Why Social Media Can Be Harmful

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Have you ever mindlessly surfed Facebook, only to shut your lap­top, feeling lonely, useless, and discouraged? Elizabeth Oates, author "If You Could See as Jesus Sees," shares how social media damages women.
Have you ever mindlessly surfed Facebook, only to shut your lap­top, feeling lonely, useless, and discouraged? Elizabeth Oates, author "If You Could See as Jesus Sees," shares how social media damages women. (iStockPhoto )

Editor's note: The following dialogue came from an interview with Diane Morrow about Elizabeth Oates book If You Could See as Jesus Sees.

Q: If You Could See as Jesus Sees was written to reach women who struggle with self-worth. How common is this problem?

I think most women—from ages ten to one hundred—wrestle with feelings of inadequacy, doubt, worthlessness, hopelessness, and even self-loathing at some point in their lives. We scorn our bodies, our faces, or our hair. Maybe we even dislike ourselves at our core: our personalities, our gifts, our talents, and our souls. So we spend days, if not years, comparing ourselves to our friends or media celebrities and daydreaming about a different life. Eventually, we morph into an existence vaguely similar to ourselves, yet not quite us.

We alter our behavior to please others. We dress like our friends or emulate what we see in InStyle magazine. We may even change our appearance through plastic surgery. Before we know it, we are just an empty shell of our true selves, mere impostors of the women God created.

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The details vary from woman to woman. Yet, for each of us, a common thread weaves through our stories: the grand story of the fall. Think back to Eve in the Garden of Eden. She lived in paradise with her loving husband, Adam, and her devoted God. They enjoyed constant fellowship with their Creator. Then the deceitful serpent entered the stage. Listening to his empty promises and twisted propaganda, Eve succumbed to his lies, and women have been believing those lies ever since. We view ourselves through our own distorted lenses of self-loathing, ugliness, shame, and discontentment instead of Jesus' lenses of love, beauty, redemption, and generosity.

Q: The topic of social media comes up often in this book. How do Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites negatively affect some women?

A: Have you ever mindlessly surfed Facebook, only to shut your lap­top, feeling lonely, useless, and discouraged? It's tough not to succumb to jealousy, envy, greed—and even despair—when we are inundated with our friends' vacation photos, dream homes, new cars, job promotions, and all the other exciting things people want to celebrate. We are left feeling as if we are living a less-than-stellar life. For the woman who already struggles with a negative self-image, those posts are a constant reminder of the many ways she doesn't measure up.

Social media has become a driving force in our culture, but it doesn't reflect reality. It's the highlight reel. We see people living life seamlessly—the perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect faith—and we wonder, "What am I doing wrong? Why am I not married yet? Why am I not pregnant yet? Why don't I live in my dream home?" 

What we don't see underneath those beaming Facebook posts is the crumbling marriage, the house in foreclosure, the credit card debt, and the I'll-show-up-for-church-on-Sunday-morning-but-don't-you-dare-ask-me-do-to-anything-riskier kind of faith.

Q: According to statistics you quote in If You Could See as Jesus Sees, only 2% of women believe they are beautiful. What is God's view of beauty? What are some helpful exercises women can do to banish their negative self-talk regarding their appearance?

Beauty is not what we look like, but who we look like. The more we look like Jesus, the more beautiful we are. True beauty comes from living out our faith and living out the plans God has for us. Just as a mother dotes on her newborn baby's pink, wrinkly, soft, squishy flesh, God delights in us. God knows you are the most beautiful, radiant, flawless, creature He has ever created.

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