Until you can ignore your circumstances, and just do as you promise, you’ll always be controlled by the world. ~ Chuck Palahniuk
Facebook and its social media cohorts can be a beautiful tree-lined sunshiny avenue of connection, providing a quick and easy channel for keeping in touch with old friends, updating distant family members on life events, big and small, that they may otherwise miss out on, and, of course, posting lightly filtered pictures of puppies and sunsets to brighten up everyone’s day. Yes, puppies and sunsets are my favorites.
But Facebook can be a complete jerk at times if we let it.
Scrolling through my timeline can be a daunting, self-deprecating task some days, especially when my mojo isn’t completely on point.
Friend 1: Just got the job of my dreams (14 warranted exclamation points)!
Reaction on Facebook: “Congratulations!” And a like. If I could love this, I would.
Reaction in real life, as I sit in my pajamas watching Dr. Phil: I wonder when I will figure out what I am going to do with my life (14 warranted question marks)?
Friend 2: I said yes to the man of my dreams/She said yes (captioned under an oddly clear picture of a ginormous diamond ring, 14 warranted exclamation points)!
Reaction on Facebook: “Wooooooooooo!” And a like. If I could love this, I would.
Reaction in real life, as I sit in my pajamas, now eating Cheez-its, watching Dr. Phil: Hey, washed up divorced 20-something, you are a sad sap (no punctuation required; insert sad emoji).
Friend 3: 10 pounds down—only five more to go (punching fist emoji above a sweaty gym mirror selfie with the necessary check-in at said gym)!
Reaction on Facebook: I do not love this, but can spare a like, because we’re friends and I am proud of you.
Reaction in real life, as I sit in my pajamas, now setting aside the Cheez-its, leaning toward turning off Dr. Phil and packing up the barely used gym bag: Dear Fatty, get off your big behind and go workout (three exclamation marks, because I’m not all that motivated to get up).
Comparison is the death of self-love, for some of us.
Envy—that uncomfortable feeling of coveting what we did not even know we wanted based on the highlight reel of someone else’s life. When we put ourselves in situations that prompt “well, shit, I’m not that, or that, or that,” the propensity to love thyself drops dramatically.
Our minds get caught up with thoughts of not being enough, not having enough, not knowing enough—we end up downtrodden and melodramatic, focusing on all the things we may not have and may not truly want but as it shows up directly in front our faces day in and day out, it is hard to stay grounded in our own truth.What we should remember, though, is that Facebook (and friends—Twitter, Instagram and the like) allow for only a brief glimpse into someone’s life, good or bad. A highlight reel of positives—we see what is worth sharing in their mind and it (usually) ends there.
To share good news is a beautiful thing, especially on such a widespread scale in such a short amount of time, and to be able to enjoy those moments with people across the world who are worth being our friends on the magical interwebs is equally beautiful.
As powerful as that can be, we cannot forget that no one—I mean no one—has the ideal life with the ideal circumstances all the time.
For instance, we don’t see these status updates on the regular:
Friend 1: I am drowning in credit card debt and student loans, and fear I will never get out of this financial hell. And no one knows.
Friend 2: I am one argument/affair/abusive encounter away from divorcing/breaking up with my partner, despite our white picket fence life. And no one knows.
Friend 3: I have an addiction that consumes my days and nights, and I see no viable way out. And no one knows.
Am I saying that everyone on our news feeds is going through an unfathomable pain that is hidden away from the world at large? No. Of course not. What I am trying to convey, however, is that we cannot base our contentment on someone else’s, as it isn’t sustainable nor is it the full truth.
We have to know where we stand, alone, and either continue on our current path or make moves in another direction in an effort to change our circumstances. Both options are blessings, no matter who’s status may seem like a bigger blessing.
Here’s the deal, plain and simple: when we move away from what we are, here in this moment, and start to focus on what we were or what we are not yet, things get tricky. Ugly, and tricky. Self doubt comes in like a flood, washing away all that we have suffered through and worked toward up until this point. Our sand castle foundations quickly dissolve into a soppy sad mess, leaving nothing firm for us to stand on, and quite frankly, a pathetic scene.
We are enough—we have more than enough. We do enough—we give enough. If these are our truths, we should be compelled to live there, in peace. Instead of spending any time comparing what is ours to what is theirs, wishing for more (when more is not the answer), or praying for different (when different isn’t an option).
So my suggestion for when Facebook is being a complete ass, because we are being grossly unfair to ourselves—slowly back away from the phone/tablet/computer/other handy and all-consuming technology portal, and look around.
Are we alive—breathing, maybe not thriving but surviving creatures today? Real. And a like. If I could love this, I would.
Are we able to give of ourselves—our time, our spare change, our love to others who are deserving and needing? Real. And a like. If I could love this, I would.
Are we free to move about this big beautiful world in any way we see fit, as long as no harm is done to ourselves or others? Absolutely, undeniably real. And a like. If I could love this, I would.
What we have is what we have, even if it is different or less highlight-ish than those on our friends list, and for that, we can all spare a like.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman