People buzzed around as I camped out in the back corner of the room, scrolling through Instagram. What started as a way to catch up on friends’ lives began to spiral downward.
I had just moved, and often felt lonely and forgotten by my friends and church family back home. As I scrolled through pictures, I kept thinking, “Look at what they’re all doing right now! Oh man, they probably don’t even realize I’m gone.” Or “Look how many likes she has! I only have half as many.”
In that moment, I felt like God intruded on my pity party and dropped these words into my heart: “I see you, and that has to be enough for you.”
It’s easy to compare ourselves with others via Instagram (or other social media):
Look at that outfit…. (I need to go shopping.)
Look at that dinner…. (My meals never look that perfect—or delicious.)
Look how many likes she got.… (My all-time record is half her average.)
Look how pretty she is…. (I wish I looked like that—and had all the cute boys commenting that I look hot.)
Look what they’re doing…. (Why wasn’t I invited?)
It’s easy to feel forgotten. It doesn’t matter whether or not people actually have forgotten us; we could be doing the coolest things and still feel totally invisible. In fact, the people of whom we get “Instagram envy” could also be feeling completely alone in the world, and envious of us (which seems like the strangest, most impossible thing ever, right?).
So here are some things that help when I face “Insta-envy”:
- Remember that Instagram is not reality: Instagram captures life’s highlight moments, not the everyday reality. I mean, have you ever seen a post with someone brushing their teeth in PJs? Because I sure haven’t, but that happens at least twice a day (I hope)! We can’t compare our everyday lives to someone else’s special, highlight moments.
- Invest in real community: How many times have you seen someone at a party, surrounded by friends but staring at their phone? (I know I’m guilty!) It’s easy to isolate ourselves in the social media world instead of connecting with friends God has put right in front of us.
- Know your limits: If you really struggle with Insta-envy, then set a limit for yourself. Years ago, I wouldn’t let myself surf MySpace (I know, those were the MySpace days) because I would compare myself with everyone I saw. Set boundaries to keep yourself healthy.
- Celebrate with others: Perhaps the best way to overcome Insta-envy is to celebrate with the person you envy for what they’re doing, and thanking God for where He has you. For example, “God, that’s so cool they’re at Disneyland right now. Please bless their time. And thank you that I get this time to hang out and relax at home.” (Reminds me of Philippians 2:17-18: “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering…I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”)
- Join activities like a running group or knitting club: It’s good to have time to clear our heads from social media. You can’t run (or knit) and surf Instagram at the same time!
- Be aware of what you’re posting: I’m not saying you shouldn’t post the cool things you do. Rather, let your Instagram reflect your reality as well as your highlight moments. (By the way, one time I posted a picture of my everyday reality—without makeup, right after I woke up—and it got lots more likes than many of my other photos.)
Genesis 16:13 says, “You are the God who sees me.”
That verse has become my prayer to fight Insta-envy: “Lord, whether or not I feel seen or liked by anyone else, you see me. Psalm 139 says you know every detail of my life. You are the God of the universe, and in the end, your opinion is the only one that matters.”
No amount of Instagram likes could solve my Insta-envy.
No matter what I did or didn’t post, I could still feel alone.
The only solution was what God showed me: He sees me, and I need to let that be enough. If I always want to be seen by others, I’ll live in a constant, draining competition. There will always be someone with a better Instagram life or more likes than me.
But the truth is: I am already seen by my Father-King, and in the end, that is all that will satisfy.