Living Vicariously Through Others and Loving It

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-2gXtxnIPZHI/UZQ6zGUnI9I/AAAAAAAAFVc/z8ex2h8osuo/s400/FI_facebook-stalking.pngI recently added my 1,000th Facebook friend, which for some is ho-hum and for others is outrageous.  I consider myself pretty introverted and not super social, but I am fascinated with people and have a desire to see how a wide range of folks are doing.  So, without sounding too stalkerish, I’m glad I have a window in on how 1,000+ of my friends, family members, colleagues, and acquaintances are doing.  And I suspect that most people on social media are the same way.

What can be dangerous about social media is if our look-ins into other people’s lives make us feel bad about our own lives.  Whether it’s business (“I just got a promotion!”) or personal (“what fun we just had at Machu Picchu!”), others’ posts can make us feel we’re not really living life to the fullest by comparison.  Never mind that with 1,000+ connections, even if everyone takes vacation one week a year, that means that on average 20 of my connections are having the time of their lives at any given time.  When we’re bombarded by all this excitement, it can make our lives seem like Dullsville City.

If we get like this (And who doesn’t? I know I do), our problem isn’t social media.  (Although neither is there anything wrong with social media “fasts,” which can be good for the soul.)  Rather, the problem is within us, and it is a common one to modern-day Americans.  And that is the problem of contentedness.

The fact of the matter is that more – more money, more possessions, more experiences – doesn’t necessarily make us feel fuller.  If we think this way, then not only will more not help, but seeing others getting more will make us feel emptier.  (As I reread this myself before hitting “Publish,” I’m nodding my head sadly at all the times I’ve been guilty of this.)

The Christian perspective is that discontentment is a sin, not because being unhappy is morally evil but because we believe in a God who knows us and provides for us perfectly, and so for us to look around at what we don’t have and sulk about it is to say to God that He either doesn’t know us well enough, doesn’t have our best in mind, or hasn’t provided for us sufficiently.  In other words, discontentment is a direct offense against what matters most to God, which is that we honor Him as all-knowing, all-loving, and all-sufficient.

But you don’t have to be a Christian to have a reason to root out discontentment.   Let me repeat: it won’t come from “just a little more.”  There’s nothing inherently wrong with more money, more stuff, more accomplishments, or more experiences – in fact, I’d argue that they’re usually very positive things – but if they are sought after to fill a hole in your life, they won’t fill that hole.

Gratitude can seem corny.  It’s edgier to complain, to mope, to grumble at others’ success or happiness.  But it’s a far fuller and nicer life than one characterized by discontentment.  When you see a Facebook friend post about their new love, an awesome family experience, or a big professional success, and you are genuinely happy for them, and yourself feel fuller and not emptier for it, isn’t that a better place to be?  Isn’t that something to aspire to?  I think so.
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