Recent sightings on social media:
“40 Printed Fashion Outfits to Make Your Friends Jealous”—Pinterest
“Hubby got me a new diamond ring, such a surprise (and it’s HUGE, hahaa)! He’s just the best! Be jealous:P”—Facebook
“Home Hacks That Will Make Your House Guests Jealous”—Pinterest
“21 Fall Porch Ideas That Will Make Your Neighbors Insanely Jealous”—Pinterest
“Third tropical vacation this year, second time with NO KIDS. Just me and my man soaking up the sun and waves. Glad I’m me because if I wasn’t…well, I’d be jealous, LOLLL.”—Facebook
Are you sensing a theme here…?
This is social media slash life as we know it. Perhaps we don’t wake up each morning with the question in our minds of how to make our friends and followers jealous today, but it is engrained in all of us, as this is the very nature of these sites and apps we use each day to keep up with our family, friends, acquaintances, and… people we’re jealous of. We take a snippet of our lives at any time we feel like and share it with the world, so why wouldn’t we display only the best of ourselves and leave the other 85% to exist only in private?
There’s a reason why you took twenty selfies and only posted the most perfect one, and there’s a reason why you took those pics today—today you put thought into your outfit, fixed your makeup, curled your hair even; yesterday you sported sweats and an unwashed messy bun, and the day before you didn’t even get out of your jammies. And there’s a reason why you post pics of your vacation, new house, and darling happy kids on social media, but not of your daily menial tasks, fifth apartment in three years, or power struggles with your preschooler that often result in exasperation and yelling.
A couple months ago, I was laying on my bed, red-faced, and breathing deeply after a rough morning with a cranky, screaming child who woke up way too early and pointless but nonetheless infuriating arguments with my spouse. I whipped out my phone and went automatically to my trusty companion Facebook, wishing for a distraction. Among the first few posts was a wife gushing about her amazing husband who woke up with the kids so she could sleep in and relax in bed all morning; he is the most perfect man in the world, and it’s still a mystery that she ever managed to snag him. And then a husband posting a pic of his modelesque wife making a delicious breakfast with the help of their three kids, captioning how she had already worked out, showered, gotten ready for the day, cleaned the house, and it’s not even 10AM; he never shows her all the appreciation she deserves because that would basically be impossible, she stuns him with her superwoman abilities every day.
I threw my phone across the bed, clenched my teeth, and let some tears flow. While feeling most crappy, a revelatory thought came to my head: “This is one of the biggest internal conflicts or our time: social media gives (or hurls in our faces) the ability to compare ourselves with the very best of other people and then we do just that.”
I do not usually possess such insightful logic while upset, but this was exactly the perspective I needed at that time and I was grateful for it. It made me feel almost instantly better.
I feel so much worse about my problems when I think everyone else’s lives are filled only with happiness, good fortune, peace, love, harmony, and awesome hair days. On the contrary, my problems feel so much smaller, totally manageable even, when I know that they are normal, expected, a part of my peers’ lives as well. Misery loves company, right…? Yes, but even more so, people like to feel supported. Like we’re in this journey of life together, not lagging so far behind while the lucky elite look back at us with disdain and then smile because, what a great view we’re getting of them, how much we must wish we were in their perfect shoes.
I am certainly not suggesting that everyone’s social media goal is to make people jealous of them. Of course there are always those few brave wonderful souls whom you love deeply and will never unfriend or unfollow, because they consistently remind you that you’re not the only one with an imperfect 85% of life. The people who talk about their fighting kids, pimpled complexions, unglamourous jobs, challenges of marriage, and financial struggles. And there are many more people who make posts like this on occasion, and it’s a total breath of fresh air.
Notably, while the pictures and declarations of how wonderful life is make some people feel resentful, others only share the happiness of the person who posted, believing that gratitude for goodness was their intent, not inducement of jealousy. This is the kind of person I want to be and am trying to be, one who is happy at the good fortune of others and nothing else. I do not always succeed. That is my fault, something I need to change. And this is the internal conflict I suggest social media causes: we love it and we hate it; it may make us feel jealous, but we must realize that no one can control our emotions but ourselves and the way we respond to others is all on us. That jealousy will dissipate if we don’t compare ourselves to others.
And if you must compare, remember that you are seeing the best of them, so compare only with the very best of you. Look at your own FB profile and see it the way others do. Your life probably looks just as good as the people you’re feeling envious of. Now go and post something REAL. You’ll feel better about breaking at least a little of the façade, and people will love you for it and you will probably even make some of their days a little or a whole lot brighter.
This is one of the main purposes of this blog for me. To be real. I hope that you will come here and leave feeling good about yourself, not jealous of perfect me or my perfect life or perfect house or perfect style and kicking yourself for not being more perfect. Come in and get comfortable here. Take a seat on my food-stained couch in the midst of my toynado-struck living room. Kick off your shoes and show me your mismatched, worn-out socks. You can even take those off and let me see you chipped-off toe nail polish from four months ago that you just haven’t got around to removing. And then I’ll show you mine. You are welcome here any time; stay as long as you like.
(‘Cause this is me on a typical Friday night. Freshly showered, witch-face out (although effectively covering up facial blemishes), wearing the nightgown my mom gave to me because I think she said it was… too grandmotherly for her? But as you can see, I’m feeling good about it all. Proud even.)