Maintaining perspective in the age of social media (an inadvertent defense of Facebook)

Comparing ourselves to others is natural, however it does not lead to happiness and when it evolves to competition and envy it becomes a shortcut to misery.

Much has been written by better sources than I about the dangers of this route.  Daniela Tempesta, writing for The Huffington Post describes how this practice damages your sense of self; erodes trust in others; is largely based on inaccurate assumptions; is self-defeating and leads to failure.

Numerous people have written about the fact that omnipresent social media presents users with a skin-deep (and highly selective) snapshot of what their friends; colleagues; casual acquaintances; friends-of-friends (even loathed enemies) are up to on a daily basis.  With this information accessible at-a-glance it becomes virtually impossible not to conduct some level of comparison between the life you live every day (warts and all) and the gleaming, air-brushed showcase of existence that these connections choose to share with the world.

In other words YES!  We all know it is artificial! (Surely?)

The article that prompted me to think about this issue again was by Rebecca Lammersen for Elephant Journal which resurfaced recently (on social media naturally).  Rebecca talks at length about the fact that Facebook (indirectly)  promotes jealousy as everyone posts sugar-coated status updates designed to elicit feelings of envy in others.

I agree with much of what Rebecca says in that if you fall victim to the delusion that everyone else is living a life more golden than your own, you will become bitter and desolate.  Rebecca counters this tendency by making real posts about her ‘flawed, cracked and beautiful life.’

As someone who works in social media, I spend more than average amounts of time scouring various platforms and many things have saved me from becoming insane as a result – mainly the fact that I no longer use Facebook personally (although I use it a lot for business.)  I also feel that if everything is taken at face-value then Facebook (and most other forms of social media) would be very dangerous indeed.  However I think users have the responsibility to understand that people are not obliged to share every annoyance; disappointment and failure with the world.  Indeed they are often encouraged not to.

Some people do not update their social media profiles very often.  If you had looked at my Facebook page you would assume that all I had done in the last 12 months is go on holiday to Barcelona, attend a series of glamorous parties (from the wedding photos I was tagged in) and move house.   It genuinely didn’t occur to me that I was presenting an inaccurate, rose-tinted account of my life – I simply only shared news I felt anyone wanted to hear (and remembered to do so on social media!)  Twitter tells a different story – reading my personal stream you would assume all I did was complain about broadband services!

In summary I agree that comparing yourself to others impedes your own happiness and that social media creates endless temptations to do this.  I agree that the lives we share on social media are almost without exception inaccurate (or at the very least incomplete) – however I don’t believe we have an obligation to remedy this.  I agree that the edited highlights we present may (deliberately or otherwise) cause the stirrings of envy in others, however I believe it is our responsibility to arm ourselves with the knowledge that what we are reading is about as real as Reality TV.

Ultimately I don’t believe there is anything wrong with focussing on the positives and I am sure that if everyone did that all the time there would be a lot less comparison and a lot more gratitude.  Maintaining perspective takes work, but it’s worth it in the end.

 

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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