“He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people…” – Luke 18:9
You may have heard that one of the most popular social media platforms, Instagram, is beginning to test removing “likes” from its social media posts. The immediate response has been mixed, particularly from those who have developed a career as an “influencer.” Jane Ko is one person who is affected by this change. I think her observation highlights the tension that people experience with social media. She writes, “I can’t see likes anymore – can you? But I can tell you that the moment I couldn’t see them, I felt free. The pressure to create the perfect picture & craft the perfect caption was lessened. As a content creator/#influencer, we’re seen as having the ‘easy job’ and the “perfect life.’” This pressure is the very reason Instagram has cited for removing “likes” on its posts. Engagement with social media has moved from a place of creating community to an arena for competition and comparison. I applaud Instagram for being proactive to address this emerging social issue, particularly as it relates to declining mental health, yet I am reminded that comparison is not a new challenge created by social media. It is a spiritual condition that must be healed within our own souls.
Jesus observed this in the people he encountered. On one occasion he offered a parable to those who thought highly of themselves. The story begins with two people going to the Temple to pray: one who had all the appearance of success and one who was despised by their culture. Then Jesus opened the window to their hearts by letting us eaves drop on their prayers. The successful person prayed, “God, I thank you that I am better than those around me. I even meet the highest metrics that one might compare themselves.” The prayer of the despised person was offered with humility, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus then left no question about the point of the parable, the humble man went home justified before God. Perhaps there is no better parable in our time when social media allows us instant access to anyone else on the planet.
There is no win when we compare; we either increase our pride or we feel like we don’t measure up. The only way to break free from the comparison trap is to stop looking around and start looking inside at our own hearts. Truthfully, the only person we can compare ourselves to is ourselves. We have to look at our own heart before God and let the grace of God invite us to become who God is shaping us to be. So, when you are tempted to compare yourself to another person, whether it be on social media or in real life, may you be reminded that God is more impressed with who you are becoming than how you measure up to those around you.