Whether we like it or not, social media has become an integral part of society, the workplace and even our family; But at what effect? Facebook, the one-billion-member-strong network, is the second most visited web-site in the world. Its pervasive influence creates striking implications for our daily lives. While Facebook is an excellent tool for staying up to date on our network, according to a recent survey conducted by Dr. Peter Buxmann and Dr. Hanna Krasnova, more than one-third of respondents reported predominantly negative feelings regarding Facebook. The researchers noted that envying their “Facebook friends” is the major reason for this result.
Where does this envy come from? We’ve all experienced it at some point.
Scrolling through the news feed, viewing photos our friend’s recent vacations, check-ins at the newest restaurants, and dozens of status comments and likes, then suddenly feeling like their lives are so much better than our own. Our friends’ Facebook pages make their lives seem like a walk in the park.
Unfortunately we often forget people only post the good stuff– the exciting adventures, happy pictures and attractive lifestyle; hiding the reality of their lives and giving us an imaginary standard of comparison.
My co-worker, Christy, told me about the horrible agony and loss her niece, Miranda, felt after breaking up with her boyfriend and the significant issues she had with her mom. Judy was concerned because Facebook shows a happy Miranda, with no hint of the tears she sheds when with her family. Another friend has been going through three months of counseling and misery over the loss of the girl he proposed to, but his Facebook page shows very, very happy times. Lastly, another friend on Facebook doesn’t reveal her and her husband’s recent separation, but shows happy family photos. This got me thinking—even though everything may seem great on Facebook, behind the computer screen there may be a completely different story.
Understandably, users don’t reveal when they’re going through the rough stuff. They may be in the midst of a divorce, or experiencing financial difficulties, but they want to save-face. We feel pressured to show everyone things are great, despite the reality of tough circumstances. And our friends don’t get a clear picture of reality.
This has a counter-effect. We keep scrolling through our seemingly perfect “Friends” lives on Facebook, not realizing the reality of their lives, and end up feeling inadequate. We’re lead to believe we’re just not as happy as our friends; we’ve got to try harder; the cycle begins. We feel pressure to make ourselves look better. The idea that if other’s think we look happy, we will be happy. This is entirely false! This mentality only leads to a downward spiral, known as “envy spiral,” and it’s toxic to everyone.
What can we do about this? Facebook should be a place to share our good times, but we must remember reality. Nobody’s life is perfect, even if seems to be on Facebook. We need to remind ourselves not to judge our lives, or our friend’s lives, by what we see on Facebook. We need to remain positive and involved in our social networks, not bogged down. Be open to the possibility of deleting friends who cause feelings of inadequacy. We have control over this! Facebook should be a happy place; our attitudes and behaviors make this a reality.
Do you have friends whose Facebook profiles show a very different picture from the reality of their lives? What have you done about it? Leave us a comment with your stories and suggestions.