I hear it time and time again. People just use social media to show off their latest and greatest bragging rites. You only see the perfect white picket fences, not the disasters, meltdowns, and chaos of real life.
There are studies indicating social media has an impact on depression because when people see their friends’ posting boastful dream vacations, homes, romances, jobs, etc., etc., it makes them feel inadequate about their own lives.
Do we constantly measure up our personal life experiences against everyone else we know on Facebook? It would seem there are two versions to every social media post – the Instagram version and the reality bites version. Are we only showing the microcosm of our world the glittering ideals of the perfect lives we wish to project? Are we being authentically happy or undeniably shallow and smug? Do we use social media for emotional support, therapy, and venting, or do we use it to get attention, to bully, or to compete with our peers? Or, do we just troll?
I’m going to challenge the naysayer’s answer. I believe most people just want to share the good stuff because, let’s face it, as the Buddhists solemnly preach – we all suffer.
My brilliant cousin, Chris, a PhD academic and school administrator in New York, once told me that he never asks people how they are doing. He asks them – what’s good?
Why? Because when tasked with answering the question of how you’re doing, people tend to avoid what’s good and go right into all that’s going wrong. Most people don’t ask how others are doing because they’re aiming to lead the conversation towards doom and gloom. Most people ask because it’s the polite thing to do. And most people actually want to hear about the good news. Truly.
By asking someone what’s good – you are engaging in positive energy and moments, you are helping your conversation buddy to not feel obligated to choke on humble pie and hold back from sharing what is good. Instead, you are encouraging others to be happy for a moment and to focus on what is indeed good. You are offering to bear witness to another human’s happiness.
It’s easy to be cynical and to scroll through social media and turn up your nose at other people’s successes, rewards, joys and breakthroughs. But, it’s better to practice being happy for others. Better for you! Even if you think the person posting is an unbearable phony, remember they, like you and like everyone else, experience their fair share of suffering.
This does not mean you have to give a pass for people who practice shallow or self-congratulatory behavior all of the time. This is an opportunity to simply put your personal feelings aside and be happy for someone else for a moment.
And, if you are experiencing a really rough time, if you are in the midst of a moment or period of suffering, try not to let other people’s moments of good affect you negatively. If you find yourself getting bitter, jealous, sad, or depressed by other people’s good stuff, perhaps tune out and give yourself a social media break for awhile – take as long as you need. It’s a good practice for everyone.
Personally, I’ve had a pretty good year. And, most of my posts have shown big life changes and moments that are pretty damn good. I got engaged in December, I got married in June, I found out I was pregnant with my first child and then my husband and I closed on our first house this month. I am humbled by the kind words of support I’ve been receiving from friends, family and colleagues sharing in our joy and blessings. Many keep saying – congrats, you’re having a big year! Yes. It’s true. I’m not sure why it worked out this way. It’s a lot to take in for one single year. I am grateful, humbled, and surprised by all of the good stuff. Yet with the joy comes crushing moments of anxiety, overwhelming uncertainty, and challenging stress. It’s far from perfect.
When you think of some of the more stressful things to experience in life – like planning a wedding, having a baby, buying a house, moving, running a business – it can look rosy on the outside while the real experience of these blessings feels overwhelming.
I’m not ungrateful. I’m just overwhelmed most of the time. Deer in headlights overwhelmed.
All of these wonderful life events that mysteriously came to fruition within one year are baffling to me. I’ve had my share of suffering. From that suffering came years of believing I didn’t deserve happiness, that I must have done something wrong in this lifetime, or perhaps in another lifetime, that was preventing me from experiencing what’s good.
I don’t need to go through my list of personal hurts, disappointments, devastations, abuses, deaths, losses, illness, pain and suffering. When you struggle long enough it’s easy to think God or the universe (or whatever you believe in) has forsaken you. I quietly experienced 20+ adult years of challenges and suffering that had me believing I was going to go through this lifetime alone and constantly struggling. I actually accepted that idea. But, I was never sentenced to that fate.
When I post what’s good, I keep in mind that others are suffering.
When I post what’s good, it’s because I emerged from a long period of personal suffering and it feels good to share some joy with the world. It’s not bragging. It’s a hallelujah.
And, just because there’s a lot that’s good for me right now, that does not mean I’m not still working through some really difficult stuff. Sometimes I’ll post about the difficult stuff. Most of the time, I’ll post an interesting article I’ve read instead and hope it’s helpful for someone else, too.
I’ve softened my heart. I don’t mind it so much if I see someone constantly posting content of nauseating envy. I can be happy for them. Because I know on the other side of that photo or post is someone who also suffers. Sometimes the perfect posts indicate the canary in the coal mine for those suffering the most. How can you judge that?
Facebook already targets and stirs up so much division. Unfriending is a righteous act of ultimate rejection and defiance. Judgement abounds. We widen the gap so we can dismiss understanding and feel justified in doing so. But, I think we need to shift our thinking and behavior towards more compassion. It’s not a competition. Life is love, after all. When you can be happy for others it feels good. You’re turning on the shade and opening yourself up to more light. Beautiful, rosy light.
What do you think?