Being kept up to date on all the latest news from loved ones and the world makes social media an exciting tool in the modern era but I want to talk about how social media is robbing us of joy.

We’ve all been there. You’re scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, completely content with your life and just wasting five minutes between commitments. A post catches your eye:

Susan has been on a 3 week trip around Europe.

You open the album and spend the next 15 minutes lost in historical monuments and smiling selfies. Before you know it, you’re scrolling through more posts about engagements, pregnancies, promotions, holidays, glitzy parties and seemingly perfect lives. It doesn’t take long for the envy to creep in.

You very quickly forget that people only put the top 10 snapshots out for all to see. But that fact passes you by unnoticed and you find yourself feeling decidedly sorry for yourself and discontent with your life. Sound familiar? You my friend, have just had your joy stolen by envy.

We live in a society where social media is pervasive and it’s a culture our teens and young adults are navigating today more than ever. Everyone seems to be on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter…you get the picture. Although not all bad, the very nature of social media is comparative and somewhat competitive; an environment that can quickly leave you feeling discouraged.

By comparing ourselves to the perfect snapshots people put online, we can become trapped in a sinful, envious spiral. We check our platforms for likes and comments in the unconscious hope that we will become the ones that others envy. We forget to take note of all we do have and begin to keep a tab of the things we’re ‘missing out’ on. We replace the joy we have with envy for what social media tells us we don’t have. It sounds silly in black and white like this but it’s true.

“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30).

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more accurate or descriptive reason to run in the opposite direction of comparison. Rot.

That’s what happens when the envy that comparison breeds sets it. We begin to ask God why He isn’t as good to us. Why He hasn’t answered our prayers. Because I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we’re more likely to compare ourselves to those better than us, and not those who are worse off.

It’s so subtle, this discontent that grows to envy. And jealousy makes us nasty.

It’s something my mom always used to say to us as children but I never really understood what it meant until I got older. It can cause you not to pray for people or to lose sympathy for someone when they’re going through a hard time.

“Shame poor Brian, he says he’s struggling but look at the holiday he just had. Must be tough” – all said sarcastically.

We stop loving people and start waiting to see them fail so that we can feel better about ourselves. Envy is what led to Jesus’ arrest (Mark 15:10)! It’s a sin that we don’t like to confront. It makes us selfish and act in ways that are not very Christ-like. We stop living for others and start trying to get one up on people. I know this might be the extreme and you’re probably wondering how I got here from admiring Susan’s holiday photos. But just like with any sin, when we give it a little room in our lives it will grow and change and take over.

And so what do we do? Am I suggesting we delete all social media?

No. I’m suggesting that we need to be more aware of this joy thief. We need to be conscious when we scroll through the stories and pictures that God has wonderful purposes for our lives and that purpose might not look like someone else’s. It doesn’t make it any less important.

We need to train ourselves and the young people we’re working with to pick up on the first stirring of comparison and stomp it out before it grows to envy. To stop and take a look at our life and all that we have to be grateful for. Fight against the stealing of your joy.

Train your teenagers to fight it too. Remind them of the reality and danger of social media. So often we miss the amazing things God is doing in our own lives because we’re so busy looking at everyone else. How sad is that?

As young people grapple with a culture defined by social media, we can be the ones to encourage an attitude of caution towards the envy that grows from comparison. We can be the voices reminding them, and ourselves, of Romans 12:21 – “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good”.

Let us learn and teach those we work with to use social media for good and not allow it to steal our joy.