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The Discontented Life

Social media and the comparison trap

by Nicola Freeman

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To encourage us to understand the false reality that social media presents and the dangers of comparing ourselves with others.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (The Discontented Life) and the means to display them.
  • Optional: you may wish to have available the following props:

    - a smart outfit and make-up
    - a dustpan and brush
    - a map
    - a gift, such as sweets wrapped in a nice box
  • Optional: For the Assembly, Step 9, you may wish to quote from the article There Is No Win in Comparison, available at: http://lifestyledezine.com/there-is-no-win-in-comparison/

Assembly

  1. Show Slide 1.

    Ask the students to consider the slide for a moment. Ask them to consider what comes to their minds when they hear the words ‘discontented’ and false reality’.

  2. Show Slide 2.

    Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat - social media in general - are the norm for our generation. We constantly live life thinking of what we can post online.

    Although figures suggest that Facebooks popularity has decreased, it still has 2.07 billion monthly users and 1.37 billion daily users worldwide. Every 60 seconds, 510,000 comments, 293,000 status updates and 136,000 photos are uploaded.

  3. Social media is a chance to share what we are doing with the world. We get to choose a filter to make our lives look amazing. But what are some of the things that we have to watch out for when using the Internet, and especially social networks like Facebook and Instagram?

  4. Show Slide 3.

    As Pastor Steve Furtick said, ‘we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.’ We need to have a reality check when viewing photos online.

  5. Let’s take a look at some Instagram photos that people have posted.

    Show Slide 4.

    Here we see a beautiful cactus garden, looking well-kept, neat and tidy.

    Show Slide 5.

    And here is the reality of the wider picture. The person posting the picture has chosen what to show . . . and what NOT to show. There is always a process when choosing what gets posted.

    Here are some more examples.

    Show Slides 6-9.

    Slide 6 shows a quiet working environment, whereas Slide 7 presents the reality of a messy room that is not a great space to work in at all.

    Slide 8 shows someone who looks super-strong and fit, but Slide 9 reveals who she is hiding to help her fake her fitness.


    When we compare ourselves with a false reality, we are always likely to come up short - because its not real.

  6. There have been many famous quotations about the dangers of comparing ourselves with others.

    Show Slide 10.

    The Bible was written a long time before social media existed, but it still has something to say about the dangers of comparisons. In 2 Corinthians 10.12, it says, ‘But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.’ Proverbs 14.30 says, ‘A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.’

  7. Show Slide 11.

    Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the USA, famously said, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’

  8. Ask the question, ‘Is it possible that we spend so much energy comparing ourselves with other people that we miss out on the joy in life?’

    We have a choice: we can compare or be content. We can all decide whether we are going to chase after others, trying to keep pace, or find peace by being contented with what we already have and who we already are. We miss the gifts in our own lives when we are constantly looking at what others have.

  9. Optional: you may wish to quote from the article There is no win in comparison, available at: http://lifestyledezine.com/there-is-no-win-in-comparison/

    The text is included below.

    There Is No Win in Comparison

    From the first time we complain to Mom at the family dinner table that ‘it’s not fair’ when our sister gets a bigger slice of dessert, we’re constantly looking to our left and to our right to see how we measure up to those around us. Sometimes, we come up short - she’s skinnier, funnier, or smarter. Sometimes, we come out on top - our house is bigger, fancier, cleaner. But this game of comparison is a game with no winners.

    When we don’t measure up, envy and jealousy take root. Your kitchen was perfectly fine until you saw your friend’s newly renovated one.

    When comparison ends up in our favor, pride and arrogance can trap us. She could lose the weight if she would just exercise like you do.

    But ugliest of all, comparison can trick us into delighting in the misfortune of others. Have you ever been just a little bit happy to hear about a friend’s breakup? Or to see a colleague at work passed over for a promotion?

    There is simply no win in comparison. It brings envy, jealousy, pride, and arrogance. It leads us to make unwise financial decisions just to keep up with those around us. It stains our friendships with gossip and striving. Let’s decide today to stop playing the game of comparison - it’s a game you simply can’t win.

  10. Challenge students to consider how many times they catch themselves making comparisons during the day. Ask them to consider the following.

    - How does it make them feel when they compare themselves with other people?
    - How can they focus on the good things they have today rather than focusing on what others have?

  11. Point out that another thing that social media can highlight is our desire for acceptance.

    Show Slide 12.

    Whenever we post something online, we look at how many likes we achieve and what comments people have made.

    We all want to be liked. We all like to feel accepted by others. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be accepted, but it is important to realize that we are acceptable as we are – we don’t need to do something to be special.

  12. Point out that all of us seek acceptance in different ways.

    If available, use the props to illustrate each of the following points. (You may wish to invite a student to the front and give them each prop to hold. As the pile of props gets bigger, point out that sometimes, we do more and more to gain acceptance.)

    - We try to earn acceptance by what we wear and what we look like. (If available, hand the smart outfit and make-up to the student.)
    - We try to earn acceptance by cleaning up our act or changing our behaviour. (If available, hand the dustpan and brush to the student.) We try to remove mistakes that we’ve made, hide our flaws and work harder at being perfect.
    - We try working out our own way to acceptance. (If available, hand the map to the student.) We try to find a route to be accepted somehow. This could be by getting great results, being on a sports team and so on. These are great things, but we can be accepted without them.

  13. Optional: if the student’s hands are now full of props, point out that with their hands so full, they cant receive other things. Explain that they would need to drop the things in their hands to receive another gift. Ask the student to drop the things that they are holding, and then give the wrapped gift to the student.

Time for reflection

Optional: explain that Christians believe that God accepts them just as they are. No one needs to do anything to make God love them: he already does.

A well-known verse in the Bible says, ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5.8) This verse means that God didn’t wait for us to be perfect – he sent Jesus anyway.

Explain that when we learn to accept ourselves, we find it easier to accept other people.

Show Slide 13 and read out the text on the slide: ‘Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.’ (Romans 15.7)

When we accept ourselves, the result is love and acceptance of other people.

So, rather than having our lives ruled by social media, let’s:

- stop comparing ourselves with the false realities that we encounter on social media
- learn to be grateful for what we have, rather than comparing with others
- know that we are acceptable as we are
- accept other people as they are

Prayer
Dear God,
Thank you for the Internet and social media, and all the ways in which technology has advanced, enabling us to stay connected with the world.
We pray that we will be wise when using the Internet and that we will use it in good ways.
Please help us to stay smart and safe online.
We pray that we will remember to live in the real world, where we can experience true friendship and beauty.
Please help us to find contentment in what we have and to understand that we are lovable and acceptable just the way we are.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Reckless love’ by Cory Asbury, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GGJ8cyYNzQ (5.31 minutes long)

Publication date: December 2018   (Vol.20 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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