While between jobs during the financial crisis several years ago I had lost my daily routine of going to work, attending meetings and being surrounded by colleagues. My routine was more isolating as I would wake up, drink coffee in my pajamas, read email and check on my 600 closest Facebook ‘friends.’ I would login, check my newsfeed and 10 minutes later, end up stalking someone’s seemingly perfect life and compare it to my own. At times, I’d feel Facebook envy. For many, these are the usual culprits:
1. Gushy couple: "I have the most amazing partner in the world — thanks for breakfast in bed, baby!"
2. Jet-setters: "Long flight to Rio but worth it now that we finally landed!"
3. Wealthy friend: "I just test drove the new Mercedes but convinced my BMW is still better!"
4. Overachiever: "Ran 4 miles, made breakfast, packed lunch and into work by 8am for an important client meeting!"
5. Proud parent of perfect child: "Today my son said I’m his best friend."
6. The lucky partner: "My wife makes the best steak — so lucky to have a gorgeous girl that cooks!’ OR ‘Just got home to flowers and candlelit dinner made by my amazing hubby!"
7. Skinny foodie: "Yum!" This one simply likes to post pictures of gratuitous amounts of RICH food at restaurants but you KNOW she isn't eating it all.
8. Party animal: "I don’t normally go partying on Tuesdays, but when I do its with these girls!" Attached are pictures of guy with hot looking women, or the female version posts duck faced pictures from parties with her "besties."
I’m not a green-eyed monster. I love looking at pictures of other people’s vacations, cooking projects, family gatherings and so on. If for nothing else, it gives me ideas on where to go, what to make, and family pictures are genuinely nice! I am also sincerely happy when people graduate, get engaged, have babies or hit other major milestones.
I might have given people life envy too. The issue is that many of us view one moment in someone else’s life, idealize it and compare it to our own to end up feeling bad. A German study showed that there's a strong link to feelings of envy and personal dissatisfaction after spending time on Facebook, and a Stanford study found that people routinely overestimate the happiness of others.
While we are accustomed to glamorized images of the rich and famous, we don't identify with them the same way we do the girl or boy next door. The lives of Facebook ‘friends’ seem more attainable to us. I have resigned myself to the fact that I won’t grow 6 inches and have Cameron Diaz’s legs but apparently the girl next door gets foot rubs from her doting husband. After scrolling through status updates, many people are wondering, ‘Why am I not leading the charmed life of the person next door?’
I have noticed that many people tend to share only the BEST intimate moments and post them disguised as a passive brag. Often, others are not discerning enough to separate the snapshot of an idealized moment and the every day reality of another person’s life. I don't always buy what my Facebook friends sell or how they cleverly sell only the enviable moments.
So, if you have Facebook envy, please consider the following:
1. People only post what they WANT you to see.
People filter blemishes and also their problems. Few people are going to post how they look after a 10-hour workday but we all gladly post photogenic pictures from a friend’s wedding. Nobody looks or feels great ALL the time despite what they are uploading on Facebook.
2. People are telling a story.
When somebody is constantly posting things about themselves in a certain manner, whether it’s the skinny girl at a restaurant with tons of food or a cool guy at a hot party, they are portraying the life they WANT you to see. In truth, everyone experiences unhappiness, insecurities or dilemmas. What you see is not the whole story.
3. There might be something deeper happening.
Do you have that annoying friend who is constantly posting duck face pictures from the bathroom? Seriously, YOU ARE IN A BATHROOM! Studies show women are using Facebook to feel better about themselves. When I see someone constantly posting and updating pictures, I think they're fishing for likes or comments to boost their self worth.
4. People are emotionally needy.
“I have five job interviews lined up this week!” or, “I had the worst day and I just want to be alone” (but I’m posting this to the world). Somebody wants a digital high-five or recognition. These people are using Facebook to gain acknowledgment.
5. People are lonely.
Do you have the friend that is always posting everything they buy when they're shopping, every event they attend, or every Latte they drink (I’ve been to Starbucks too!)? While it seems fun at first to be privy to their shopping cart, now I wonder why this person shares so much with me and the rest of Facebook.
These types of (excessive) sharing might seem normal or innocuous enough, but after a certain point, unless it makes the reader laugh, learn something, feel good, or inspired, do we really need to know? Facebook is an amazing tool to keep in touch with people, aggregate contacts, and reconnect with old friends, but it can also be damaging for some people — particularly young and impressionable girls who already receive so many confusing messages from the media on how to act and look. If you have Facebook envy, remember, a carefully chosen picture of one moment in someone’s life is just a snapshot, not the complete story.