Culture of Comparison

An Envious Pursuit

As social media’s reach grows larger our world becomes increasingly smaller. Goodbyes don’t seem as difficult because I’ll still see you later on Instagram. In fact, I’ve been able to maintain relationships across the country through comments, likes, and snaps. Most of us would agree, we like social media. Still, there is a shadow that lingers in our social saturation. This problem that has followed humans for centuries: a deep-rooted obsession with comparison.

Within one app, I can view everything my friends have done in the last 24 hours. Double click. Swipe. Now I know everyone’s political leaning. Click. Tap. Swipe. I see who’s flying where, which cafe has the best latte art, who has been blessed by which friendship, and of course the never ending engagements. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these posts. These are my friends picking out fun snippets of their lives, so I can share in that moment with them. In my mind, I recognize they are only sharing the highlights. I know they left out the part where they binge-watched Netflix all afternoon. Yet it is so easy to fall into an envious longing for my life to be that adventurous, social, artistic, etc. 

If we fall into the trap of comparison as we scroll through our news feeds, what other partial truths begin to warp our minds?

Relevant contributor Shauna Niequist summarizes this idea well writing, “My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths.” A recent viral video pokes fun at the fake world we create documenting the lives of several “Instagram Husbands”. These men are stuck behind the camera while they capture their wive’s best moments. While maintaining a light feel to it, the video shows how far we remove our posts from reality. It becomes so easy for us to compare our lives to what we see in our feed, and fall into a competition to have the best online presence.

This raises an important question. If we fall into the trap of comparison as we scroll through our news feeds, what other partial truths begin to warp our minds?

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What about pornography?

At its center is porn anything other than an alternate reality? It’s a visually stimulating façade that hides anything real; a collection of partial truths that paint a false picture of sexuality. Like an “Instagram Husband”, a director sits out of frame guiding, scripting and cheapening what should be the most intimate of moments. Porn isn’t real. It is a lie designed to be larger than life and to leave you wanting more. Porn habits all follow a similar story. Users become desensitized and grow tired of the same old thing. They begin seeking the next thrill and dive deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. Still images become boring, videos become repetitive, and viewers begin to seek out more taboo ideas. A popular porn site recently released its top ten searches of 2015 including keywords like mom, step mom, and step sister. These are obviously unrealistic scenarios for anyone with a grasp on reality, but somehow they have climbed to the forefront of pornography. Behind closed doors, we can escape reality and live in a world with partial truths and pleasure available on demand.

“The more time spent viewing porn, the more we open ourselves up to the lies of comparison.”

Defenders of porn claim it is a victimless crime, or rather there is no crime at all. If we can grow dissatisfied in our coffee choice due to a timely Instagram featuring strategically positioned artisanally crafted coffee, how are we not to fall victim to the same phenomenon regarding sex. The more time spent viewing porn, the more we open ourselves up to the lies of comparison.  How long before you desire the fantasies on-screen to become off-screen realities in your own life? Will disappointment start to creep in because there isn’t a third person in the bedroom? What if your partner is blonde, and today you were in the mood for a brunette? What about the really busy days that don’t leave time for intimacy? Porn teaches us that we deserve sexuality on demand, but inevitably that mindset will disappoint.

Then what happens?

  For those who are currently in a relationship, it becomes easy to take this frustration out on your significant other. You begin to resent your wife because she isn’t like the women in porn. All of the sudden you begin to isolate yourself and spend more and more time alone with a screen. Quality time with loved ones is traded for an escaping moment of pleasure. Consequently, your porn habits are affecting someone other than yourself and aren’t so innocent. On the other side of the coin, younger viewers are taking on skewed expectations towards relationships. Sexting is at an all time high as young boys expect girls to cater to their whims, and girls feel pressure to be like the porn stars their boyfriends covet. A study conducted by the Barna Group found that 66% of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image and 41% have sent one (usually from/to their boy/girlfriend or friend). Again we see how a belief in the lies portrayed online corrupt our perception of the world.

“66% of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image and 41% have sent one.”

As digital media begins to take further hold on our world, we need to become responsible consumers. We need to be able to decipher truth from reality, and be aware of the harmful lies hiding in the shadows. The next time you feel the temptation to watch pornography, take a few minutes to think about the lies. Think through how it will change you. Consider how it will change your view of others. Consider the piece of yourself that you give away with every click.

Is it worth it?

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Jason Deutsch

Jason Deutsch

Jason Deutsch has worked with various non-profit ministries over the last few years. He is an adventure enthusiast, musician on the side, and is passionate about seeing Christ-like change in people across the globe. He is happily married and loves hanging out with his Golden Retriever, Skye.

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