emotional porn

Stop Looking at Emotional Porn

“I hate the word porn.”

The other night at youth group a student asked me, “Why don’t you follow anybody on Instagram?” I explained to him that I was simply wasting too much time on the app and if I don’t follow anyone, there isn’t anything new to see, therefore I don’t waste as much time. And that reason is partly true—that was absolutely a big part of my reasoning on why I chose to unfollow everyone that I use to follow, but it’s not the full story.

The second, and more important, reason I decided to unfollow everyone on my Instagram feed is, to put it bluntly, because of this—I am a recovering emotional porn addict.

I really don’t like to use the word porn. Years ago, I spent a summer interning for XXXchurch.com, a nonprofit helping people overcome and recover from their porn addiction. It was a summer where I saw and heard some rough stories about porn addiction—people losing their jobs, wives, businesses, respect, etc. So again, if I am honest, I hate the word porn. I don’t use it lightly. But, when I was thinking about this post and I was trying to come up with a different word to use, I just couldn’t find one that accurately described what I wanted to say.

In simple terms, porn is not real. It looks real, but it is not real. It is a fantasy world that is not even close to reality at all. I am constantly challenging the 10th graders in my small group to not look at porn because it will distort what you will expect from your wife, life, and mess you up in loads of other ways. The fantasy that pornography displays is just that—a fantasy. In reality, it is a very sad and hopeless world that too many get lost and hurt in.

As a high schooler and college student I struggled with looking at porn, but can honestly say that it is not something that I struggle with now, which I thank God for every day. I also tell Brooke that at anytime she can ask me if I have looked at anything I shouldn’t have, and she does ask from time to time.

While porn addiction and struggles is something that many many people struggle with, I believe there is a different kind of porn sweeping across our social media screens and most of us are addicted … and unaware. It’s emotional porn.

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What is emotional porn?

It’s following 100 mommy bloggers, while being secretly jealous and envious that your life is not theirs.

It’s following every work-out-enthusiast, and secretly hating them for caring so well for their bodies.

It’s following your frenemies and saying you don’t care what they are doing, yet all the while you know every thing about every single aspect of their lives.

It’s filling your feed, and in turn your mind, with jealousy, comparison and often pointless imagery, all while your real relationships fall apart.

It’s watching Keeping up With the Kardashians and almost every other “reality” show, while not actually keeping up with anything else in your life.

It’s watching and obsessing over The Bachelor (a total stranger’s love life).

It’s tweeting and Snapchatting ambiguous nonsense that you secretly hope hurts the person you intended it for.

It’s the 10th commandment.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” —Exodus 20:17

And if I am honest, it’s something I really struggle with—comparing myself to others as they travel the world, meet famous people or do things that I have only dreamed of doing. If you follow my blog or life on social at all you know that I FREAKING LOVE MY LIFE! I am smitten with my amazing wife, love my daughter and get to do what I love, yet I still struggle with this comparison game, with this emotional porn.

My guess is that you do too. You probably spend hours a day feeling “swirly” because of one post you saw earlier in the day. You click on an ex-boyfriend’s handle just to see what they are doing, knowing that it will make you feel all the weird feels. You are jealous of the people you follow, and yet you let them consume the digital space in front of your eyes, knowing full well that you will feel weird every time.

Emotional porn is looking at something that isn’t a reality and being frustrated that it isn’t your reality. Pastor Steven Furtick puts it this way, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlights.” And most of the time we are doing this comparison thing with people who create content as their job, so of course it’s going to look amazing! We compare our iPhone photos of our messy house to a styled, professional shoot for a magazine. Of course that’s going to leave you feeling lacking, they aren’t even in the same ball park. It’s like comparing a billboard for a movie to the actual movie. It’s just not the same!

And instead of realizing that we are comparing apples to oranges, we dive deeper into the emotional porn world. We find more people to follow and more things to covet and more people to talk about. And before you know it, we are the guy who started by just looking at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and ends with some totally creepy fetish. We are so deep into emotional porn that we are suffocated by it—unable to do or make real things happen. We spend so much time on our social media comparing and analyzing that our lives are flying by.

So, what is the solution? Detox. Any addiction needs a detox.

This is where I found myself a few months ago. I was constantly clicking down the bunny trail of social media feeds getting frustrated, envious or bitter. I was addicted to it and was consuming it at an alarming rate. I needed detox. So, I went to the people I was following and slowly unfollowed everyone, one at a time, on Instagram. For months now my feed is only the photos from Brooke’s account, June’s account and our two business accounts. That’s it. I still see what friends and family are doing on Facebook from time to time. I follow a few people on Snapchat, but really, I am not consuming nearly as much “social” media as I once was.

And guess what? I don’t miss it. I don’t feel swirly as much. I spend time working on our business, working out and playing with June, while my phone is in the other room … or get this … even TURNED OFF!!! WHAT!?! Did you even know the iPhone could turn off?

I know it’s weird. I am the guy that is telling you to check out my Instagram, Snapchat story, Facebook page, blog, etc. I share posts and say “Check out my business!” all the time. Yet, here I am telling you to detox from social media.

Honestly, if following me is your emotional porn, click unfollow and leave my blog. I’m serious. If you read my stuff, or see the life that I share, and it makes you feel weird, bitter, envious or anything outside of the way God wants you to live, UNFOLLOW ME! Do it now. I would rather lose all my followers than have people be drawn away from living like Jesus through something I am doing. I pray instead that I might inspire you to seek harder after Jesus and a full life—but only you can be the judge of that in your own life. Seriously, if I am your emotional porn—click unfollow right there ??

If you feel like you are addicted to emotional porn, the comparison game or “the bunny trail” of clicks that makes you feel all the weird feels, then YOU need to detox.

Unfollow those people. Delete the app from your phone. Log out every time after you post something. Turn off your phone when you are sitting on the couch at night. I found that one huge trigger for me was down time on the couch with Brooke. The longer we sat and watched Netflix with our phones the more likely I was to go down that emotional porn road. So, now after June is in bed we exercise. We intentionally take more time doing productive things, so we have less time to do destructive things. We have “no phone” movie nights or “no phone” shows we watch.

Imagine how you might feel a week from now if you didn’t look at anything, or compare yourself to anyone or anything that makes you feel swirly. What would that week look like? What productive thing would you get done? Would it be a week that you looked more like Jesus or less like Jesus? Now imagine a month or a year or five years from now? Imagine if your time on this earth was spent on something more fulfilling then the non-reality of emotional porn and the exhausting comparison game?

I love the Internet and the opportunity it brings and the power it has. But, I want to be someone who uses that opportunity and power for the glory of God and not for the self-indulgent nonsense.

Join me in this charge and stop looking at emotional porn. Detox and move forward today. Your real life is waiting.

TJ Mousetis
I founded walk in love, a positive lifestyle christian apparel brand, in my early twenties and am still selling t-shirts today.  Brooke and I were married in 2009 and spent seven years as professional wedding photographers, shooting weddings all over the world.

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