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