Social Media Opens an Old Wound

How to cope when social media brings up negative feelings for chronic illness sufferers.


Social media is a gift and a curse. It can be a lovely way to keep up with friends and family that are far away. However, in regards to chronic illness, social media can be more of a curse in some cases. Admittedly for me, seeing all my friends post about their perfectly normal lives, opens up an old wound from time to time. It brings up feelings of jealousy, anger, inadequacy, resentment and disappointment. I don’t like that, because that isn’t who I am. But this disease makes me want my old life back. My life drastically changed when I was diagnosed, but everyone else’s remained the same. I thought I’d accepted my “new normal” and then those old familiar feelings come flooding back.

You only see what people want you to see on Facebook or Instagram. It’s a ‘highlight reel’ that perpetuates the myth of perfection. You don’t get the whole, real picture. Just the good parts. My social feeds are cluttered with enhanced selfies, picturesque weddings, smiling babies, overly staged family photos & wondrous vacations across the globe. It all seems very amazing but very skewed to one side of life. There is a lot being completely omitted. You don’t see the debt your friends are in to make that once-in-a-lifetime vacation a reality. You don’t see the 3 hours of bickering in the car with the kids screaming in the back seat. And you don’t see the hour it took your friend to decide which Instagram filter to use for that perfect selfie! Now before I go any further, I want to be clear I am not judging anyone for simply sharing their lives on social media. We are all on social media, we all do our thing differently. To each their own. What I am bringing up is that we should be real with each other!! Share the realness, not the illusion of perfection! You get to know people through being genuine. Why do we all feel like we have to hide the fact that we are human?

No one’s life is perfect.

No matter what you see on social media…There is no such thing as “perfect”. We are humans. By nature we are imperfect. Add chronic illness into the mix, especially Crohn’s disease… the word ‘perfect’ goes flying miles out the window in a matter of seconds.  Life is far from being normal, let alone anything resembling perfect. In fact, we may begin referring to it as the P word from now on in my house. Ha ha ha!

The grass is always greener on the others side, until you get there and realize it was just an Instagram filter the whole time!

In all seriousness, it is a little concerning. Just as we see overly thin models in the magazines and then begin to worry about our daughters getting a body complex– shouldn’t we also be worried about seeing only the ideal parts of life on social media? For fear of getting a “life complex”. Seeing is believing. We only get to see others living the amazing parts of their lives and think that is how we are supposed to be living our lives. All good, no bad or boring. And if we aren’t living like that, we are unhappy! The grass is always greener on the other side as they say. This especially puts undue pressure on those burdened by chronic illness, because we cannot live the life of a healthy person, no matter how badly we want to. And that is all we see on social media, the lives of healthy people. The world as a whole is healthy.

It’s a constant reminder of the very thing we no longer have…. a healthy, normal life.

I may think I’m doing well and finally starting to thrive after a flare, then I see a friend post pictures of yet another flawless family get away, or photos from the wedding of the century that I was unable to attend due to sickness. I start to second guess my decisions and my life. Should I have forced myself to go? Should I have put my health to the back burner for just one night? Am I truly living or am I just surviving? I see the endless posts on social media about these special times in their lives and think, “Is this how my life is supposed to be? Full of adventures, events and non-stop fun from one week to the next?” No, that is unreasonable! Even normal people have boring days! Ha ha ha! Before I saw my social feed, I was fine and truly thought I was doing well! So, what happened?

We too often compare our lives to those of healthy people.

You cannot compare the two lifestyles– healthy vs. chronic illness. Our lives are NOT the same. They just aren’t. We walk two completely different paths. A healthy lifestyle tends to be centered around work and making money. When you aren’t working you are spending time doing fun things like hanging out with friends and going out to eat. Grabbing drinks with the girls and dancing. Weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, baby showers, picnics, and pumpkin patch-ing?! Yes and visiting pumpkin patches. As a chronic patient, I have to focus what little energy I have on taking care of myself first and foremost. I am unable to work my old job because of the physical & mental limits of my disease. Most days its hard to get out of bed, let alone get dressed! It requires a lot of energy to take a shower (makeup is usually out of the question after that). Making plans is really difficult because it’s more likely that I’ll have to cancel rather than attend. And more times than not the average person does not understand. People just stop inviting you all together when the figure out that you just cancel all the time.

It’s hard. Chronic Illness forces you to do things you don’t want, because your health takes precedence.  Real talk– that usually includes missing out on many things you would enjoy. Then you go online and unfortunately see all those things you are missing out on. It’s a bummer but….

We have to be happy with what we’ve got!

I’ve decided it’s unfair to myself to dwell on what my life ‘should’ or ‘could’ be like anymore. It’s unreasonable. This disease isn’t going anywhere, life will not be the same. I absolutely have to accept that or this will be a perpetual cycle! Instead I’m going to focus on what I have, what truly makes me happy and how I can continue to realize my best quality of life.

So–Forget about the should’s, could’s and would’s. Ignore what others are doing that you know very well you can’t or don’t even want to do. Forget about what you feel society expects of you. The truth is they aren’t you and they aren’t going through your journey. Just make the most of what you have. Otherwise you will always be in a state of discontent.

Chronic Illness doesn't mean you have to stop enjoying life. It just means you have to adjust your expectations of what enjoyment is to you.

It’s true that I am limited by my Crohn’s disease. But I am happier now than I ever was before because I have a higher level of appreciation for things. I might not be able to go hiking through the mountains or travel abroad in Europe for months but I’m happy. I have adjusted my expectations of what it means to enjoy life, to fit the reality of my Crohn’s Disease lifestyle. I am content just sitting on my front porch looking at the trees while squirrels run around. Heck, I enjoy the simple fact that I even have a front porch. Watching my pups play fills my heart with joy like nothing else. I have a loving supportive husband that understands my struggles and I do not take that for granted. I’m beyond grateful! Having just one day without pain, is the best feeling in the world! The closest to “normal” I get! The good days are magnified!!

Bottom line– Social media is not a good representation of what life is really like. It is a showcase. So we should focus on our lives, without any comparison, and make the most of it!

Let’s start appreciating what is right in front of us in our own homes. Instead of reaching or always looking to how the “normal” world does things. Get creative and carve out your own path despite your circumstances.

And get off of Facebook if you need to! Ha ha ha!

I’d love for you to comment with one thing that you appreciate today, big or small!


Published by Jana Rosenberger

I blog about my life with Crohn's disease and all things quality-of-life. I don't sugar coat this journey but I do find a way to laugh!

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