The other day, my friend Raj made a big announcement on her Facebook. She has recently been selected as a P&G Mom. What this means is, over the next year, she’ll be getting tons of free products from Proctor and Gamble, and she’ll be writing about them on her blog and instagramming and the like.
Now, I will admit, when she first told me about this, I felt a twinge of jealousy. I mean, what a cool gig! I would love to get a ton of free stuff like that. I had a clear case of Facebook Envy. But. But… here’s the thing: I know how hard Raj works all the time to create outstanding content for her blog, and I also know that she’s a great fit for P&G’s brand, whereas I am not.
So, I’m super happy for her, but I think we all have those moments where we see someone has gotten a new gizmo or toy or is eating at a new restaurant we were dying to try, or is taking a wonderful trip, and we feel that twinge of jealousy. “Wow. I wish I could do/have/see that,” you think.
I recently read this article about a study that was done at the University of Missouri. Margaret Duffy, a professor and chair of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism, did a survey of a bunch of Facebook users, and she and her research partner found that some of those who engage in “surveillance use” of Facebook also experience symptoms of depression while those who use the site simply to stay connected do not suffer negative effects.
They go on to define “surveillance use:” when users browse the website to see how their friends are doing compared with their own lives (read the entire article here).
Facebook is a wonderful tool. I love how it keeps me in touch with peeps I don’t see all that often. But it can also be dangerous if you let it have too much power.
When I’ve gone through a breakup in the past, I’ve often had conversations with my ex- about whether or not we should remain connected through social media. My policy is to cut off all communication, especially on Facebook. This is not for any other reason than the fact that I don’t want to be tempted to “stalk” that person. It’s easy enough to do… and it can lead to crazymaking. “Oh, that’s a pretty girl in that photo with him. I wonder if he’s dating her?” See? Crazymaking.
Don’t make yourself crazy!
How to Combat Facebook Envy
1. Keep things in perspective. Realize that most people on FB are posting what they want you to see, not what the reality is. I have bad days sometimes. I have been through some horrible, dark times. I don’t post about that stuff on Facebook. I only choose to post the upbeat, good things that happen to me. That doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen, I just choose not to share those, and I think a lot of people feel similarly. So take things that people say on FB with a (sometimes really, really large) grain of salt.
2. Remember Karma. Whenever I see someone on FB posting about something wonderful that’s happened to them, I try to remember something good that’s happened to me, lately. Yes, sometimes good things happen to my friends, and that’s a good thing! I’m happy for them. But good things happen to me, too, and it’s important to remember, acknowledge, and feel grateful for those things. They will go a long way towards ameliorating your feelings of jealousy.
3. Take a break. Seriously. Go cold turkey. Digital detox. Just get your head out of the game for a while, and I think when you come back, you’ll feel like you have a bit more perspective on Facebookland.
4. Don’t compare. Just don’t. You are a unique individual, and you have strengths and weaknesses, the same as everyone else. When you don’t see other’s weaknesses, it’s easy to forget about them, and focus on your own. Remember, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone messes up sometimes. Be gentle with yourself.
What advice does Duffy and her team give?
Users should be self-aware that positive self-presentation is an important motivation in using social media, so it is to be expected that many users would only post positive things about themselves. This self-awareness, hopefully, can lessen feelings of envy.
Now, get out there and be as fabulous as your Facebook life would have you to be!