“Nah, that’s just the Facebook version, only edited highlights” …
Ever heard these words? I hadn’t, but was pleasantly surprised when I spoke to a (real not just FB) friend about his recent overseas holiday. I welcomed him back to Sydney, and asked about the holiday, saying “Wow, it looked absolutely amazing! Tell me about it?!” To which, I got the above response.
Now I am sure we all understand, at least subconsciously, that much of what gets posted to social media is the spin or story people want you to believe about their life. I kind of knew this, but was as guilty as the next person of experiencing moments of fear, dread and jealousy looking at other peoples’ posts regarding their “amazing awesome life”.
What I was most impressed by, and somewhat taken aback by if I am honest, was the ferocious and dismissive tone that my friend used to immediately dispel any notion of the holiday having truly been fabulous. If he knew he was posting staged images of pretend joy and happiness, the question that I pondered as I got off the phone was, why?
Why would we pretend that all was great, when it really wasn’t?
Why would we feel compelled to ‘keep up appearances’, posting to social media regularly even when out of the country, yet all those posts not really reflecting the true experience we are having?
Why, if we aren’t having a great time, can’t we give ourselves permission to just stop for a bit, live our life and not feel compelled to post about it?
Two key learnings jumped out at me after this chance phone call.
Firstly, a reminder (which I certainly need to hear at times) that it’s all pretend. The fabulous life that ‘others’ appear to be living is most likely just like ours, full of unpredictable, messy moments, times of stress and angst and the usual dramas. JUST LIKE US. We are all not so different.
Reminder number two (which I also need to remember) was that it’s Okay to choose to get off social media.
If we are feeling down, low or overwhelmed with our lot, we needn’t feel the necessity of logging on to our social media of choice to stalk our ‘friends’, see their amazing (pretend) life and thereby make ourselves feel worse.
We can actively choose to take a break from it!
This is especially true when times are tough for you and you want to socially hibernate. I know there have been times in my life when it was definitely necessary for me to take a break from very specific social comparison.
During times of grief particularly, we can feel worse when seeing visual reminders that others have not been impacted by our loss. Photos and messages that promote our friends fabulous lives can feel like salt in the wounds when we are in the midst of grief, anxiety or stress.
The social media programs are addictive (yes, really, they are designed to be), so it’s not necessarily easy to break the habit of logging in and comparing our lives and ourselves to others. But it is possible! It may require extreme self-control, or even habit change. But surely expending the effort to make it difficult for yourself, and not log in is worth it – especially if it helps avoid feeling worse.
Perhaps you have been in this situation too? Where actual life bears little or no resemblance to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed? I’d love to hear from you if this resonates. Please, share in the comments if you’ve had this experience and how you managed it.