Is Social Media Killing Your Spiritual Life?

person on social media
Studies show the rise of depression is linked to social media. (iStockPhoto.com)

Comparing yourself to what you see on Facebook can be hazardous to your mental and emotional health. After all, everybody you see on your feed seems to have it all together. Most of what you see are beautiful kids, dream vacation photos, and the perfect lives that everyone else is apparently living. By comparison, the daily routine of our often mundane lives doesn't measure up.

We know what we see online isn't real (it takes our family about 50 fails in a photo shoot to get one usable picture), but it can lead us to feel like we don't measure up.

I can sum up my problem with Facebook using one example: I have something like 1,000 guys that I am "friends" with on Facebook. One of those guys makes a gourmet dinner for his wife and 999 do not. The one guy's wife takes a picture of it, posts it online and brags about how awesome the guy is. Now the other 999 of us are bums because we aren't as awesome as that guy. (Note to the wife who does this: We all hate your husband.)

On the news a few days ago, I saw a report that up to 60 percent of women are considering getting off of Facebook for these very reasons. They find themselves stuck in the comparison trap and they just can't take it anymore. I totally get it.

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We see increasing numbers of people experiencing seasons of depression in our culture. Why wouldn't we? People have always compared themselves to others, but now they are comparing themselves to some false ideal that Facebook allows us to share with the world.

This isn't just a theory. I did a little research and found numerous articles that link depression to the rise of social media. Time magazine released a report on "Why Facebook Makes You Miserable." And I love this perfectly titled article on the Huffington Post: "Why You Feel Terrible After Spending Too Much Time on Facebook." More and more, studies are showing that too much exposure to the usually one-sided and happy things you see on Facebook has the real potential to send you into depression.

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An Invitation to Be Real on Friday

We think it's time to start being honest on Facebook. At least every once in a while.

So here's our idea. You've heard of "Throwback Thursday," the one day each week where you post a picture or share a memory from the old days. In a similar vein, we would like to officially introduce "For Real Friday." On Fridays, we invite you to share a picture or a brief post from your week that captures the honest and not-so-perfect parts of your family life. 

This may require a little forethought (and a quick hand on your camera phone). The same way you rush to capture a photo of something cute your kids do, we encourage you to snap a picture of the mess they make or the trouble they get into. Sure, you can still use Facebook to show off our kids and tell about the good things in life. But "For Real Friday" will be your weekly chance to honestly admit that family life can be challenging at times. Our hope is that your not-so-perfect posts and photos will serve as a real encouragement to others.

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A Few Ground Rules for "For Real Fridays"

  • Post a picture or share a few sentences that illustrate the "not-so-perfect" parts of your week.
  • The crack staff at INFO—who are experts on the raw, honest and ugly side of family life—will recognize each Friday's winner (or is it loser?) on the INFO for Families Facebook page. I will mail them a free book and/or sympathy card, as appropriate.
  • On Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, use the hashtag #ForRealFriday with all posts. Add a link to this blog post so that your friends will know why you are choosing to share your sad, miserable life with the world.
  • Some suggestions of what to take pictures of: your messy playroom, the floor of your minivan, your craft failures, your unhealthy dinner or the uncoordinated outfit your young child picks out for herself. And for you Disney people, while pictures of your kids with Elsa and Anna are nice, we want to see pictures of the four-hour-long line you stood in. 
  • Some suggestions of posts to share: your lame Friday night plans, the horrible loss your child's team endured, a description of the odor your 6th-grade son emits, your irrational and insecure thoughts, etc. Don't feel obligated to write essays, but I appreciate the raw honesty of posts like this one involving flatulence and this one from the blog Free to Laugh.
  • Don't share anything that might painfully embarrass your spouse or kids. Share something honest, but let's be nice, people!

Adapted from infoforfamilies.com, a ministry founded by Barrett and Jenifer JohnsonAfter serving in the local church for 25 years, Barrett and Jenifer launched INFO for Families as a ministry designed to encourage people through speaking, personal coaching and resource development. Barrett served for 15 years in youth ministry before serving for 8 years as the Family Minister at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, one of the largest churches in the South. He has degrees from Texas A&M University and Southwestern Seminary, but he and Jenifer have received their best education through the no-holds-barred nature of everyday family life. 

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