My greatest struggle with social networking is jealousy. There; I said it.
Right now I saw on Facebook that a cousin of mine is away on vacation for a week with her husband while her mom watches her children. I am jealous that her mom lives close by and isn't working so that she's able to be available to watch the grandchildren. I am jealous that they are able to get away for a week together.
I get jealous seeing that a classmate of mine is successfully getting her book plugged on news reports and radio shows. I get jealous reading of all her travels in her book.
Of course I overlook the other circumstances in their lives--that my cousin's dad died from cancer years ago, that my friend's book is based on her having 50 dates in 50 states as she searched for a man to spend her life with. If they allowed themselves, they may have been jealous of my father still being alive or of me having a spouse and children.
I can get jealous of others' job endeavors, financial successes, ability to go to concerts and plays, camping trips, and even just that they had some time for bike ride by themselves. (Edit: Let me be clear that it's not that my wife doesn't give me time for bike rides or that we don't go camping. I can simply be jealous when others get to do it when I'm not. Or that someone has the time and ability to do a 40 mile bike ride. Or that someone is camping in Glacier National Park when we're at a state park just outside the Cities. It's my twisted perspective on things.)
My jealousy, of course, has nothing to do with them at all. It is all about me. Actually, that's the issue. That I'm trying to make it all about me. I'm comparing myself to them and their circumstances. I'm wishing I had what they have.
But it's me who is not being content. I'm not focusing on the blessings I have. I'm not being thankful for the opportunities my friends have.
A year or so ago a friend gave me the book 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It's a book by a woman who has seen plenty of loss and trials, but she has also found blessing by focusing on gratitude. She made a list of 1000 things she was thankful for in her daily life.
I've got a notebook that I'm trying to do the same experiment in. I'm up to 157 things I'm thankful for. Honestly, most of the time I forgot to write in it. Most days I forget to keep gratitude before me.
Sure, I take a moment before meals and when putting the boys to bed to thank God for the food we have, the day He gave us, and a assorted other things, but I admit that it's sometimes a perfunctory action. I seldom keep an attitude of gratitude before me throughout my day.
And this is really the issue at stake. It isn't about what others have or what I don't have. It's about God. He has given me everything I need. Way more than I need.
So when I see a friend post that they're backpacking through Glacier National Park or getting away for a romantic weekend with their wife at a cabin or selling their book well, I can stop and be happy for them. I can give thanks that they are able to have those opportunities.
But more importantly, I can look around me at all I have and give thanks for it.
For wonderful kids, a beautiful wife, a stable roof over our heads, a steady job, a beautiful world to explore, and more than I need: I give thanks.