ditching my smartphone, mental health, mindfulness, self care, social media, technology

Body image, self acceptance, and the price of Instagram

January 9, 2019

I’ve come to realize something about myself this year, and it might sound a little ridiculous, or it might sound just right to you. It’s this: the more time I spend away from social media, the better I feel. The better my prayer life is. The more I appreciate my own body, my children’s bodies, my husband’s body.

It’s not just bodies, either; the fewer pictures I see of other people’s houses – not shiny design pictures, because somehow I know those aren’t the stuff of comparisons, but real pictures of real people’s homes, styled or not – the better I seem feel in my own space.

Here’s the difference for me, I think. I love reading and admiring content that is designed in a way that is obviously design-y. When a piece is written for House, Beautiful or as a featured home tour or a DIY project on a design blog, my brain automatically categorizes that as “professionally cleaned, styled and shot, obviously a curated product, and DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT THIS. This has nothing to do with your lived reality.” When I spend time pouring over real life images though? Something happens in my head that tends to trip my discontentment wire.

Does that make even a morsel of sense?

All I know is the way I feel after 40 minutes on Instagram is … not great. “But I’m just catching up with my friends!” I can rationalize to myself, “I know this is just a snapshot of their lives, a sliver of their reality, a scroll of mostly silver linings.”

But my brain does something else with all those images. My brain misses the “curated reality, do not apply to real life” memo for whatever reason, and refuses to behave as if THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE, DON’T JUDGE YOURSELF/HER/HIM BY WHAT YOU SEE HERE. And my stubborn brain can get pretty down after ingesting a couple hundred beautiful images of how everyone else is killing it/slaying their dreams/nailing their goals and I’m over here just trying to get another iteration of chili on the table for dinner and spraying dry shampoo on 6-day old hair.

And honestly? I like using dry shampoo. My shower in a can, I call it. I’ve always resented the imposition showers make on my busy life, and having a can of degreasing spray powder is actually just what the doctor ordered. Plus it makes my fine, limp, slippery soft hair infinitely more amenable to styling.

Also, my family loves chili.

So my baseline level of happiness, even in this busy, demanding, frequently exhausting season of early parenthood is basically set at “contentment.” Maybe not breathless joy, but still, a pretty great life.

But I find that when I take my eyes off my own paper, peering over someone’s shoulder into their selfie game, more often than not, that calm contentment is rocked. Maybe I should get a blunt chin-length bob, I muse almost unconsciously, clicking on a stream of dreamy images of a lovely woman with 6-month old twins who looks like a Russian supermodel. And just like that, at a single tap, I find myself immersed in the curated world of someone else’s life. But I don’t just “find myself” there…I put myself there. I go there, willingly, to sneak a peek into a another person’s existence through the lens of their camera phone, looking for, what, exactly? Inspiration? Leisure? A moment’s rest while I sit and scroll?

Never happens. It’s never restful. Or hardly ever, at least.

For every single arresting and transcendent image I encounter on Instagram, there are probably thousands I’ve scrolled through to get to it that have had a net negative effect on my mental and spiritual health.

(I’m being awfully hard on Instagram here, but that’s because it’s the worst offender for me. Maybe Twitter is your Kryptonite. Facebook is good for almost nothing save for livestreaming far-off events and private groups.)

I’m becoming more convicted by the year that social media has a net negative effect on the human person.

But Jenny, you’re a blogger!

I know! Cue the identity crisis! But blogging has always been different for me. Less like consumable, scrollable, forgettable (I hope!) social media, and more like an ongoing conversation. And hey, maybe some people can Instagram that way – I believe it’s entirely possible. But I can’t.

A historically difficult relationship with my body and with food is kind of a recipe for Insta angst. I find myself moving almost unconsciously into comparison mode when presented with beautiful pictures. My mind races, unbidden, to do the math when I see a trim, smiling woman holding a newborn, calculating the baby’s age and delivering the result to me like a verdict: 5 weeks. She looks like that with a 5-week-old baby in her arms, what is wrong with you that you don’t look half that good a year out?!

Even if I never let myself voice that thought, don’t entertain it aloud, I’ve still thought it. I’ve still introduced yet another piece of evidence into the neverending and unwinnable trial of “Why Jenny Will Never Be Good Enough: the Defendant vs. Herself.”

Saddest part of this all being, honestly, the fact that I don’t know that mom’s story. Maybe her baby is adopted. Maybe she’s thin because she just beat cancer and although the doctors told her she’d never carry a healthy pregnancy to term, here’s her miracle baby. Maybe this is her first baby after a string of devastating miscarriages. Maybe she’s just skinny.

My personal baggage blurs her humanity though, objectifying her through the lens of my discontentment, filtering her appearance through my own wounds.

This is getting awfully self disclosing, even for a blogger, but I feel really convicted to share it with you because I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone in these struggles. Amidst a sea of content about New Year’s Resolutions and goals and ways of eating and changes for the better, I want to make a small and sort of ridiculous suggestion that has changed my life during the course of the past few years: look away more.

Maybe you can handle Instagram in smaller chunks and it doesn’t shake you. Maybe you never had an eating disorder and your self-doubt centers on your personality, your intelligence, your sense of competence, your sense of worthiness of God’s love. Maybe there are no doubts and you’re higher up in the mansion of perfection, and I mean this wholeheartedly when I say good for you. (And also, I’d wager you probably don’t spend all that much time on social media to begin with. Please pray for me.)

But if this resonates with you at all, I want to encourage you to sit with it for a bit. Ask God to weigh in on it. Ask Him if there is something you’re doing to feed the vicious cycle of self doubt and self judgement and, frankly, self centeredness.

I haven’t lost all the baby weight yet, not even close. I’m still eating relatively keto because it makes me feel good, but I’ve stopped posting “progress” pictures and following #results hashtags because it’s just too easy for me to get into a bad place with those images. Even with my own images.

I look at photos of third-time postpartum Jenny and hold fifth-time postpartum Jenny up to her in my mind’s eye, critically evaluating where I’m at now, and where I was then. I’m sure it’s no surprise that I wasn’t satisfied with myself back then, either! I didn’t realize how great I looked, how shiny my hair was or how luminous and unlined my skin. Or how little any of that mattered.

Ah, but youth is wasted on the young. Well, I don’t want to waste any more of it! As the past year unfolded I found myself making a surprising peace with the one enemy I never expected to bury the hatchet with: myself.

Not because I reached goal weight.

Not because I found the perfect workout.

Not because I bought beautiful new clothes or tried great new makeup.

Not because I landed the perfect job or grew my platform or won the lottery or slept through the night for a whole month straight.

I just got out of the habit of comparing. I stopped comparing myself to unrealistic images of friends, strangers, celebrities, and even the younger me.

I caught myself critically assessing some photos from a recent family wedding the other day. There were several lovely group shots of me with my four younger sisters, one of whom is a full decade my junior. I mentally shook myself by the shoulders when I realized what I was doing, and I gave myself permission to look like I was the oldest. Because I am the oldest.

It sounds ridiculous! But it’s something I’m having to retrain my brain do to, because for too long I’ve been caught in a negative feedback loop, cycling over and over again, lifting my head only slightly higher than my navel to gaze into the screen of my phone, and then lifting it a few inches higher to look into the mirror.

I got so, so sick of the view, bouncing between my own midsection, a screen, and a mirror. It’s like Narcissus on steroids, and I finally realized it.

I wish I could tell you how, or why. It’s prayer, medication, therapy, quiet time, self discipline, lack of free time, a good partner, good friends, kids who demand a lot of me, maturity, frequent confession, a good Father, grace…it’s all of these things. There is no magic bullet. I still mess up. I still have mornings where I’m less than thrilled with my own reflection. I got on Instagram for the first time in weeks last night, after having gone almost 2 months without it during November and December, and I spent a half hour scrolling, clicking, tapping, feeling more unsettled by the minute.

When I finally dropped my phone into my lap, I forced myself to sit with my feelings of discomfort, contorting almost painfully into a posture of reflection when my dopamine-heavy brain just wanted to rush ahead to the next thing. “This is important,” I told myself silently, “recognize how this made you feel. Feel these feelings.”

Dear readers, they weren’t good feelings. I did not enjoy peace, clarity, and freedom after my half hour of “leisure” on my phone.

Here’s the long-awaited conclusion. If you’ve stuck it out to this point, good on you, mate.

I think that self acceptance comes hand in glove with working to truly see other selves as human beings, not as competition. And I don’t think social media facilitates much of that. If it fosters a little bit, here and there, glory to God.

But if it mostly steals your peace, sucks your time, and keeps you from attending to your own first things? Maybe it’s too expensive.

One of the amazing pictures from my sister’s wedding which led me to ponder: “What a beautiful family we have! Praise God for all these wonderful new members and my dad being here and healthy and…wait, are those crow’s feet? Why are my arms so big…(<— my narcissistic process in a single paragraph)

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40 Comments

  • Reply Nancy S. January 9, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Hi, Jenny and thanks for a blog post that puts into text pretty much how I feel about most social media. I really do not like FB aside from its leading to reconnecting with some old friends. However, I do not need to know what people are doing every minute of their day and getting offended if someone does not click “like”. I have never been in Instagram and home never to be. My social media vice is Pinterest where I spent entirely too much time looking at photos of favorite actors, or checking out cardmaking inspiration. I try hard not to look at homes because it would upset me as it does you. If I research fashion and “my” colors/seasonal analysis, I try not to look at clothes on other people, to avoid comparisons that will make me unhappy. My life has taken a turn I could never have expected with multiple medical issues. I just keep asking God to give me the necessary strength to deal up with all of it. If it helps you at all, I have forwarded your blog to many friends with young grandchildren and they all enjoy it very much. Thank you for sharing as you do. It is important and meaningful.

    • Reply Ma. Jinky Joy Lopez January 12, 2019 at 8:21 pm

      Wow, somehow I find myself on the same boat. As a mother of four and a wife, time management must be one priority and social media is killing it when not controlled. Recently I manage to unfollow all in the news feeds of all my friends list but remain friends on facebook, I only used social media now for current news. I am not fond of instagram because I know it won’t help. One of my concern now is my children who are all milleneals and active on social media.

  • Reply Brenda January 9, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    I appreciate you so much, and I wish I lived closer and had the ability to interact as frequently as we did yeasteryear.

  • Reply Leigh-Anne January 9, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    Yes, yes and YES! This is why I removed myself from all social media a year ago. Instagram was the worst for me as well because of all the styled images and curated advertising. It not only stole my peace and joy but caused me to spend money that I would not have otherwise. I also felt in confessions that it was leading me to sin by judging and self deprecation. I much prefer the blog format and sadly bloggers aren’t blogging as much anymore because of Instagram. I must say I am so much more productive, available and genuinely connected to my friends now because we have to actually have conversations to catch up. I also spend my moments with my children instead of thinking of a great post to make about the moment. Praying for your discernment on the matter.

  • Reply Bernie S. January 9, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    You are made in the image and likeness of God, what could be more beautiful than that? Focus on your spiritual self, it is the only part that really counts in the end. Our Heavenly Father only cares about the gift, not the gift wrap. He has blessed you with a beautiful, healthy family, a talent for writing, you have a home, and the love of your extended family, so count your blessings, not your wrinkles. Stop comparing yourself to others because God doesn’t compare you to anyone. He loves you for yourself and the potential that you have.

  • Reply Dannielle January 9, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    Thank you so much for putting into words what I have been experiencing for awhile now. I ‘gave up’ IG at the start of advent with plans to return at the end. The end of advent came and went and I didn’t even want to go back. Save for a few photos of a friends wedding I really wanted to see. I have occasionally ‘given in’ over the past week and felt the exact way you described:
    ‘But I find that when I take my eyes off my own paper, peering over someone’s shoulder into their selfie game, more often than not, that calm contentment is rocked.’

    I’ve been much more present with my children, intentional in my relationships and have rediscovered hobbies I had previously really enjoyed.

    I certainly plan to ‘look away more’.

    Thank you Jenny!

    • Reply M January 10, 2019 at 10:06 am

      This is exactly what happened to me too. I gave up social media (mostly instagram) as a fast, and at the end I never got back on. It’s been about three months now and I have yet to log back in. I didn’t realize how much happier I would be without it, but now I don’t miss it at all. When important things happen to people I know, if they are really my friends, I will hear about it through a text or phone call. It’s really also helped me realize which relationships in my life are true ones, instead of feeling like everyone I follow on instagram is a “part of my life”. I just don’t have room in my life for it anymore

  • Reply Lindsay January 9, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    This is beautiful! I only have two littles, and they miraculously nap at the same time (most days). I noticed I had a bad habit of wasting their nap times scrolling mindlessly through my FB newsfeed (I’ve never had an Instagram or Twitter account), only to feel completely unrested and unrefreshed when they both woke up and it was time for round two. Rarely do I see something on Facebook that actually brightens my day or lifts my soul toward God, but, as you hinted in your post, if I ever do, I’ve usually also encountered many more discouraging posts along the way. I’ve discovered it to be a major timesuck, energysuck, and sometimes even a soulsuck.
    Anyway, I wish I could say I’ve decided to delete my account once and for all (my husband did over a year ago and hasn’t looked back once). Maybe I will someday. Instead, I had made it my Advent goal to not waste time mindlessly scrolling, and found it made a huge difference on my prayer life, my marriage, my motherhood, and my own sense of rest and well-being. I absolutely love what you’ve written, because I’ve recently found it to be so true in my own life! Less scrolling = happier me. My suggestion would be to give yourself a specific time limit (5 minutes, ie) when you pull up a social media feed and stick to it! If you’re tempted to keep scrolling past your limit, it’s probably because you’re not yet satisfied with your feed… and you never will be 😉

  • Reply Lisa January 9, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    This, Jenny. And I feel blogging definitely falls in the non-social media camp. 🙂

  • Reply Kerry Greenwald January 9, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    ‘If it hurts, stop doing it.’
    Greatest piece of advice I’ve ever received. Prayers for you Jenny and all of us Moms Heaven bound.

  • Reply Lisa January 9, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    Deleting my Instagram was the single best decision I made in the past year. It is so toxic, especially to us who are sensitive to comparison and the like. Thank you for your insight!

  • Reply Ellen January 9, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Oh Jenny, I can so relate. I’m ashamed to say that I spent a good two hours actually crying on Christmas Day because the only picture we got of our family after Mass very graphically displayed my 3 c-sections shelf belly. It was a bad angle, I was holding my 30 pound toddler in totally the wrong way. But yeah, it literally ruined Christmas for me. My poor husband. But who the hell made the rule that you must post a picture on Christmas? Big flipping deal, right? Social media effs with us. I’m a work in progress too.

    • Reply Kerry January 10, 2019 at 7:47 pm

      Oh I hear ya. I had Baptism (and do we really look non- postpartum at a Baptism?!)pics sent out before I could see them- and it was such a good lesson in humility. This is me. This is motherhood. This is a Sacrament and I am going to be fine that people saw this picture. Xoxo

  • Reply M January 9, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    I’ve been mulling this over all year. I don’t have a lot of real-life Catholic community. Most of my friends were raised non-religious or in a non-Christian religion. So being a Catholic, NFP practicing, SAHM of two little kids in my 20s is a bit isolating. Even though all of my friends support and love me, there’s a lot I can’t share with them. (My dear friend spent months thinking I authored the Scripture verse I have hung in my son’s room: “Before I formed you in the womb…” Oy!! That was quite the conversation when we got to the bottom of that one.) So when I first found the Catholic mom instagram community fueled by BIS, it felt so good to follow all of these like-minded Catholic women. However… (and this is no criticism to BIS or any of the writers), I realized….while I follow them, like their pictures, know how many kids they have, what their names are, where they live etc! etc! …. they don’t follow me back, know who I am, know how many kids I have, or what my life is like. It’s almost an entirely different level of loneliness. In terms of personal relationships on social media, I recently had the chance to see a lot of old college friends in person whom I don’t keep in touch with regularly (but we all follow each other on social media) and it was crazy to see how all the perceptions we had of each other based on posts were so inaccurate. I don’t really have a problem with the idea that social media is a highlight reel. I think that there are a lot of things that should NOT be shared on social media out of respect for loved one’s privacy & also because it’s important to guard your heart. Social media is never going to be the authentic relationship we’re all craving because so many topics are inherently off limits (for good reason!). So I guess why are we all there, indeed?!

    • Reply Kati January 10, 2019 at 4:40 pm

      M, my sister and I talk about this all the time. I love following the Catholic mom community. But they are all bloggers with lots of followers who all seem to know each other, and then when I (non blogger) follow them, it feels a bit like following a clique (a lovely not mean wonderful clique) of which I’m not part. And THAT feels even more isolating than if I didn’t follow them at all! I hear you and I feel this – “an entirely different level of loneliness.”

    • Reply E January 11, 2019 at 8:09 pm

      Yes. This was just the push I needed to stop following so many accounts of people/insta bloggers I don’t know. It feels weird “knowing” so much about them but not really knowing them. Thank you for your insightful post, Jenny!

  • Reply Katie January 9, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Jenny, I’ve commented on so many other posts of yours and I find myself always writing the same thing- it’s like you take the thoughts I have going on in my mind all of the time and put them into text so beautifully. Thank you for so often making me feel more understood.

    I removed myself from social media a few years back and I always tell people it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I oversee an instagram account for work and it’s the worst rabbit hole of all social media in my opinion.

    Thanks again Jenny for yet another beautiful post. I so appreciate that you still keeping blogging at a time when so many of my fav bloggers have stopped.

  • Reply Angela January 9, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    Agree. So agree. I have deleted my FB, and am thisclose to deleting IG. It adds to my anxiety, makes me spend more money, sucks my time. I concur with M above that it feels one sided: I know these people, but they don’t know me. I’m like a voyeur. It feels sick. Praying for your discernment, and hope you’ll pray for mine. Oh, and btw, I love blogs. Wish people still did it.

  • Reply Erica January 9, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    You have so eloquently put into words exactly how I feel about social media (and Instagram in particular). Reading this is the perfect reminder that I need to spend so much less (if not zero) time on these sites. Thank you for all your awesome posts. I always look forward to reading your blog!

  • Reply Maria January 9, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    Ooooo yeah. I “fasted” from IG last Lenten season, crashed mightily in everything from my tenderness to my kids to the amount of time I could spend listening to anybody–hubs, siblings, old friends…anybody. This Advent nudged me to cut the cord, and then “The Power of Silence” was dropped into my lap (literally). Pa-pow. Have.not.looked.back. Perhaps there are periods of time in life when avenues like participation in social media can help a sista out, but I don’t think they last for very long. I couldn’t believe how exhausting all that mental cataloging wound up to be, sifting through accounts and drinking in the noisy, alluring images.

    Thank you for your brute strength in wrenching your personal battle out where we can see it. I love how it has already rallied so much solidarity. Keep on keepin’ on. Please.

  • Reply Felicity January 10, 2019 at 1:41 am

    Thank you for this post. I have had breaks from Instagram from time to time and not regretted it at all but somehow find myself back on there (why?) and you echo what goes on in my head when I do look. I recently caught up with a high school friend and had made so many assumptions about her life from social media, when we truly talked to each other she surprised me by saying she had had a really rough year and come back to church. It was the best thing to hear that I would have never known without talking with her. Thanks for the push in the right direction and please keep blogging! God bless!

  • Reply Jennifer January 10, 2019 at 3:56 am

    Amen! My confessor reminded me recently that compare rhymes with despair. Comparison is the evil one talking to your most vulnerable thoughts. Thanks Jenny for your honest post.

  • Reply Caitlin January 10, 2019 at 4:45 am

    Have you read 12 ways your phone is changing you? You would love it! During advent I placed a 15 minute a day limit on FB and instagram and it’s been great for me. I can still check in with mom/ baby events for the groups I’m in on Facebook – using it as a tool to facilitate real life relationships is key for me. Then I can log on Instagram and share a cute pic of my girls so their aunts uncles and elderly relatives can see (my 80 year old grandma is better with social media with me) but doesn’t allow me too much time to browse. My weakness was people going on tons of trips and sleeping through the night in fancy hotel rooms while I was in the trenches with two little ones, one who woke 6 times a night! I would get so jealous! I have mostly gotten over than but have found so much more time to read, which is a much more nourishing activity then scrolling! I also have a very short safari limit but I check in on your blog pretty much before everything else! 😀

  • Reply Ashley Anderson January 10, 2019 at 5:57 am

    One million percent exactly my thoughts. I’m off social media save Facebook right now (selling stuff on the marketplace is a wonderful experience and I’ve got a few things to off at the moment) and it is wonderful.

    Oddly enough, I’m thinking about jumping back into blogging.

    I hope we can meet IRL one day. I admire the integrity in your voice and love hearing what you have to say. Always.

  • Reply C January 10, 2019 at 8:00 am

    This makes perfect sense, thank you for writing it. I have always struggled with comparison and loving myself. I closed my Instagram account a while back, but I can easily look at the public ones – and the main ones I look at are the Catholic people I’ve found through BIS or other means. So I’m comparing myself with these great Catholic women and their families, which is just as harmful if not more so because they are women I look up to (as opposed to secular ones where I know I have different standards and beliefs than them). I know far more about people that I don’t ‘actually’ know than I ever should, which is partly why I closed my FB account years ago. It’s hard not to want to look at those things when I have a lot of spare time (I’m not married, no children, have a fairly slow job, etc). I often do, just to pass the time, and I always feel worse. It’s at least comforting to know that others have similar struggles.

  • Reply Nicole January 10, 2019 at 11:16 am

    Jenny Uebbing – the antidote to the internet. Thank you. I wish we were neighbors.

  • Reply T January 10, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    This social media problem is only a “problem” when we allow it to be, by not recognizing our own temptations. Some people can handle certain forms of social media yet be tempted by others, just like any other things in life (alcohol, food, TV, etc.) You, being a well-respected Catholic blogger, have a very important platform to help others recognize this about ourselves–so glad you wrote this! As always, your authenticity shines through in your writing, which is truly a gift–especially online. We all know that it’s difficult to be authentic with people on social media because we can’t read body language or facial expression cues–not to mention the fact that most interactions are with strangers. When it comes to the problem of comparison, my experience is that pursuing friendships in real life with fellow women we can trust & with whom be authentic about our lives helps prevent or cure the comparison/competitive streak. I can totally go around feeling badly about my aging & very maternal body, having been pregnant/nursing for nearly 2 decades with my 9 living children (& having lost a few) & crazy hormone fluctuations now that I’m in my 40’s; I could be especially resentful of the fact that I’m still fertile & therefore also dealing with the joys of NFP (Whoo-hoo.) I used to look at some of my friends that seem to be so effortlessly thin & graceful, with their very few kids, & think how easy they must have it. But, in face-to-face conversations with these ladies, I’ve heard the despondency of health issues that prohibit their diets or cause them to have digestive problems , struggles with infertility &/or miscarriage, or a spouse who refused to have any more children. These dear friends, only in real connection, open up about their own issues of self-worth & comparison–& surprisingly–struggles with jealousy because they perceived me as “having it all.” The irony of it is breathtaking, & there are so many other similar examples of our own “crosses” being someone else’s desired blessings. Now instead of comparing ourselves, we pray for each other. We are truly friends, open & honest about our struggles & able to empathize with them, & others who have completely different (even opposite) struggles. Anyway, it would seem that if all those sorts of conversations happened in real life before attempting to engage in them online, there would be fewer misunderstandings & comparisons, & much more empathy all around. In the era before social media, that type of true friendship was a given; sadly, there aren’t always opportunities for everyone to engage with in-person community. In those circumstances, finding Catholic women willing to openly share their thoughts & struggles online is important. So again, thank you!

  • Reply Kerry January 11, 2019 at 7:14 am

    I love the big family photo!!! Beautiful! I’m the oldest with younger sisters too— and such a good reminder— um, yes- I should look older. It would be kinda creepy if it were the opposite!! Thanks for this refreshing post!

  • Reply Cara Fleury January 11, 2019 at 8:07 am

    Aaaaaaah, I could have written this myself!!! I enjoyed every line and identified with all of it. Thank you for being so candid and brave. Because that’s what it takes. Just a little bit of courage from one shines a big light on the darkness for so many.

  • Reply Kathleen January 11, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Just unfollowed a bunch of accounts and deleted the app thanks to this post. I like Instagram when there is connection and community and authenticity. For example Bonnie Engstrom is so so down to earth! But I think (as someone mentioned in the above comments) discontentment can happen if you follow a bunch of people who don’t care about you or follow your life, but family, friends and even online friends that you’ve formed a connection with can be nice depending on where your at! But even then the straight up addicting nature of it all is 👎🏼👎🏼👎🏼. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement to take a break!

  • Reply Hannah January 11, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    Thank you for the post. I have become addicted to Instagram. I have recently been considering giving it up for the very reasons you described. Since creating an Instagram account, my prayer life has become almost non- existent. I have stopped going to daily Mass. I have spent loads of money that I did not have, on new clothes and things for my house. I have a long list of furniture I need to purchase in the future to make my home beautiful. I think your post was meant to be. I am going to give up social media and see how I feel. Thank you again!

  • Reply Maria January 11, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    I don’t understand how anyone can follow more than a handful or two of people on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter or whatever else is out there- anything more is ridiculous and will lead to mental overload. Use it to enhance your faith and keep in touch with family or a FEW close friends.

  • Reply MW January 12, 2019 at 9:01 am

    Yes to all of this! Thank you for your vulnerability, Jenny. I’ve given up the insta and fb and I don’t miss either of them at. all. Hopefully I don’t get burned at the stake for this observation and I also hope the following makes sense, but I’ve noticed a sense of materialism creeping in the insta Catholic circles that convey the messages “you need THIS journal or THIS rosary or THIS planner in order to have a thriving prayer life”. Some accounts might be “sponsored posts” for products, which is fine but the stuff they’re talking about isn’t cheap by any means. I think what I’m trying to say is that when I’m constantly trying to be prudent with what I purchase out of respect for my family or trying to keep in mind that I can’t take any of this stuff with me when I’m gone, it’s hard to adhere to that when faithful Catholics are telling me that that “super cute ethically traded dress is only $190.00” :0

    • Reply Anon January 12, 2019 at 4:59 pm

      Yes, Catholic insta got me hooked on BeautyCounter & I’ve spent $500 over the course of a year. I’ve spent my whole life buying drugstore products so my husband was kinda shocked when I got into high end beauty products suddenly. I really do want to support Catholic families & I’ve always felt a nudge to since my husband has a good job & I can afford to support people. But I also feel it comes back to the one sided thing where I’ve spent all this money to support families so they can have a family oriented lifestyle & then my husband had to work Christmas & I had the kids by myself. :\ Then of course I saw all the Catholic insta posts of family togetherness & it was just a BUMMER for me.

    • Reply Maria January 13, 2019 at 1:26 pm

      I have to agree there – it has seemed to become a marketplace- however… many of these people are making a living through their blogs/etc. It’s up to us- the consumer- to moderate our own spending. During the launch time of the BIS planners either for school or new year, there is a heavy bit of advertising- especially if you follow several of the writers, because they all will feature it- it can become a bit too much. BUT, it’s also good to have more Catholic goods out there vs. secular products.

  • Reply Annette January 12, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Jenny, I don’t understand why you’re putting yourself down. You and your family are beautiful! You are a mom of 5 kids, and you work for the Church, and you always seem to find us where we are in your blogging. I appreciate this. I only have 1 kid at home, I’m finding my way professionally, and my hobby seems to be avoiding housework. Keep showing us the way of Christ.

  • Reply motsfo January 12, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Want some good advice from someone over 70: Short cut to happiness: STOP givng a fukk what others think….. Care ONLY what God thinks……….. Best!motsfo

  • Reply jeanette January 12, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    This post reminded me of the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He reached a place of discernment about which thoughts helped him and which did not. That’s what is needed for examining how we relate to others via social media tools: discernment of spirits.

    One also needs to have a basic orientation of life that drives what you do. If your daily pattern of living is oriented towards serving God and living out your vocation as His will for you, any activity you do has to square with that. It will help you to order your day and choose which things belong in your day and which things do not. I think if we approach life that way, these social media avenues for spending time would dwindle or disappear, because they don’t always conform to that orientation. And if you dump social media into the basket of “leisure” or “entertainment” you really do have to compute how much of your time is being spent that way, and whether that form of leisure or entertainment is keeping you away from a better form of leisure or entertainment from which you will derive a renewal of mind, body, and spirit rather than being drained of it.

    Being of an older generation, I’m thankful that I have not had any attraction to these social media habits. Face to face is #1. Phone is #2. Letters or personal email is #3 (or #2 if the person is not easily reached by phone or lives in a different time zone). Beyond that, as many people have noted, you might be putting yourself into a voyeuristic situation of looking at people from the outside, but not being part of their life, or even if you are part of their life, you might just chew up way too much time. Real relationships require reciprocation, and if that is missing, it is not a real relationship. Bottom line, you have to discern how the communications and subsequent thoughts draw you nearer to God or away from Him. This is true of all relationships, in person or otherwise.

    As for comparing ourselves to others: it is a difference between our external life and our interior life. A relationship should touch our interior life in a healthy way. If it only feeds our external life (how do I look to others, how does my home look to others, etc.) or touches our interior in an unhealthy way (i.e. making you feel inferior or encouraging greed, envy or a variety of other unhealthy thoughts) “cut it off” and don’t give these thoughts access to your soul.

    I think the biggest hurdle for everyone of your generation and younger is that these forms of communication are so commonly practiced that they seem like the norm. But when you consider by whom they were created and for what purpose, you can see that they are really much more than just a helpful tool: they are manipulative and were marketed to generate money for a business. Technology can be used in such a way to generate addictive behavior on the part of the user. Technology always undergoes further development, and can be tweaked to get the user to become socially dependent upon such tools. Communication tools should be subordinate to our relationships, not driving them. Evaluate those tools against this principle.

  • Reply Kaitlin January 14, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    I nixed Instagram a few months ago and it’s been wonderful. This week I’ve been thinking about getting back on. “Surely I have more self control now….” and just yesterday I asked God to weigh in. Cue this post. Guess I’ll be staying away. Thanks for speaking through Jenny, God!

  • Reply MK January 18, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    Love your posts, as always, far-away Internet friend Jenny! I was just thinking how I felt I hadn’t seen much of you on IG, but am always happy to see your emails from this blog appear in my inbox; and too, chastised myself a bit realizing that you were doing a GOOD thing for YOURSELF in staying off IG – go Jenny go! Your photo at the family wedding is beautiful. It is such a loving family, clearly; for those of us who lack that, it is a real joy to see among others! You, your husband, your children also – your immediate family – is so beautiful, God is very evidently at work. To me, that transcends anything else about the photo! But yes, we are all so much more self-critical; and yes, I too have looked back on old photos, saying to myself, “I thought I looked bad THEN??”

    I have mostly exited social media, other than some here and there trips to IG. Thankfully, my phone being what it is, the battery life disappears very quickly if I do not logout of IG’s app – perhaps God helped me out a bit there. I’ve been very careful on what accounts I follow, who I connect with; it is a carefully curated group. I’m all about editing life to suit what I need to do for God and family and self right now (self-care, well-being, doing His Will), and forgetting the rest. Focusing on those who support, and not feeling obliged to those who don’t – or worse yet, those who have actively worked against me/us!

    I wish you the best in finding this peace, and most importantly, look forward to reading more of your blog posts and getting back to interacting here. Such a great group and always great to hear your insights! I connect with them so well – and these are times I am thankful for the Internet and social media, for opening me up to these communities. I think we just have to be careful with them and, in a Marie Kondo-ish way (haha), edit out whatever does not serve our priorities and purpose(s) in life!

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