By Lau Jue Hua, Singapore
Apparently, Facebook could make you feel discontented with your life.
Researchers from two German universities surveyed 600 students regarding their feelings after using Facebook. More than one-third of the respondents feel worse after visiting friends’ pages. They cited predominantly negative feelings of anger, exhaustion, frustration, and irritation. Thirty percent considered envy as the main source for these feelings. So where does this feeling of envy come from?
According to a paper by Vladimir Rimskii, “Internet users take advantage of the opportunity to experiment with identities in very different ways. It is possible to change one’s image and make it similar to what one would like it to be, an ideal.” He goes on to state that users would have almost absolute control over how their online identity is perceived by others.
If you’ve never noticed, everyone’s lives look better over the Internet, unless you’re a celebrity that just got involved in some scandal. It’s because we control what we post on our timelines and feeds, filtering out the parts of reality when we are not doing something exciting or interesting.
Coupled this Internet phenomenon with our human nature that likes to compare and contrast our lives with others, we have the perfect recipe for concocting dissatisfaction with our lives and envy of others. Think about it: the only times we check our social media feeds are when we are bored and lonely, and hardly when we are going through our own peak experiences.
I mean, you can’t help but feel envious when you study till the wee hours of the morning only to see an eruption of photos of your friends enjoying their vacation halfway across the world. That gut wrenching feeling could also come when you’re stacking chairs away after church and your feed is alive with notifications that someone you know is ministering to malnourished orphans in Vietnam at the same moment.
The Bible, however, warns us of the dangers of envy. A prime example would be Joseph’s brothers selling Joseph to a slave trader because they were envious of their father’s love for him. Similarly, a passage in James carries the same message, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2 NIV).
Now that we’ve isolated the problem, it is how we deal with it that matters. Proverbs 14:30 tells us, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” The antithesis of “envy” is “a heart at peace.” The former destroys, while the latter gives life. So, how do we gain a “heart at peace”? Perhaps, it is by cultivating a heart of contentment (Read Discovery Series booklet Cultivating A Heart of Contentment here).
If you’re the one in three to feel negative after using Facebook, take a step back and realize that your friends are just trying to share their wonderful experiences with others. Take pride in the fact that you know someone who is enjoying their time on Earth at the moment, and be glad for that. After all, the Bible tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).
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