Someone I know recently deactivated her Facebook account for the simple reason that she got too depressed, because of hearing and knowing about what other people are doing with their lives. “Everybody else seems to be having a great time, busy with their own affairs…everybody else except me.” Does that sound familiar?
Call it a Facebook-induced depression. Compared to yourself, others may seem to be having the best time of their lives, may it be personal or work-related. The comparison becomes more acute when they post photos of places where they have recently traveled (where you haven’t been to), talk about scrumptious delights they’ve tasted on the other side of the continent (at a place you can only dream of), discuss excitedly parties they’ve been invited to (and unfortunately you weren’t), etc., etc.
Of course there will always be comparisons. It’s the way it’s always been. How different is that from bumping into one of your friends and hearing about his recent promotion at work? Or bumping into your girl friends and hear somebody discussing her future travel plans? The only difference is that now, we are being passively and speedily updated with the affairs of other people’s lives, and all those activities will automatically appear on our walls whether we like them or not. (Unless of course you’ve resorted to hiding them from your wall forever. Life is too short to be bugged by people with annoying online personas.)
The thing is, it’s quite hard for me as well to identify which ones are “sharing” and which ones are mere “flaunting.” There is a very fine line between the two. Perhaps there are indeed “genuine” posts whose main objective is to simply share. But no matter how innocent the objective of those posts may be, no matter how pure the intents of the poster could be, it will never be that way in the eyes of the person at the receiving end. We are all guilty of looking at other people through colored glasses, each tinted with our own prejudices and biases.
And then there are the so-called subtle posts. For instance, why should I change my status to reflect which airport I am currently in? What will that piece of information actually mean to somebody among my FB contacts? If they were my family, they didn’t need to be informed about my whereabouts; being my family they are already supposed to know. So it seems to me that the object of those status reports is to passively inform others how “hip” one is, say for being a jet-setter (side note: hip is when only few persons do it. If everybody else is into it, then it’s not hip; it’s ordinary!). Or perhaps to impress upon others about how hectic your schedule is, to gently remind your so-called ‘friends’ what a very important a person you are. Personally, I find it annoying that people would even bother to post status updates on their FB wall on how busy they are, to the point of noting down every single thing they had to accomplish in the coming days/weeks/months. If they’re so busy, then what the heck are they social networking for?
What we need to remind ourselves is that FB only provides a snippet of how people want others to see them. And even that is a very, very unbalanced projection of their real lives. Just take a look at the majority of photos uploaded everyday: travels, parties, happy family affairs, all projecting that warm and happy, fuzzy feeling. Does everybody feel that happy all the time?
We also need to remind ourselves that everything that gets posted online have been filtered. Only the good stuff goes. And besides, nobody really wants to read about the negative stuff anyway.
Fortunately, there is one good thing we can rely on when we become too exhausted from trying to decipher the fine line in FB: go OFFLINE. Believe it or not, the world will go on. Who knows, you may even find a better thing to do with your time.