When I was in my twenties, I taught English in Seville, Spain. Along the cobblestone streets in the heart of downtown, tourists paid locals to use horses for transportation and sight-seeing. To do these kinds of jobs, horses need blinders, which are eye coverings that prevent them from being able to see to the rear, and sometimes, to the side.
Blinders keep horses focused on what is in front, rather than distractions around them. By shielding their field of vision, blinders help horses relax and concentrate better on the task at hand. Otherwise, their natural instinct is look at everything around them and have trouble maintaining their focus. Sounds just like us!
In an age of social media and technology, social comparison has become a distraction that pulls us here and there in our thoughts. Humans have always struggled with social comparison. But now with modern technology, outside influences are amplified beyond what our minds and hearts can handle.
Amidst our everchanging world, the great news is that our standard of measurement never changes. By tuning out the world and focusing in on His Word, we can sift what is important. Galatians 6:4-5 says, “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each shall bear his own load” (NKJV).
What a liberating thought! God expects us to run only our race. We are responsible to do what He has called us to do, not what we see other people doing (or not doing). We are accountable for ourselves and no one else. We experience freedom as we learn to entrust God with everyone else in our lives.
Peter struggles with social comparison at a crucial moment in his life. When Jesus told Peter that he would die by crucifixion, Peter’s first reaction was to look over and ask about John: “When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:21-22 NIV).
Putting on Blinders
Let us put on blinders to reduce the amount of unnecessary social comparisons in our lives. Here are some practical ideas to get started:
- Maintain a phone-free time period after waking and/or before bedtime.
- Use an analog alarm clock and wristwatch instead of using phones as a clock/alarm.
- Keep phones away from the table at mealtimes.
- Leave phones at home when going on a walk.
- Check social media/e-mail/news/internet at designated times, rather than throughout the day.
- Delete undesired social media apps.
- Fast from social media on a regular basis. Or do a digital detox for a longer period of time.
- Lock phones in a lock box like this one when we need to be productive or decompress. (This practice is one of my favorites!)
It’s not easy to incorporate these changes because they are so countercultural. Part of the appeal of our phones is that they are “all in one.” All of our life essentials seem to be accessible at the tip of our fingertips, and we like that feeling.
But if we do not make an effort to control the barrage of digital distraction that reaches us, that distraction will control us. Like Peter, we will be comparing ourselves to our neighbors—instead of loving them.
In the same way blinders are immensely beneficial to horses, “blinding” ourselves periodically to the outside world of the internet helps us to concentrate better on our walk with God.
What would blinders look like for you? How can you put them on this week? What has worked for you in the past?
“So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” Romans 14:12-13 (NIV)
For more reading on the effects of smartphone technology on the Christian life, I recommend Tony Reinke’s book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You.