June 16, 2014

Social Networks: A Means for Connection or Fabrication? ~ Dushka Zapata

facebook, computer, girl

Don’t believe all that you read.

First, let me raise my hand and admit that I don’t have anything figured out.

Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel anxious or sad.

I fight with my boyfriend for no reason—can’t articulate why—and sometimes find myself wondering how on earth I got to be so bad at relationships.

Most nights I have trouble sleeping, and some days I wake up with a hole in the pit of my stomach and a sense that nothing is in its place and never will be.

But, I don’t write about these things on my Facebook status updates. I don’t because I want to highlight the good in my life.

It’s the internet equivalent of smiling for the camera: you’re not being hypocritical; you want the photo to represent the moment in a way you’d want to remember it.

I bring this up because recently, more and more people I talk to blurt out some version of “everyone on Facebook is happier than I am.”

It’s not just social media envy, but a form of despair.

Not a fleeting stab of “I want that” but rather a deeper, more caustic “I fear my life is not good enough.”

I’m really bothered by the notion that my posts (optimistic, because that is what I am) might be unintentionally contributing to a phenomenon no one would want any part of: the sowing of a collective sense of desperation (because, you reap what you sow, you know).

A social network is intended to connect us—to open our eyes to another perspective and to inspire and uplift us! Not to make us feel lost in an illusion of our own fabrication.

Don’t get me wrong—I am proud of my fortunate life. I have moments where I am really happy.

But I also cower in fear and make mistakes and fail (the unglamorous kind of fail, not the Michael Jordan kind of fail) and do things I regret. I feel irreparably heartbroken sometimes, and then hate myself for being so fragile.

The fact that I don’t choose to post about it on social media doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

It’s there, behind the sunny evidence we all regularly scroll through.

Ask anyone about illness and loss and sorrow and misery—I guarantee no one escapes it. But who would want to be constantly exposed to that?

I suppose we could try to start a movement. One that invites us all to be uncensored, more raw.

But we can’t change the world’s behavior. We can only change ourselves.

More importantly, I recognize this tragic comparison isn’t just related to social media, but also to a tendency to look outside for validation.

There is a double tragedy in this habit of comparing ourselves to others: the misguided feeling that we keep coming up short; and the fact that our unrealistic expectations cause us to entirely miss the very real, ever-present beauty in our lives.

So please, don’t buy it. There is no such thing as a charmed life.

Perfection is bullshit (not to mention, grossly overrated). The joy is in the flaw.

Let’s not waste a single second comparing ourselves. Let’s do what we can with the messy, absurd, possibly pointless lives we were given and be proud of what we do with it and know that anything dark we go through everyone goes through.


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Apprentice Editor: Emma Ruffin / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Clemens V. Vogelsang/Flickr, Nate Bolt/Flickr

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Dushka Zapata