Another Friday, another Weekend Challenge!
If you use Facebook, you may be familiar with the frustration, loneliness, jealousy, or general dissatisfaction that comes with seeing everyone else you “know” living-it-up, getting married, making babies, traveling, and all the other wonderful and/or random things people broadcast via the social media site.
And thanks to a recent study, you may also be relieved to find that you’re not alone. A research team in the UK recently reported that “one in three people felt worse after visiting the site and more dissatisfied with their lives.” Researchers also noted that viewing pictures of others’ vacations elicited the most incidents of envy by study participants, followed by comparisons of social interaction (i.e. comparing how many birthday wishes you got with how many that girl you met once at that party three years ago received).
Subsequently, these envious reactions often prompted users to then post exaggerated or overly-boastful achievements to present themselves in a more attractive way. So, the stories and pictures in our new’s feed that we’re viewing (and reacting to ourselves) may often be someone else’s reaction to whatever is in their new’s feed.
Imagine a new, exhausted, struggling-to-lose-the-baby-weight mom who jumps onto Facebook after finally getting her little one down for a nap only to find a college friend’s photo portraying easy parental bliss. As she recalls a morning that looked nothing like this smiling scenario, she begins to make judgments about herself as a mom, as a wife, as a woman. While not unlike the comparisons and judgments we make in the community park or at a birthday party, these opportunities for comparison are much for frequent and without the greater context. What that small instance in the photo doesn’t show is the bigger picture. The bigger picture, with spit-up and three-day-unwashed hair and arguing with her spouse over whose turn it is for the 2:00am feeding, is likely very similar to ours.
But with Facebook, we’re now regularly comparing our average situation to a small “perfect” sampling of someone else’s.
So your weekend challenge?
Just say “No!” to Facebook. No to clicking through hundreds of vacation photos when you can’t even remember where your swimsuit is; no to posts of engagements or weddings when you’ve recently gotten divorced; no to all of it.
Take a hiatus this weekend and spend some real face time with some real friends. Get in some extra quality time with your kids. Sit down with your spouse and identify all of the ways your marriage is better than average. With a break from self-doubt and constant comparisons, you can eventually return to Facebook with a more solid understanding and appreciation for your situation without counting how many people “like” it.