FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Social Media: When You Can’t Stop Comparing: Jay Y. Kim

with Jay Y. Kim | February 29, 2024
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Feeling low after scrolling, but don't know why? Social media can cause low self-esteem and addiction. Jay Y. Kim examines how to to unplug--and increase contentment.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Feeling low after scrolling, and not sure why? \Jay Y. Kim examines how to to unplug–and increase contentment.

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Social Media: When You Can’t Stop Comparing: Jay Y. Kim

With Jay Y. Kim
February 29, 2024
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Jay: Paul lays it out really clearly, that the fruit of the Spirit is stuff like love, joy, peace; and patience, and kindness, and goodness, and faithfulness; gentleness, self-control. So then, we have to ask ourselves the question: “Am I patient? Do I have self-control? Am I a person who is kind and good?”—not just face to face but on Facebook®? And if we’re not, then we have to ask a deeper question: “Okay, what is really in me?”

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott. Your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: I got a new idea—I just thought of this on my own: “What if we put our phones to bed before we go to bed at night, and then we wake up—

Ann: —somewhere else? Besides the bedroom, really?

Dave: Yes, I just came up with that. What do you think?

Ann: I think it’s great! [Laughter] So, we’ll dock—

Dave: —I might even write a book with something like that in it. [Laughter]

Ann: But honestly, what if everybody did that?

Dave: We’re laughing because Jay Kim, the author of that idea, is sitting across the studio from us. And you’re being quiet. You’re not even interrupting, saying, “That’s my idea!” [Laughter]

Jay: Well, it wasn’t original to me.

Dave: It wasn’t?

Jay: I got it from—no, no! I got it from Andy Crouch—

Dave: —oh, that’s right.

Jay: —so, credit where credit is due.

Dave: Look at that—I take it, then he doesn’t even own it. He gives it to the actual source, Andy Crouch. [Laughter]

Jay: Yes, it’s kind of a double steal. [Laughter]

Dave: Yes, it is. Well, Jay, welcome back—

Jay: —thank you.

Dave: —to FamilyLife Today. You traveled all the way from California, where you’re a pastor. We’re talking about a book you wrote how many years ago? Five years ago?

Jay: Analog Christian came out just a year ago.

Dave: Oh.

Jay: But you know, book writing is a long process. I wrote the words, probably, three years ago [or] something like that.

Dave: Yes. Well, if you missed yesterday—I’m talking to our listeners now, go back and listen, because I’m not kidding, that idea that you shared yesterday, I’m embarrassed to say I don’t do that. I’ve never done that. Actually, when you said it yesterday, I was [thinking], “There’s no way you can function in this world without your phone sitting right beside you on a nightstand, [Laughter] and your Apple® watch or your digital watch on your wrist at all times.”

Yesterday, I was preaching at a church. Before the service, I walked into the lobby and said “Hi,” to people. I didn’t have my phone in my pocket, and I felt naked. I was like, “Where in the world is my phone? I can’t function without it.” That’s the digital world we live in. You don’t have that anymore?

Jay: I still do, I still do. It’s not—it’s a long journey, it’s a long process. I can relate, Dave. If I don’t know where my phone is, and I’m out and about, yes, there’s sort of a frantic thing that happens in my soul: “Where’s my phone? Where’s my phone?” But it’s definitely gotten better. That’s the hopeful possibility: it can get better.

It’s interesting. We were talking yesterday about my wife and how she’s off social media. She’s probably the one who should write the book. She’s far more disciplined than me.

This has happened multiple times, where we are going out for the day. We’ve got the kids with us. We’re taking them to a birthday party, and then, a lunch with friends; and then we’re going somewhere else, doing some shopping. We’re not going to be back for six-seven hours. This has happened multiple times, where we’re ten minutes into the drive, [and] she looks around, and she says, “Oh, I don’t have my phone.” And then, she’ll say, “Eh, I don’t need it.”

Dave: I’m making a commitment right now—

Ann: —ahhh!

Dave: —I would love our listeners to join me, because I think you hit something that is so true. We need—I need—to put my phone to bed before I go to bed, and it doesn’t need to be on the nightstand, three inches from my ear where I can just reach over. The first thing I do, when I wake up, is grab it,—

Ann: —oh, me, too.

Dave: —look at the calendar, whatever.

You said yesterday [that] your ritual [is] getting up in the morning and taking some time reading a Psalm. That is just wisdom.

Ann: I guess I better go buy some alarm clocks.

Jay: That’s right.

Ann: Yes, I need to. That’s a great idea.

Jay: Yes.

Dave: I’m not sure I can go all the way; get rid of my watch! [Laughter]

Jay: My watch can wake me up. [Laughter]

Dave: As long as I set it on my phone, my watch will buzz on my wrist, and we’ll wake up.

Ann: Jay, you shared a little bit why you wrote this book, Analog Christian. Remind the listeners: “Why this book?”

Jay: My own digital addictions. [Laughter] It’s a funny thing, writing a book. You’re offering something that you hope is helpful for people—and that’s true of this book, but really, the book is part confession, part prayer.

I do think it will be helpful, because I know I’m not alone; but it really is confession and prayer. I wrote the book because I knew I had a problem. I got to the place where I did not want to become the sort of person I saw myself becoming, a person who was shaped by my device.

It’s a long journey, but writing the book was really helpful for me. It gave me a framework for understanding, in part, why I was feeling the way I was feeling about all of life, and how my digital addiction was playing a significant part in that. And then, a lot of hope in the words of Scripture; and Paul’s words, specifically, in Galatians 5 [verses 22-23] about the fruit of the Spirit. That just really became key to unlocking so much for me.

Dave: Let’s talk about the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, I highlighted [it]. Right in the beginning [of the book], you make this comment about Paul’s words in Galatians 5; he says (and you write): “In other words, the Spirit’s fruit is not about doing particular things in order to be a particular people. Conversely, it’s about being a particular people, which inevitably leads to a particular sort of living and doing in the world. More specifically, it’s about the fact that our identification as the people of God is marked by the living Spirit of God working in us and through us.” That is a simple thought, but the fruit is a result of our identity in Christ. Explain that.

Jay: Yes, every Christian, every follower of Jesus, the Bible tells us, in no uncertain terms, that God lives in us. Not that we are God; the Spirit of God resides, makes His home in us. That idea of the people of God being the temple of God is really profound. Throughout the Bible, the temple is the place where heaven and earth would meet, where God-space and human-space would intersect. That’s us now; that’s me.

What Paul is saying is: “If you are a follower of Jesus, God is not just some divine Being, floating out in the ether somewhere; His Spirit is literally in you.” What that means is that your life is an expression of the thing that is in you. So then, we have to ask the question: “Is my life an expression of the things of God?”

Paul lays it out really clearly, that the fruit of the Spirit is stuff like love, joy, peace; and patience, and kindness, and goodness, and faithfulness; gentleness, self-control; so then, we have to ask ourselves the question: “Am I patient? Do I have self-control? Am I a person who is kind and good?” Not just face to face, but on Facebook®? [Laughter]

We have to ask ourselves those questions. And if we’re not, then we have to ask a deeper question: “Okay, what is really in me?” because this is all coming out; it is spewing out of me. It’s reflective of what’s in me. And then—at least, for me—I have the sobering reality: “I think there is a lot of stuff in here that isn’t the Spirit of God.”

Dave: And a lot of that is shaped by the digital world. Your subtitle, Cultivating Contentment; how does the digital world make us discontent?

Jay: Well, social media, in particular (and media, in general, online), runs on the fuel of comparison. That’s not conjecture. I’m not making that up or whipping that up that it’s in there. The research shows us that. When comparison is the driving force of your life, it is impossible to be content; literally, impossible.

Ann: So, peace is out the window.

Jay: It’s out the window.

Ann: Yes.

Jay: Yes, I would say love, really, is out the window; joy is certainly out the window.

Because love, at its essence, is not about [what] culture tells us: it’s butterflies in the stomach and feeling good; but really, biblically, the Bible tells us in 1 John, Chapter 4: “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” Love is a selfless act of the will to give ourselves to another for their good.

That is not what social media asks us to do. What social media asks us to do is catch up to the glossy highlights of all of our friends and family who are posting, not their real lives; they’re just posting—

Dave: —the highlights.

Jay: —the vacation they took to the Maldives. But you know that their real life is, on Monday, they are going to be back in the cubicle. But we’re not thinking about that. We’re just thinking about the fact that: “I’m in my cubicle, and they’re enjoying this white-sand beach in the Maldives.” That creates something in us, something that isn’t of God It’s comparison. It’s not joy, it’s not love, it’s not peace, it’s not contentment.

I think God has a life of contentment for us. I think about young parents—I hear this from young moms in our church all the time: every young mom I know thinks they’re the worst parent on the planet. By definition, that can’t be possible. [Laughter] There can only be one worst parent on the planet; that’s what makes them the worst. The chances are, you are not that parent.

It’s just that you’re comparing to the glossy highlights of all of your other mom friends who are posting the beautiful picture of their child, taken by a professional photographer, filtered perfectly, about how much she loved them so much, while you are trying to get your kid to eat their carrots, and they’re throwing a tantrum. When in reality, intellectually, you know that perfect child on Instagram® also throws tantrums because he doesn’t want to eat his carrots, but you’re not looking at that. And then, it just undoes all the stuff in us. That’s not the life God has for us.

Ann: I really love, as you go through each one of the fruit—you go through love, and then you go through the other side: instead of self-centric despair. Why that? How did you end up with that one? That’s pretty heavy.

Jay: Yes. We think that our smartphones are windows into the world, but they’re not. They’re mirrors. Self-centric despair—what I mean by that phrase is, the inability to see life through any perspective or paradigm other than the perspective and paradigm of self. We think social media is a window because we see photos and posts from people. But really, the way it is designed is those posts are just mirrors, screaming back at you: “Why aren’t you more like this? Why can’t you think like this? Why don’t you understand this?” They’re just mirrors.

What it does is—people say, “Jay, how can I get off Facebook? I won’t know what my friends are up to.”

Dave: Right.

Jay: First of all, let’s just be honest: “You don’t know what your friends are up to. You know little snippets of what they want you to know of what they are up to.”

In any meaningful relationship—like the two of you—if your relationship was mediated by just snippets of your life you wanted the other person to know, that would not be a meaningful relationship. That would be a curated exchange of information, sort of like, “I’m going to put on my best so I reflect myself as a particular type of person.” But that’s not genuine. That’s why we have self-centric despair; because we’re actually so utterly disconnected from each other. Even though social media sort of tells us we’re so connected—this global village—it’s just not true.

Ann: I’m thinking of the listener with their high school or middle school kids on TikTok®; they’re on everything. The parent can see there’s a self-centric despair in the child. They might have them, too, but especially, you can see it in your kids. As they’re listening; and they feel like, “I don’t have any control of them, with my high schooler.” How do you encourage them with that whole point?

Jay: My kids are young, so I speak with no expertise here. I don’t really know directly, first-hand, what it’s like to parent a teenager. I do know it is uniquely challenging to be a teenager these days, in large part, due to the digital revolution. I think one of the things—big picture, I would say—is, it doesn’t seem that effective—I could be wrong here, but it doesn’t seem that effective—to try to force someone to break an addiction. It seems like it’s more effective to help someone become addicted to something else.

For us in our home, even though my kids are eight and five, and they don’t have smartphones, they still have screen time. We limit the screen time significantly. We have a digital Sabbath day every week, so Saturday is our digital Sabbath. What that means is, we will mediate almost nothing with a screen. So, we’re not watching TV or watching a movie. We put our phones away quite a bit. We don’t just say that. We don’t say, “Okay, kids, no screens today,” and then, just leave it be. What we do is, we try to replace the time.

I’m in California, so we have great weather nine-ten months out of the year. Most Saturdays will be spent outdoors. We’ll go on a small hike; we’ll eat our meals in our backyard—we’ll cook or I’ll barbeque, and we’ll eat in the backyard; and the kids can play. We’ve got a couple of friends—the kids have a couple of friends in the neighborhood, [and] we’ll invite them over to play in the front yard and have snacks out there. We’ll go out for a dessert somewhere. We try to create moments that help our kids feel like the space is not empty. And now, they’re just clambering for: “Can we just watch a movie?” Instead, we’re saying (it’s the invitation of the Scriptures): “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” “Well, taste and see that physical, embodied experiences, as a family and as friends, is so good.” We’re seeing the fruit of it. Our kids look forward to those moments.

Dave: If you really want to “taste and see that the Lord is good” [Psalm 34:8], you have to stop and rest. Turn off the phone; put the phone away—just almost like Sabbath rest—and say, “Lord, I am going to put away all distractions, and I want to experience You. I really want to taste and see You.”

Ann: It’s almost like you could say, “Taste and see that the Lord is better than digital. Taste and see that the Lord is better than anything we’ll have on any screen, because He is good and has more for us. We can expect more as we taste and see His goodness.”

Dave: And I don’t think we really taste until we put that other away. It has to be put aside, and your eyes turned toward Him.

Ann: “Let’s do that this week, or this year, or for our lives. Let’s put it away and see how good God is.”

Dave: I heard you tell a story on YouTube [about] when you ran away from home. Tell that story, because that was such a great story of your life about what’s really true.

Jay: Yes, I grew up with a single mom. I was a pretty rebellious teenager [in] middle school and high school. I would get into fights with my mom all the time. There was one day, in particular—a really, really big fight. I yelled at her; I cursed at her; I mean, all sorts of things. She’s yelling back at me. I knew, at that point, “I am in so much trouble.” [Laughter]

So, I got on my bike, and I rode up this expressway, probably five or six miles to a friend’s house; my friend, Brent (I knew he was home). I’m only 12 at this point. I knock on his door. I’m like, “Hey, I got in this huge fight with my mom.” I’m saying all sorts of mean things about her. I asked him, “Can I just stay with you?” He’s like, “Sure, come in.” I’m hanging out with Brent at [his] home.

Eventually, later that evening, his mother comes home. She’s like, “Oh, does your mom know you’re here? When is she picking you up?” I just say, “No, I’m living with you now.” [Laughter] “I’m your new son.” She’s like, “No.” She calls my mom (my mom and she were friends as well). My mom comes to pick me up. At this point, I’m just like, “Okay, it’s over. My life is about to end,” sort of thing. [Laughter]

I get in her car, her little Honda® Civic. She drives me home, and it’s just silence. You know that experience? Where the silence is way more frightening than their yelling. I’d much rather have her scream than be silent, so I’m just shaking in my boots. I’m just trying to figure out a plan: "Okay, when we get home, if I can just run to my room, close the door, close my eyes, and just cover my ears, maybe it will just all go away. There will be no consequences.” I knew it wasn’t true, but I’m just convincing myself.

We get home in silence. She hasn’t spoken a word. I run to my room; I close the door. There’s nothing—she doesn’t knock on my door, nothing—for a good long while.

Ann: Are you surprised?

Jay: Totally surprised, yes. I mean, I was bracing myself for the worst of it. And then, all of a sudden, I could smell food cooking in the kitchen. Eventually, about an hour into this, I open my door, and then, my mom speaks the first word she had spoken to me that entire time. She says, “Come to the kitchen.” We have a small, little dining table—a single mom—it was just her and me. I go to the dining table, and she’s cooked all of this food. I mean, this elaborate meal. She sits me down, and I’m still shaking in my boots. Now, I’m really worried, like, “What is—? Did she poison the food?” [Laughter] “Is this how it ends? It’s been a good 12-year run. I guess this is it.” [Laughter]

I sit down. I can see on her face there is real emotion, and it wasn’t just in that moment. I could tell that she’s been cooking this meal and crying at the same time. I can see it on her face. She sits down. I’m still bracing myself, like, “Okay, here it comes.” She looks at me, and the first words out of her mouth are—she says to me, in Korean; she says, “Jay, you are my son, and you will always have a seat at my table.” And then, we eat.

I still—I mean, this was 30 years ago—and I will never forget that moment, because it was this incredible picture of—not just a picture—but it was, literally, a visceral experience of hearing and, literally, tasting grace; the grace of God expressed in this little Asian woman who was my mother. I go, and I embrace her. At that point, already—my mom is 5 foot-nothing; at that point—I was already bigger than her, even as a 12-year-old. I hugged her, and she hugged me. I remember having this experience: I am physically wrapping my arms around her, but I felt so enveloped in her immense love and grace toward me.

It is still, to this day, the most beautiful—simple [and] beautiful—picture of God’s grace for us, which I think matters so much when we’re having conversations like this, because there is a little bit of: “I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to get better.” But ultimately, it’s nothing but grace. God says we have a seat at His table.

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott. You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jay Kim on FamilyLife Today. We’re going to hear some intentional reflection from the Wilsons and Jay, on the story you just heard Jay tell about his mom, here in just a second. But first, Jay Kim has written a book called Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age. You can go online to to pick up a copy, or give us a call at 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

You know, earlier this week, we had on the tremendous Elizabeth Woodson. She talked to us about finding joy when life is really not what you had hoped for. She’s written a book called Embrace Your Life. It’s a book for anyone grappling with the unmet longings and searching that they have for deep joy amidst the gap between their desired and actual life. It really helps with good, biblical insight and wisdom, practical guidance, and help on your journey to connect with God in the midst of disappointment.

This book is going to be our gift to you when you give today. You can get your copy now of Elizabeth’s book with any donation by going online to and clicking on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page. Or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Okay, here is some intentional reflection from the Wilsons and Jay Kim.

Dave: I am sure you know the chorus [singing]: “In my Father’s house, there’s a place for me.”

Jay: Yes.

Dave: I remember the first time I heard that lyric, I teared up, because I was raised by a single mom as well; Dad left. Even hearing your story, my mom continually did that.

Ann: She did.

Dave: I did not deserve it, and she just kept giving grace. That’s the heart of the Father.

Jay: That’s it.

Dave: It’s a beautiful thing, and that’s analog—

Jay: —that’s right.

Dave: —you can see it [and] experience it digitally, but that’s incarnation; that’s flesh. That’s the heart of the Father.

Ann: And He’s always offering us that seat; that grace is the gospel message of, “You’re always welcome at My table, always.” I like the food part, too. [Laughter]

Jay: Yes, yes. [Laughter] When I tell the story, it’s the way our brain works—the nostalgia. I can still smell the smells and taste the tastes.

Dave: Really?

Jay: Yes, I still remember. It was a Korean meal. My mom only knew how to cook Korean food, which is in vogue now. It wasn’t back then. [Laughter] Friends [would] come over, [and] they were like, “What’s that smell, man?!” It’s like, “Ahh!” So embarrassing. My kids will never know the pain of ethnic food being an embarrassing thing. Now, it’s so awesome. It’s like, “Oh, here’s some sushi.” “Oh, you’re so cool!” It was not the case when I was a kid. [Laughter]

But I can still smell the smells; yes, and taste the tastes. I can still see the table. I remember exactly what she cooked. For everybody, it’s that picture: “God has a seat for you.” The young mom, who’s like, “I’m not cutting it,” God has a seat for you.

Ann: Yes.

Jay: He’s cooked this beautiful, elaborate meal for you.

Ann: It’s so good.

Shelby: If you know anyone who needs to hear conversations like today’s, would you share it from wherever you get your podcasts? And while you’re there, you can really help others learn more about FamilyLife Today by leaving us a review.

Now, tomorrow, what is the need for real community, corporate worship, and the balance between digital and analog experiences in the church? Well, Jay Kim is back tomorrow to help us sort that out. That’s tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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