I never practiced Lent before meeting my husband. Lent, of course, being the process of sacrificing something of importance (to you) from Ash Wednesday until Easter to better appreciate and focus on the sacrifice Christ made by dying for us. Not that the two can really compare. Last year I gave up sweets. And wow, that was tough, as I LOVE sweets. This year, however, I gave up Facebook. And it has been harder for me, in some ways, than the sweets (and coincidentally, it just occurred to me that my sweets intake has increased during the process…hmmm).
Anyway, now that I am a stay-at-home mom, Facebook has been my primary gateway to the adult world. If I want to have a conversation with anyone over the age of 2, I turn to Facebook. If I want to look at pictures of people I know (okay, and people that I don’t know), I turn to Facebook. And if I want to engage in something mindless while I nurse my almost three-month-old, I play Bejeweled Blitz, which means I turn to Facebook. Certainly not coincidence, I first got on Facebook when my first child, Eila, was born as a way to connect with others during those first few weeks where I was cozied up at home with her (sometimes it felt more like “holed up” or even “trapped”, depending on my mood). I have to admit that since signing up a little over two years ago, I have become only slightly short of a Facebook addict. Hello, my name is Olivia and I compulsively check Facebook more times a day than I’m willing to admit at this step in the recovery process…
The first week without Facebook was hard. It hit me that I could use the telephone to connect with people, but alas, with a talkative and sometimes fussy toddler, and with a two-month old (oh okay, it’s really more about having the loudmouth dog) having the quiet to converse with another individual and actually be able to HEAR them was more of a challenge than I wanted to try to meet. Then Sunday morning rolled around, and my husband reminded me that during Lent, Sundays are “free days” (meaning you can have what you are sacrificing) in honor of Christ’s resurrection. I then heard his laughter as I bolted upstairs to grab my laptop. Yes, I Am Pathetic. Regardless, I logged on to Facebook immediately and absorbed the world of status updates, photos, etc. And as I got off to get ready for church, I found myself feeling unsettled. I found myself in a familiar place that I felt more acutely due to my Facebook absence. I found myself feeling dissatisfied with my life and “less than” I wanted to be.
That’s when it hit me. My Facebook habit had begun to breed a sense of envy at the lives of others as I compared their status updates with mine. Oh, us mothers are often the worse. Birthday parties, family vacations, and holidays are all catalysts for taking pictures like a madwoman and rushing to the computer because quick! I must-upload-these-to-show-how-much-fun-we-had-before-everyone-else-uploads-theirs! At least, I know I have done that. I try not to. But whether or not I am the only one isn’t the issue, is it? So why do I feel the need to do this?
Good old-fashioned sin. In this situation, otherwise known as “keeping up with the Joneses'” in today’s vernacular. Sound harsh? Perhaps a little. But I guess I look at it this way. As a Christian, I am called to focus on Jesus and what He has for me, not what everyone else has (or seems to have). Becoming discontent because someone looks like they had more fun, or has a more exciting life, or has more friends and is therefore less lonely, is sinful. The focus turns to me and what I don’t have rather than on Christ and who He has called me to be. Facebook makes it so easy to do this. Status updates tell us where people are going to dinner, what their husbands just did that was so sweet, the way their amazing kid(s) just saved a village from certain destruction (okay, I’m going a little too far here)…but you get the point. Pictures show us vacations on tropical beaches, ski trips, everyone smiling like life is perfect and there isn’t a care in the world.
Facebook allows us to choose only the best pictures to represent our lives (I know b/c it is rare I post a picture of Eila giving me the dirty look on camera); it allows us to write whatever we want as our status. We make our own status, we create what we want others to see. Whether it is an accurate reflection or not isn’t even the issue. And you know what the irony is in all of this? I turn to Facebook so I won’t be lonely while I am at home during the day. But it leaves me feeling even more lonely. I see how busy other people are, how they met so and so for lunch or met someone for a playdate, and I begin to wonder what is wrong with me that I am not that busy or I don’t have that many friends. Silly? Yes. But a real issue for me? Yes again. I got used to not having relationships at work (that happens when your mother is the boss). And because we have historically gone to churches where we feel led versus just due to the amount of people our age, I am limited there. And I am the kind of person that just prefers a few really close friends to a large number. And I have friends I am close to in heart, but they live far away. But it is easy to forget all that when I make comparisons to others.
And then something else hit me.
I’ll continue this in a Part 2 post because I write too much!