July 21, 2021
Lately, I have been hearing a lot about people feeling jealous and left out when they see social media posts about their friends off having fun with other friends at events they were not invited to. I knew this was a near obsession among some of our youth, but was surprised to hear that many adults feel the same way. We even had an adult lesson on it in church this last Sunday.

As I thought about this, it was easier to understand in terms of our survival instinct. In primitive times, if you were kicked out by your tribe, you were probably going to die. So, if you are scrolling social media and find that a group of your friends got together without you, your brain tells you "My tribe is kicking me out! Be afraid! Be very afraid!"

I remember seven years ago when a woman I had dated some was telling me that she didn't have anyone. She lamented that she didn't have any friends around. (This attitude was, paradoxically, self-perpetuating.) I told her that I felt the same way often. I was broke and trying to find my way through that. I didn't feel like I could date anyone seriously until I was in a better place financially. She commented that she had seen on my Facebook page that I had gone to dinner with some friends. She was jealous. I don't think it was romantic jealousy at that point. She just wanted to go to dinner with some friends and didn't feel like she had anyone to do that with. That was deeply painful for her.

We all have an innate need to belong. For those without a partner, that need can feel deeply painful. I have a few thoughts for any of you who have experienced pain over this issue.

1. Broaden Your Circle
This is something I did kind of intuitively when I was going through my divorce. I needed lots of people to talk to and I reached out to a lot of old friends. That helped to fill the huge void left by my former wife. Of course, you cannot replace a spouse with friends. But it was so much better than nothing. I didn't worry about what other people were doing on social media. I was often getting together with friends, which helped to ease the pain somewhat.

If you are an introvert, I know it can feel difficult to reach out and you may be fearful of rejection, even in platonic relationships. Face your fear and do it. Make a circle of friends for yourself. Include people from various different parts of your personal history. Have several different circles of friends. I have many friends that I still keep in touch with from high school, my mission, college, and other places I have lived. Some of them live near and some far. My faith and my friends were the two things that sustained me most in the crucible of divorce. For those who do it all alone, I honestly don't know how you do it. But, recognize that you don't have to do it alone. Many of my old friends had not communicated with me in many years when I reached out to them as my divorce was ongoing. In virtually every case, it was as if no time had passed. They were all loving and welcoming.

2. Date

The fear of rejection can be even scarier in dating than in platonic relationships. However, even when I was not ready to get married again, casual dating helped very much to meet my social needs. I was honest with the women I dated (especially and including Cathy) about my situation and said I would not be ready for something leading to marriage for a while. My dates tended to be relatively inexpensive because of my situation at the time. But I had no shortage of them and I made some good friends that way.

3. Be Intentional

In every area of our lives that really matters, we believe in being intentional--except for relationships. In that area, we seem to want it to just happen by magic. We believe in setting goals in our careers, in managing and growing our money, in church service and callings, in our educational pursuits and whatever else we may be doing. But we often take a very different approach when it comes to relationships, both romantic and platonic. We take the approach that "If it happens it happens." That is not how it happens. If you are feeling lonely or jealous because of things you've seen on social media or otherwise, be intentional about broadening your circle and having plenty of people who are willing to have fun with you. You can do this with a little intentional effort. For example, you could set the intention at the beginning of the week to call two old friends before the end of the week to catch up.

4. Be Sensitive to Others

I really counsel against putting a lot of dating photos on social media before you are exclusive with someone. Assume that everyone you go on a date with has some level of interest in you. It could be hurtful to them to see you with someone else. I am not suggesting that you should be deceitful and pretend to be exclusive when you are not. Be honest with your partners about where you are in terms of commitment. But even if they know you are dating other people, it may still feel painful for them to see pictures of you having fun with another partner. I don't think you need to adopt this kind of approach with platonic friendships. However, be cognizant of who might feel left out. Consider inviting them. If there is some reason you can't, maybe don't throw it in their face. Use your privacy settings.

5. Self-Talk and Thought Work
You are NOT hurting because somebody went out and had fun and didn't invite you. If you hadn't known about it, there would have been no pain. The age of social media has amplified how much you can know about what your friends are doing when you aren't with them. You are hurting because of your thoughts about being left out. You are hurting because of what you are making it mean. You might be making it mean they are embarrassed by you, that they think you are a lot to deal with, or that they prefer the company of other friends instead of you. You might be making it mean something about you. You might be asking, "Why was I not good enough to be invited?"

Are any of those painful judgments true? Not really. They are your thoughts and stories. They come from your insecurities and not from anyone else's conduct. So it is important to begin by understanding that jealous and painful feelings when it comes to friends and social media are not truly coming from social media. The feelings are coming from inside ourselves. Once we understand that, we can adopt a different thought about the situation. "That friend values me for deep and serious conversation, and perhaps values these other friends for lighthearted fun." That's a much less heavy thought right? Perhaps you could think, "I'm glad those two are having fun together. They probably really needed to get out and do that." Being happy for them and sharing in their joy is a lot more fun than being jealous and miserable. Perhaps you could adopt the thought, "That looks like fun. I ought to call a friend and make plans to do the same thing." Now you are acting and not being acted upon. You are controlling your thoughts instead of letting your thoughts control you.

6. Radical Acceptance
It can help a lot to simply make peace with the idea that "I am not for everyone." There may be people who I want to like me that simply don't. And that is okay. There are more than 6 billion people in the world. I can find plenty that will like me. I can find enough that I will always be in someone's tribe. Let's not have a scarcity mentality when it comes to friendship. Make peace with the idea that you are not everyone's cup of tea. Focus on people who do like spending time with you and having fun with you, and post your own social media photos--not to get revenge but because you want to share your joy.
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