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The Instagram Effect: Do Our Friends Really Have it All Together?

Feb 10 2018 Avatar for Adrienne ThorneBy Adrienne Thorne
The Instagram Effect: Do Our Friends Really Have it All Together?

Is it just me, or do most people’s online lives look pretty darn marvelous?

I’ve never been a huge user of social media, but when I do hop on to Instagram or often even Facebook, I tend to see that my “friends” are posting a lot of perfectly posed and arranged pictures of things like the amazing meals they’ve prepared or perhaps of them and their significant other smooching blissfully.

And I have to think that it’s all too easy, as we devour these pictures and statuses daily, to sink lower and lower into feelings of lousiness and jealousy over how our own lives can’t compare.

No One’s Closet Looks That Good All the Time

No One's Closet Looks That Good All the Time

Okay, I shouldn’t say anyone. Somewhere out there might be an organizational nut who is able to keep their closet looking not only tidy but somehow cute. If we’re being honest, though, that’s just not the way most of us function.

We’re busy, sometimes scattered and cluttered, and oftentimes the un-picturesque look of our daily lives mirror how we feel inside. The reality is that most of these friends of ours probably put a significant amount of time and effort into making themselves look amazing online.

I once read an article about the fakeness of posed social media pictures. The author was admitting that she often spends a lot of time (and I mean a lot) setting up and staging various items and scenery in order to make the perfect “casual” pic for her Instagram.

At the time I read the article, I thought it ridiculous and, being somewhat new to the social media game at the time, I couldn’t imagine that many people went to such lengths to have picture-perfect online lives.

But since then, I’ve come to see that this phenomenon of looking pretty darn near perfect online is not so rare at all. The question to keep in mind, though, is whether our friends’ lives actually look this wonderful on a daily basis or not.

Because, sure, it’s great if our friends really do have it all together. Really, we tell ourselves, we’re happy for them… Until we start looking at our own lame, non-photogenic life and wondering, “Am I doing something wrong?”

The Big Green Monster

The Big Green Monster

If you find yourself scrolling through these feasts of visual perfection and feeling a little (or a lot) jealous, it might be a good time to ask yourself why.

Is your jealousy centered on aspects of their supposedly awesome life that you truly can’t attain? Or can you possibly take that jealousy and turn it into a motivation for yourself?

For example, if your picture-perfect friends are in gorgeous dating relationships, it is quite possible that even taking intentional steps to make your dating life a priority won’t make it all Instagram-worthy immediately.

But then there are some areas of jealousy that are actually pretty easy fixes. Are you jealous of your friend bragging about their accomplishments at the gym? Commit yourself to a workout plan. Jealous of your friends’ gourmet cooking skills? Sign up for a class yourself. And even if it is something mostly rooted in your love life, you can still make some resolutions to take action and try to find that special someone.

Don’t Give in to the Temptation to Enviousness

Don't Give in to the Temptation to Enviousness

Feelings of jealousy can pop up whether we mean to feel that way or not. Sometimes, you can try all you want, but you’ll still feel jealous of other people’s apparently perfect lives.

In and of themselves, feelings like this aren’t sins. Imperfections, sure, but they only become sinful when you give into them, dwell on them, willingly harbor them.

This is when it starts to become envy. Purposefully dwelling on jealous feelings toward those perfect friends of ours can lead to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as, “Resentment or sadness at another’s good fortune, and the desire to have it for oneself.” This sin of envy can destroy friendships and, in a vicious cycle, can make you more and more unsatisfied with your own life the more you give in to it.

The best remedy for this sin is prayer. I know, shocker, right? But prayer helps here in a way other than the simple concept of asking and receiving help, though of course, that’s part of it.

If you notice feelings of jealousy popping up inside yourself, try immediately praying for the person from your heart. It’s more or less impossible to both feel sadness at someone else’s good fortune at the same time as we are asking God to bless them.

The Scars Can Heal with Faith and Reflection

The Scars Can Heal with Faith and Reflection

If it does continue to be an ongoing struggle for you, don’t hesitate to bring it up in Confession, as a priest can probably give you insight into ways to overcome it for your particular situation.

Remember, it’s fallen human nature to feel somewhat jealous of what looks to be perfection, at times. But also, just because your friends look like their lives are perfect doesn’t mean they really are.

Avatar for Adrienne Thorne

Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic wife, mother, screenwriter, and blogger. She blogs about TV and Movies from Catholic perspective at Thorne in the Flesh: A Faithful Catholic's Guide to Netflix, Hulu, and More.

    Babatunde Onabajo
    10 Feb 2018
    9:57am

    Adrienne, excellent post. If you ever have the time, you should look into what philosopher Alain de Botton calls “status anxiety”: across modern societies today, people have an unending fear of losing their status or not being able to keep up with others. It’s what is more popularly called “Keeping up with the Jones'”. There is a documentary about it over on YouTube, and a book under the same name can probably be found at your local bookshop.

    As you mention yourself, simply because a person appears to have a perfect life online does not necessarily mean that’s reality. In fact, there is interesting research that shows that those who post online a lot have been found to have higher rates of depression, and psychologists believe this is because people who are depressed use social media to validate themselves.

    I am very sceptical of what I call “Instagram relationships”. I can cite many examples (e.g. Taylor Swift) of couples who have cheesily boasted of how much they love their partner over on social media only for it to end a few weeks or months later. I am even at the point when I see this kind of behaviour and can’t help but ask how long before this relationship falls apart? It really is that common.

    I think what is important to realise, and something that I am learning myself each and every day, is that there is no love on earth that can compare to the love God has for us. I think a big trap with relationships is thinking the other person is the sole purpose of our existence. Yet there are marriages that have lasted for 20+ years only to break down. God’s love for us is never ending and we would do well to reflect on that.

      Michaely
      10 Feb 2018
      2:00pm

      Its all pretending and addictiction and huge lack of self control and confidence.
      How many selfiies does one need to take to know what they look like?
      Maybe for Lent this could be exchange for a real connection with God.
      Get a book like paper? Yes! They haven’t been extict yet.
      A dictionary. Huh?
      Yes a paper one. How many youths know what it is? Stop all that selfie instagram and you might actuallly have a closet you are pleased with and does not need to be shared with the world.

    Karen Rumpler
    10 Feb 2018
    7:22pm

    It can be rough when people have lives and you don’t. That is what I am living with now. All of my coworkers have friends, boyfriends or are married. They talk about everything going on in their lives because they can. I have no one! A lot of times I think God has forgotten about me and the great plan He is supposed to have for me. All I do is struggle-at work, at just about everything-and it seems no one listens when I pray. Maybe God has given up on me. Sometimes I come so close to doing just that…

      Madri
      10 Feb 2018
      7:55pm

      There’s nothing like the power of prayer and having faith.

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