The Social Media Comparison Struggle

Comparison-is-the-thief-of-joy

Last week I met with my friend Katie for evening coffee at our local Starbucks. We’ve known each other for almost seven years. She’s one of the most gifted people I know. She started her own Etsy shop that’s grown to be very successful, her entire home looks like a Pinterest explosion, she takes breathtaking photos, she’s a talented blogger, gifted thrifter, DIY crafter, creates amazing design work, and has two strikingly adorable kids and a hard working husband.

Basically anything Katie puts her heart to, she gets it done very well. What I love most about her is her love for Jesus and ministry. I also love that she makes me gut laugh.

While she sipped on her hot chocolate and I nursed my tea latte, we got on the topic of comparing ourselves to our friends on Facebook and Instagram.

“Yeah, I look at all the activities my friends are doing with their kids each day and then I think about what I’m not doing and feel like being at home is not enough,” she said.

I didn’t know she struggled with comparisons too. I mentioned how I’ve been working on a writing project that has kept me more distant from social media and how the break has been nice. I’ve felt more content.

“But, you know, I’ve compared myself to you too,” I told Katie. “I look at my house and wish I was as talented as you to decorate mine like yours… I’m nowhere near as gifted as you are!”

We laughed and talked about how there are two sides to every story and agreed how hard it is not to compare yourself to your friends. Facebook news feeds and Instagram photos are usually filled with the highlights of life – rarely the struggle. And these are your friends, not just random people. These are friends you love and care for.

In news feeds you don’t typically read, My amazing husband surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and a night at a hotel and then we got into a knock-down, drag-out fight the next week. 

You don’t see videos of your friends’ kids being defiant, disobedient, and calling names. You don’t see deep-seeded thoughts about loneliness or depression. You don’t see sweat pants, unbrushed hair, and no make-up. You don’t see tears, anger, and exhaustion. You don’t see spiritual warfare or a crisis of faith. Or real battles with this or that struggle. There are just some issues that need to be kept private but that’s another blog post.

We have to be really careful about what we assume. Numerous times, I’ve been tempted to think a friend’s life is better or perfect, free of struggles. Many times I’ve grown discontent with my own life or felt insecure. This can all happen in person too so it’s more a matter of the heart:

Am I satisfied with all the blessings God has given me and where He has me? Am I truly thankful? Can I celebrate others rather than compare? Am I running to God to meet all my needs?

We’re still going to use social media outlets but since they aren’t the full picture of reality, I think we can have a better perspective on the affect it it has on our relationships. Here are 5 practices I’ve found helpful:

1.) Invite others into your story- the beautiful and broken. Most of us value connecting with friends in an honest way. Don’t be afraid to post photos of your mountain of laundry, trials, ways you’ve failed or lessons learned. Your friends will relate and most people like to know they aren’t the only ones who struggle.

2.) Praise the gifts and talents you see in your friends. We’re called to encourage and edify one another. If you see a gift active and alive in your friend, praise it and celebrate it. Help her draw out her gifts so she can serve others better and help make a difference in this world. She may never know she has the gift until you recognize it. A little praise can go a long way.

3.) Invest in relationships right where you are. Be intentional about getting together with the friends you have close by in real life. Chances are you’ll see the full story and will be less likely to compare so much. You’ll realize that no one has it all together and you’ll be thankful for the strengths you do have. You may have the opportunity to encourage a hurting friend and be encouraged yourself.

4.) If it’s a stumbling block, cut it off. It’s great to keep up with friends online, but as mentioned above, if you notice heart or sin issues arising like covetousness, ungratefulness, unhealthy comparisons, extreme lows, or starting to get too attached or addicted, cutting it off and taking a break will serve you well and help set you free from the struggle.

5.) Confess your comparison struggles. It’s hard to be honest but it was good to tell Katie I had been comparing myself to her and other friends. She was the first to be open and that encouraged me to be more vulnerable. We also learned that we’re not alone. When we confess we acknowledge it’s not right to be consumed with comparisons because it steals the abundant life that God desires for us to have.

Our relationship with Christ and each other is much more valuable than being caught up in comparison struggles so it’s definitely worth fighting against them in order to maintain love, joy, and oneness in our relationships.

Writing and The Ups & Downs of Social Media

I’m linking up with Sarah Markley today discussing social media in the writing world.

In college and seminary, I wrote primarily for magazines. I had no idea who my readers were personally. I didn’t have a blog, Facebook, Twitter or an i-Phone.

Shortly after I got married, I joined Facebook. Then after a writer’s conference in 2007, I was encouraged to start a blog. A few years later I joined Twitter for the purpose of networking with other writers and authors but I wasn’t sold on it for a while. I questioned:

Do I really need one more thing to put my energy towards? Will this become a distraction? Do I really need to be on it?

After becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2010, I started to see that being heavily involved in social media was a big deal in order to be a successful writer. You had to let others know about your work and gain a following. And you needed social media to build relationships that could lead to being published.

I understood the necessity of having a good platform but my love and passion for writing was getting shoved under the bus by the hype and noise of social media and self-promotion. I realized this more vividly through Jeff Goins, who helps writers get back to the basics of loving the craft. I wondered:

Could I just write for writing’s sake because I loved it, felt close to God through it, and wanted to encourage others?

Social Media and the Heart of it All

I felt like I couldn’t keep up with everyone else in the social media world. I found myself overwhelmed rather than enjoying it as a tool for connection, edification, and outreach. My heart desired to be noticed by others and my mood was sometimes dictated by how many retweets, responses, blog stats, comments, likes, and shares I had.

After a lot of wrestling the day came when I realized I had to make a choice. My time spent on social media would have to be limited and I would have to be okay with not being excessively involved for the sake of my relationship with the Lord, my husband and children, and my love for writing.

As I started to ask God to help me live in moderation, I found more freedom from the desire to people please, compare myself to others or feel like I wasn’t “being” or “doing” enough in the online world.

The Art of Disconnecting & Connecting

I wrote when I sensed God leading me to write something. I got on Twitter and Facebook a few times throughout the day but it wasn’t the end of the world if I went several days without sharing anything or reading other feeds. I practiced the art of turning my phone on silent so I didn’t feel the urgency to respond to every chime or notification. I set limits on how often I would check email and blog comments. It was more challenging than I thought!

I connected with people and readers more individually through email or a personal message rather than publicly. I started to enjoy the benefits and blessings of social media rather than feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. 

With the ability to share posts on Facebook and Twitter, God has given me the opportunity to connect with friends and readers I never guessed were reading and minister to them in unique ways. He’s also given me the opportunity to guest post for authors that I love and to become a contributing writer to a few sites.

I’ve learned new things and gained fresh insight through social media. And probably the thing I love most is getting to know readers and connecting with them in a more personal way that can’t be done through magazine writing.

Life is Happening Where You Are

I don’t have it all together when it comes to balancing the benefits of social media. It’s a daily choice and discipline to make sure my heart is in line and I’m using it for the right purposes.

Will I continue to use social media in the future? Absolutely. But as a writer, wife, and mom my time will be guarded. Life is happening where I am right now and I don’t want to miss out. There will always be time later to post, share, reply, connect, and write.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with finding a balance with social media? What do you like/dislike about it?

 

10 Tips to Becoming a Better Blogger

In September 2007, I attended the North Texas Christian Writer’s Conference. At that time, I was a year out of getting my Master’s, I’d interned for two well-known Christian publishing companies, I’d been published in several magazines and contributed to two teen books.

But I was itching for more. I just couldn’t put my fingers on what it was.

That’s when I sat under the writing workshops of authors James Watkins and Christopher Maselli. I took to heart their advice:

Every writer needs to have a blog.

Christopher had a workshop dedicated solely to helping you start a blog. I wrote down all his notes, came home, and started what you’re reading today on WordPress.com.

I didn’t know much about blogging, I just wanted a space to write and the opportunity to hear from readers. The same is true today.

Sure, I research how to write good blog posts. I subscribe to CopyBlogger.com. I frequent blogs of writers and authors I enjoy and respect. But at the end of the day, I simply write from my heart. I figure a day will come when blogging is no longer cool, and that’s okay because I’ll still keep writing.

One of my newest readers, Meg Pieroway, asked if I had any tips or advice about blogging as she’s launching a Christian blog soon. I smiled when I read her comment because I was already thinking about writing something about my journey in blogging. So thank you, Meg, for the nudge.

I hope these tips will help many of you as you pursue your passion to write.

10 Tips to Becoming a Better Blogger

1.) Be Yourself. You’ve heard it over and over, but it’s true. Learn and grow from bloggers you love, but remember their voice is not yours. Take advantage of the fact that there is no one like you in this world and that’s how God wanted it to be. There is someone who needs to hear your voice.

2.) Write When You Don’t Feel Like It. Emotions come and go, but the truth is that you love to write. Take the first step and start typing. I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love again and get hooked into some kind of post. Either way, you’ll be glad you chose discipline and commitment over your feelings.

3.) Never Publish Your First Draft. Writing is an art and takes time to craft. Write your post, sit on it for a few hours or a day, and come back to it to edit, shorten, proof-read, simplify, and tighten. You’ll be amazed at what you want to change and reword to make the post better.

4.) Don’t Get Hung Up On Blog Traffic. It’s exciting when you get 500 hits a day on your blog and you check the stats throughout the day to watch them soar. But in my experience, blog traffic can be a major distraction and can put you in a good or bad mood.

You’re writing for God, yourself, and your tribe or niche. Stats are important to make sure people are actually reading, but keep first things first.

5.) Reply to Readers’ Comments. Your readers are responding to your posts partly because they want you to know they’re reading. And deep down, they’d love your response. Who wouldn’t? This doesn’t mean you have to respond to every. single. one. but you want them to know you care.

6.) Work Hard at the Craft of Writing. Discipline always requires sacrifice. The writing life isn’t an easy road and success doesn’t happen over night. Some bloggers are successful right off the bat and their blog turns into a book. But for the majority of bloggers it takes years to hone your skill, know your audience, and find your voice. Writing on a regular basis will pay off.

7.) Share Your Blog Posts on Facebook, Twitter, & Other Social Networking Sites. Who needs one more post in their news feed, right? Well your post might be the one that someone desperately needs to read on that particular day. Social networking sites are a perfect way to get the word out about your blog and to connect with readers. And they’re great for finding other writers with your interests.

8.) Be Discerning With Self-Promotion. In the publishing business, having a platform and being willing to market yourself is crucial. That’s just the rules of the game. As writers who follow Christ, there is a fine line when it comes to the sins of pride, vanity, and boasting.

I haven’t figured all of it out yet, but be cautious and discerning in the ways you let others know about your work. Check your motives and your heart. Is your purpose to draw attention to yourself, or to edify and equip?

9.) Mark Your Writing with Authenticity. Our generation craves it and the Lord knows the church needs more of it. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or share your weaknesses and struggles. People will relate to you all the more if they know you’re human.

When I read posts, I often ask: Where is the conflict or struggle? If one doesn’t exist, I question it. Conflict is a natural part of life.

10.) Don’t Ever Give Up. I wanted to quit blogging at one point. It was difficult and I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, in the timing I desired. I eventually discovered that it was all about me and God showed me I needed to get out of the way. He had bigger plans for my writing. And he used many people to encourage me in that, especially the words of a friend and reader, Scott McCreedy.

There were also times I wrote to please people and that did nothing but hinder me. So I renewed myself in my passion to write and didn’t worry about those latter things. Now, I see blogging as another tool for God to use my writing however he wants and I’m just happy to get to do what I love.

If writing is a gift God has given you, push back whatever lies are roaming around in your head and keep at it! This world needs your voice.

Now it’s your turn to chime in. What have I left out? Blogger or non-blogger, what do you think it takes to be a great blogger? 

Above photo credit: lsgeekster.blogspot.com

To Twitter, or Not to Twitter?

That is my question for today friends.

I know, I know. I’m probably the last person that’s not joined Twitter. Or maybe not. (I still know quite a few people who haven’t!)

But, for the past few months, I’ve been thinking about taking the plunge to share tweets about my blog posts, where I’ve written new articles, what’s going on at Rightnow and Bluefish, inspirational thoughts, God thoughts, and other fun, completely random stuff.

I think I’d like joining Twitter for a lot of reasons regarding some of my hopes and dreams as a writer and more importantly to connect with you (my readers).

BUT, I fear the whole addiction thing and really whether it’s necessary for me personally or not. A while back, I told the facebook world that I’d never get on the Twitter bandwagon. (I have this issue with not wanting to do things because everyone else is). Besides, who needs facebook and Twitter?

The reality though might be that I have to get over my hesitations because I know it’s an awesome, powerful tool to connect lots of people and information. I also really enjoy seeing the tweets on some of your blogs.

I know… you still can’t believe I’m not on it yet.

What about you?

Are you on Twitter? What do you like about it?

I can’t wait to hear.


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