I hear social media criticized a lot for causing people to be envious of the seemingly perfect lives of others.
I get this in a sense.
It can sometimes be difficult to see seventeen of your acquaintances simultaneously posting gorgeously filtered Instagram shots of their seventeen separate vacations to everywhere from Maui to Corsica, especially when you happen to be going through a breakup, a fight with your sister and an ill-timed case of dermatitis.
It can seem like everyone else’s lives are perfect on Facebook and by now everyone has heard the famous quote by Steve Furtick about not comparing your behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reels.
It’s criticized for making people interact less in person. I’ve heard people say that Facebook causes low self-esteem and stress and that it can trigger dangerous behavior in people with eating disorders and PTSD.
I’ll give it to you that duck face selfies often make me doubt the future of humanity and those tests that tell you what kind of dog you were in a past life are annoying. In case anyone was wondering, I was a golden retriever, I should live in Cape Town, my aura is supposedly black (!), I should have been born in Belle Époque Paris and I’m an INFJ. But aside from those stupid quizzes, I love Facebook and my experience with social media has been nothing but positive. In fact, it’s been seriously healing in a lot of ways.
The past few years have been pretty tough for me. I experienced a lot of family tragedy. There were legal problems, illnesses both physical and mental. I watched loved ones struggle with addictions, I said permanent goodbyes and watched money drain from my bank account.
My life was clouded with all kinds of loss.
Even my car crapped out on me and I felt like each new day brought a new aggravation to deal with. I’d ask myself “Okay, what is going to go wrong today?” And every day, it seemed like inevitably something else would break. A lot of times that something was me. The stress was wearing me down.
Facebook became my escape and ultimately Facebook was one of the biggest tools I used to help me see the positives of my life.
Social media is what you make it. How you use it and the energy you project and absorb from Facebook is your choice.
Years ago when I joined the site I made the conscious decision that I would use it only to promote goodness. There’d be no vague-booking, no drama, no statuses about people who’d done me wrong, no complaints and no negative anything. I’d post pictures of things I loved and experiences that had made me happy. I’d post funny or thoughtful or inspiring articles and notes.
My statuses would be about the good things that happened to me or those I loved.
I’d share the hilarities of my everyday life and use Facebook to communicate with faraway friends and family that I missed and who truly brought me joy and comfort.
I vowed to avoid arguments and not to react to other people’s posts I found upsetting. That’s been the hardest part and I haven’t always succeeded, but I am still a work in progress and we are all allowed to mess up sometimes.
I could be accused of white-washing my life on social media; I could be the person who only shows off her highlight reel. Maybe. But I’m doing it for myself and I’m not creating a false vision of the perfect life. Far from it.
Last year a woman messaged me on Facebook who believed she knew the “truth” about my life. She said I disgusted her the way I always posted such “delightful” things and that I should tell everyone about my “real” life. Naturally I didn’t respond to this person. She was clearly disturbed about things that had nothing to do with me, but she brought up an interesting point and made me question my presence on Facebook.
I began to scroll through my photos and statuses, going back a few years, right through the toughest times.
You see, for a long time I’d been convinced that my life really sucked. I thought I was unlucky, cursed even, and that nothing good ever happened to me, but right here in front of me, documented and preserved on Facebook was concrete proof of how amazing my life was and how blessed I’d truly been.
There were parties and celebrations, new babies, healthy happy children at play. I’d gone to the zoo, eaten incredible meals, seen and photographed the beauty of nature. I’d listened to great music, had awesome yoga classes. I’d been grateful, I’d laughed. I had a really cute cat and an even cuter kid.
My life wasn’t bad at all and whenever the hard parts got to me and whenever my perspective became dulled by stress and depression all I had to do was look at my Facebook to be reminded of how many things I had to be thankful for.
There were so many.
Through Facebook, I could filter out the negative parts of my life.
Unfortunately, I’m one of those sensitive sorts who can become overwhelmed when bad things happen and fall into a pit of dramatic despair and now, whenever I do that all I have to do is look at my statuses and pictures. Proof that things are great. When I begin to see the positives, I begin to see even more positives and then even more until all the good things grow exponentially and shine their light so brightly that I can barely see the bad things anymore. That’s how I heal. That’s what works for me.
Look at your own “highlight reel.” Use social media as a tool for mindful, positive living, documenting all the good and beautiful things in your life.
Spread positive energy on Facebook every chance you get and pretty soon you’ll lose the feelings of envy and self-pity.
But please, whatever you do…no duck face.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Wikimedia commons