When media stops being social. Pt. II


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Comparison is a sneaky thing. It’s like added sugar.
You think added sugar is no big deal until you set out to do something like a Whole30. Suddenly, when you are finally paying attention to labels, you realize sugar is added everywhere. It’s in everything. It’s even in bacon.
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I think that’s how comparison works, too. It starts small. You almost can’t spot it. Before long, it’s taking more territory. It’s taking the script of your life and stealing lines from it. It’s convincing you to play small. It’s trying to whisper in your ear, “I’ve got a better part for you. Just watch that person a little bit longer. If you just keep measuring yourself against other people then eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
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I’m reading this book on Galatians by Tim Keller. In his book, Keller dissects the letter Paul wrote to the church of Galatia. Paul is usually a somewhat chipper dude but he is evidently not happy with these people in Galatia. He’s frustrated in the letter. He doesn’t understand why, after hearing the gospel, they would choose to go back to their own gods.
As he wrings his hands, he basically says, “Only crazy people believe they can step in and finish what God started.”
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But that’s what these people tried to do— they tried to take the salvation portion of the gospel and claim they would work for it. It’s something many of us have faced, this belief that God is going to love us if we add up and we do critical things on his behalf.
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Keller introduces this idea of “functional saviors.” Functional saviors are everywhere. Functional saviors are anything we believe might be able to save us, fill us, or keep us from the darkest parts of ourselves.
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A functional savior is anything we use to try and plug the gaping God-sized hole inside of us. 
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I have a list of functional saviors I’ve tapped into the ring on multiple occasions throughout my life. They are the things I readily choose over God.
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Comparison. That’s a functional savior.
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Comparison, as nasty as it is, keeps me from having to look at the real issue. I can become so fixated with comparison that I never think to acknowledge the root of it. Every little thing has a root, a starting place. So I dig for the bigger questions: What am I so afraid of seeing in my own life? What feelings am I trying not to face? 
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I think I was more afraid to find out what was at the root of my comparison issues. That was going to much messier and harder to assess than just sitting back in the lanky arms of comparison for one more day.
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I stopped watching my friends’ Instagram stories back in March. I’ve not been perfect since then but I decided to see what would happen to me if I didn’t indulge in those stories for a month. As long as I watched other people’s days unfold, mine felt stagnant.
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For the 30 days ahead, I made a better plan.
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I decided to take action. Every time my friend’s face would pop up at the top of my feed, prompting me to check their story, I would resist the urge and check in instead. I’d send a text. I’d write them a note. I’d say a prayer. I would do something other than watching them go to the Farmer’s Market or kill an ab circuit.
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It’s no surprise that the real story isn’t usually on social media. We claim to want it but we also know that we don’t show up to social media for people’s messes. We come for the curation. We come for the eloquent copy and the cute pictures. We come to be amused and receive what is the equivalent of a side-hug on the internet.
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When you stop checking in on your friends online and you start reaching out, you learn the real story. You see how awful their day has been or you get to join them in celebrating something new. You no longer participate in their story through a bird’s eye view. You are in the story. You are real to the story. You are suddenly a character, not a spectator.
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I eventually stopped watching stories altogether. I found myself not really needing to watch the stories of people I didn’t know. I followed some people because they inspired me but that inspiration wore off eventually and comparison stepped in like an understudy ready to roll.
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I think it is almost impossible to be the best version of you when you are constantly measuring yourself up to someone else. Other people cannot be my standard. Their success does not determine mine. If I am looking to people to serve as a benchmark for me then I have clearly missed the point of people. People are meant to be loved, not measured. I know this for certain. I would go out on a limb and tell any human they don’t need to try to reach a measurement to be worthy. So why can’t I tell myself that? 
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I got an email from a reader a few months ago who recently got engaged. Engagement is a fun season if you remember to have fun with it. This girl wasn’t having fun. She found herself stuck in the muds of comparison. She found herself becoming overly consumed with the weddings of other people and how hers was going to match up.
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This was never meant to happen. We were never meant to sacrifice our lives on the altars of comparison. We can’t even blame social media for this kind of comparison because it’s always been here. The second story in the whole bible is about a man who kills his own brother because of some deep-rooted comparison issues. Social media did not turn us into people who compare, it just provided a shortcut.
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So what would I tell the girl who isn’t enjoying engagement because she’s too busy comparing her life to other brides, and friends, and family?
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I’d tell her comparison is the easy road. It’s the default setting. The harder posture to reach in your heart? The posture of celebration. Secure people are able to celebrate other people getting exactly what they wanted. Secure people know there isn’t just one good wedding or one good love story, there are millions. We should all get the good things. Secure people know there is always more room at the table.
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I would tell her to guard her friendships more than she guards this brewing itch to outshine her friends. The weddings won’t always be there. You won’t always be talking about color palettes and dessert bars. There’s going to be a day when the fireworks fade and life tries to knock you over. In those moments, you’ll want real friendship. You’ll want pure, sturdy friendships.
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Invest in the celebration of your friends, I would tell her. Invest in the stuff that is going to hold you and keep you when the weddings end and the babies grow up. When the gray hair comes and the funeral songs play. 
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I would tell her to open her eyes and do her best to keep them open. If she doesn’t, she will likely miss a million moments that were meant to be all hers. They won’t be shared. They won’t be documented. We are so quick to say God isn’t here but his hands are suddenly in all the little details when we finally look up, take our eyes off the screen, and just vow to be here now.
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I would tell the girl that, sadly, it will be her loss if she wastes these precious moments watching other people and doesn’t step into her own story. I would tell her to fight like hell to keep fear away from her love story.
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When the lights cut out and the credits roll, you’ll either have watched someone’s story or you’ll have lived your own. The choice is yours. So what’s it going to be?
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TO BE CONTINUED >>>

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23 thoughts on “When media stops being social. Pt. II

  1. Brilliant words, Hannah. It sort of reminds me to just live the moment and I really agree with the sentence “I would tell her to guard her friendships more than she guards this brewing itch to outshine her friends….”

    amazing. thank you Hannah for writing this.

    love, Safiani.

  2. I really appreciate this post. I’m curious though, why, if you see and recognize the reckless places of comparison and dissatisfaction we can go to through watching instagram stories, do you contribute to this feed by posting stories as well?

    1. Hey Stephanie! Great point- one I am hoping to address as I continue blogging on this topic! I do think we have to reach a point where we make peace with the social media platforms if we hope to continue to use them. I would never try to send the message that you shouldn’t post Instagram stories– just that being mindful of your own emotions is likely the best first step! All is a learning process!

  3. “When you stop checking in on your friends online and you start reaching out, you learn the real story. You see how awful their day has been or you get to join them in celebrating something new. You no longer participate in their story through a bird’s eye view. You are in the story. You are real to the story. You are suddenly a character, not a spectator.”

    This is inspired and beautiful. Thank you for writing.

  4. I just found your blog and I love it. I totally identify myself with your last two stories. I think there was a moment when I stopped being mindful about my emotions and how I was handling what I was consuming. I love what you say about secure people being able to celebrate other people getting exactly what they wanted. I just keep wondering sometimes if what I see is real or just a pose for the picture, but I guess I shouldn’t waste my time wondering. Thanks for the awesome post!

  5. I read part 1 (which I came across by “chance”), and I liked your thoughts and views. Read Part 2 and discovered you were a Christian as well. The part about functional saviors hit close to home. I said “chance” before using quotation marks because somehow I don’t think it was chance at all. I’m slowly learning that faith in God means there is no such thing as chance or random occurrences. They happen for a reason. I’m slowly untangling my faith from the layers of Church Religion and realizing I don’t know God that well at all – but somehow he’s got me in a spot where I’m figuring out how much he’s been influencing my life all along.

    I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

  6. So, I am Christian, too. And your post was an answer to prayer. I left a comment in your Part I saying that comparison was a problem for me. Guess I did not realized how deep that root went. Or that it was just a mask for the real problem. (Which is…? Guess I need to pray about that.) I really loved the line “You are suddenly a character, not a spectator.” I have been too much a spectator in my own life. That needs to change. My thanks to God and you for this post.

  7. Such beautiful and extremely relevant words Hannah! Its true that the more time we invest peering into the lives of others that our own lives feel like they stand still… well said :)) there is a very strong message to become more present to our own daily tasks and our friendships and not via a screen … thanks for such honest and legit words. 😍

  8. Hannah! I am so happy I found your Part I post, and then continued to the second post. I have been struggling so much with this. I’ve been off social media for almost 7 years now, but I am learning that to monetize my blog I might need to return to social media for numbers / likes / followers. I hate it. I loved your post. It was so reassuring and inspirational. I just told someone today how much social media has changed my perception of myself, and the whole comparison deal. I never thought of it like sugar — I love your analogy. You seem to have some great values with knowing what is good for us physically and spiritually.

    You’re right that we have to celebrate, find our own space of security, and cherish these moments. It’s so important to get up and walk away from our screens. Whether it’s a computer at work, or our phones, the in-person interaction is what is most important. I also love how you said we become a character in the story and we experience it in real life when we reach out to people. Thanks so much for your post. 🙂

  9. we’ve always known “the grass is greener” but reading your words shows just how poisonous that mentality can be! i’m looking on my all social media habits in a brand new light

  10. I often wish I could go back to the simple life of my indestructible nokia and endless games of snake. Way less distraction and it didn’t have the power to instill self-doubt. Congratulations on nearly 8 years of blogging! Your focus and determination has always been inspiring, even in those early days at Assumption. It is clearly paying off for you! It has been a joy following your journey over the years, and has challenged/reminded me to frequently evaluate my relationship with God. Keep up the hard work! ~Laura Siebert

  11. There are some very good points here. I believe many of us have this problem of not knowing who we are. Therefore we compare ourselves to others in order to get an idea of who we are. Self-awareness, like happiness, is a choice.

  12. I really enjoyed reading your post. Comparison is anything but constructive. And we need to avoid it in every aspect of life. You are who you are and there is no need for comparing yourself to others because we are different and perfect just as we are.

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