offered my ready for bed children chocolate chips to smile. At the mention of chocolate, the little one unrolled himself and climbed on the bed with a camera ready grin.
That’s the picture my friends saw. They didn’t see the tantrum before I took the picture. They didn’t hear me bribe my kids. They just saw happy kids smiling extra big. Maybe a friend looking at the picture thought my kids looked really joyful about being a family and being together, but really the kids were jus thinking of the chocolate coming their way.
It’s a funny thing about seeing the lives of our friends via technology. If we are honest, many of us can agree it can get under our skin a little bit. Maybe it’s a quiet nagging thought. “Oh wow, look at how clean that room is!” Or maybe, “Her husband is so good with the kids; look at him letting them tackle him.” It’s possible we can look up from the phone or the computer, and begin to measure our rooms, spouses, adoption stories, love interests, children, and the rest of our life with what we’ve seen. And this is the perfect breeding ground for feeling the early birth pains of ingratitude or discontentment.
Comparison is an ugly enemy to godly parenting and marriage. Comparison is an enemy to Christians in general. Remember how Peter struggled with this in John chapter 21?
“So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”
Jesus’ response to Peter was to follow Him. What is Jesus’ response to us? To follow Him! Perhaps our news feed is full of bigger homes, well-behaved children, thoughtful and giving spouses, job promotions, culinary delights, and finished house projects. And perhaps contrasted to that our life is full of trials, lessons, sanctifying fire, character training with kids, hard life lessons on money, and unforeseen circumstances. The truth is, we only get a partial story from the tweets and news feeds, but even if it were the whole story, the answer to us is the same – follow Christ.
I’m not saying we should avoid social media. I love looking in on my friends and seeing adorable kids, animals, and sweet family moments. Since I’m not an avid baker or much for crafting of any kind, I enjoy living vicariously through my creative friends and their creations via Instagram. However, I think it would benefit all of us if we limit our time on those social mediums looking at the lives of others, and spend more time enjoying the messy and beautiful moments of the life that God has given us.