A few years ago, while tucked in at a coffee shop downtown Chicago, a news crew surprised me with the opportunity to become the focus of an “on-the-street” interview. The story was on “The Facebook Blues,” since a study had come out saying that Facebook was making users depressed, and the question of the day was: Do your friends’ posts ever make you sad?
I hadn’t thought about this interview since, until I was struck by a conversation had recently with friends. My band had played a show on New Year’s Eve and, when asked about it, I suggested they watch some videos I’d posted of the highlights.
“I can’t look at people’s New Year’s posts. They just make me feel bad about my life,” said one.
“I agree. I hardly ever go on Facebook anymore. My friends are always posting cool pictures or fun things they’re doing, and it just makes me sad.”
I found myself wanting to help. And since these reactions seem entirely contrary to me, I pushed myself to explore more. Turns out there’s a myriad of “how to not offend on social media” guides online instructing things like:
- Don’t share travel photos. People can only assume you’re bragging about the means and time you have to travel. The message you’re sending is “I’m here in this beautiful place and you’re not”.
- Don’t share social outings or excursions. You could offend people who weren’t invited.
- Don’t share pictures of your children. People will interpret this as bragging about these moments.
The lists go on…
I had to wonder: What’s left to share? Is the problem REALLY the upbeat things people are posting on their pages? Or is the problem the way we’re looking at what they’re posting? When we’re upset our friends are happy… something doesn’t seem quite right.
Below, I’ve suggested five alternatives you can use to start “calling yourself out” on your own negative filters. By changing your perspective, you can not only keep yourself happier, but you can have happier relationships as well.
Does that friend sharing a picture of a gorgeous cliff hike really care about getting lots of attention, “seeming cool”, or pointing out they’re “better than you” in that moment? Do they want you to feel jealous? Honestly, probably not. Ask yourself: Why am I feeling this way?
Your friend was just reminded that there’s beauty in the world, and they’ve chosen to share this with you. Your friend is at peace, feeling joy, and wants to spread it. And your friend has shown you this place so that you know about it, too. They likely hope you have this same experience. They want you to feel like they do.
If you find yourself attributing negative intentions to other peoples’ posts of their positive experiences, stop for a second to imagine a well-intentioned meaning and purpose to what they’re trying to convey. You’ll find your experience and your mood will be much improved.
Create Your Own Social-Media Inspired Bucket List
Like what someone’s done to their home? Did a friend have a fun outing with their kids you’d love to duplicate? Start collecting these ideas in a notebook or on Pinterest as inspiration to build your own fun or rewarding experiences. If you find yourself reacting to fun or beautiful travel photos, add this alluring destination to your own bucket list. Recognize you may secretly crave a good nature walk, a quiet weekend away or a new experience. React by starting or adding to your own travel savings account, setting aside the time on your calendar right then — right now, and exploring affordable travel options like AirBnB (get $20 off your first booking when you sign up through this link!). Challenge accepted!
Converse. Don’t Compare or Compete.
One of the darkest places in our minds is that of comparison and jealousy. “They have this and I don’t”. “They did this and I won’t”. Listen to your heart. If you find yourself wanting what “they” have… set goals to get it. If you long to do what they do, then go out and do it.
When you want what others have, realize that you’ve just identified interests you have in common. This is an excellent opportunity to reach out for pointers on the subject. Praise them for accomplishing this thing you’d like to do. Don’t forget… there are real ways to maintain friendships out there. Write an old-fashioned pen and paper card or letter to someone you care about. Schedule a coffee date. Pick up the phone or video chat. A conversation with friends is some of the best medicine for the blues.
And when it comes to comparison, remember that most people post only their happy moments on Facebook. This is still real life, and they’re probably struggling with many of the same issues we all do. Not every relationship is happy all the time. Not every single person without kids is having fun every second of the day. For every cute moment or fantastic achievement your friend’s child accomplishes, there are struggles and trials as well. Remember… you’re only getting part of the story: the part your friend wants to celebrate with you. So let them.
Facebook has changed how we communicate in many ways — not all of them necessarily good. When, in history, have we ever continued to share moments from our lives with people we barely knew in high school, 5th cousins and other remote acquaintances we seem to hold on to here? And why are we talking to each other in a way that mimics small advertisements: encouraged to share only a catchy photo and tagline? Let’s face it — it’s kinda strange.
I believe it’s because of these things that we forget that people are worth caring about. We forget that old adage: “You’ve gotta’ give love to get love”. Maybe that selfie a friend posted looks particularly attention-seeking. If it actually is, then that person is clearly feeling insecure, down, lonely or the like. Catch yourself being judgmental, and encourage this person instead. Is it the 5th picture of someone’s baby posted that day? Well, these parents get just a hand full of weeks celebrate their child at this stage. So celebrate with them!
Choose Your Own Adventures
The New Year’s Eve example discussed above serves as a perfect illustration, here. The group felt sadness, because they didn’t go out to celebrate New Year’s Eve like others did. Yet each of them had been invited out to celebrate and chose to stay home.
Did they really want to be out? I don’t think they did. They all had stress-free, cozy, rewarding celebrations at home with their families. However, given a moment-in-time, happy snapshot of other peoples’ experiences (which leaves out all the less-attractive reasons people do stay home: the cost of going out, the effort it takes to dress up, transportation, arranging care for children or pets, battling the weather, etc.), they let themselves forget they had the same or similar options.
The key here is to remember that you choose your own adventures. If you find yourself genuinely disappointed by your choices, choose differently. Ask yourself: “What keeps me from doing these things I want to do?” and solve those problems. Learn from your mistakes. But make sure you actually long for these things. Every choice has it’s pros and cons. Always remember the pros of the choice you made: the happy moments-in-time of your own life that could have easily made up your own happy snapshots. There is plenty to be grateful for.
If Facebook has had you down-in-the-dumps lately, I hope this has helped bring some new perspective. Let’s move forward in the world looking for new opportunities, being happy for our friends, spreading positivity and creating excitement for ourselves and others. When you’re living true to yourself and working towards your dreams, it’s suddenly impossible for anyone else to get you down.