Put on a Happy Face(book)
I’ve heard a lot about how Facebook causes depression. It appears reading all those updates about our friends’ super-duper fun lives brings us down. Our own lives seem mundane and lonely in comparison.
Been there. Oh yes… Been there real bad.
So, first of all, reality check: People are likely to post the most super-duper fun stuff they do, so what we see in Facebook posts (aside from photographs of people’s lunches) is a skewed view of people’s lives. It’s life through rose-colored computer screens.
Not that it’s all hogwash, though.
Although many people believe we self-aggrandize on Facebook, research finds that for the most part, what we see is who we are; our Facebook profiles tend to be pretty accurate expressions of our personalities.
But we all know that even people whose lives appear to be thrill a minute on Facebook sometimes get cranky; sprout zits; have boring evenings; fight with their significant others; have bad hair days; and other not super-duper fun things. They just choose not to share those moments.
Let us consider instead the positive power of Facebook for making us feel good about ourselves: We can do the same thing. We can make ourselves look fun and fascinating on Facebook by selective posting. What’s more, if we do it without making stuff up, then we are actually the person we appear to be on Facebook.
Maybe you’re not as dull as you think. There’s a really good chance you look as cool to other people as other people do to you. While you’re busy envying other people’s lives, maybe other people are envying yours.
Look at your Facebook self through eyes as objective as you can manage. Who are you on Facebook? Might you find yourself interesting, if you weren’t you?
Maybe you’re not partying with throngs of shiny happy people every night, but you’re reading fascinating literature and making thoughtful comments about it. Maybe you’ve spent the last three Saturdays at home, but posted photos of the fabulous DIY project you created while you were there. Maybe you didn’t get a raise that put you into six digits but spend your days at work that feels more like a calling than a job, and the links you share exhibit your passion.
Of course, if your Facebook posts are primarily whiny and dissatisfied, that might warrant some thought. Is this who you are? Is it who you want to be? This is not about other people living better lives than ours, it’s about how we view our own life and choose to present ourselves. What if you start thinking in terms of presenting a happier person on Facebook? Might that change your own perceptions of your life? Might it actually change how you live?
Sometimes small goals are enough to kickstart us out of a rut. A therapist once said to me, “Misery is a great motivator.” I think of this often. Envy (my deadly sin of choice) is an unpleasant emotion, but it has spurred me to make changes in my life and take on new challenges.
Is Facebook making you blue? What kind of person do you wish you were on Facebook? What can you do to be that person? Or, better yet, is it possible you’re already that person and just aren’t seeing it — or letting it show?
Dembling, S. (2013). Put on a Happy Face(book). Psych Central. Retrieved on February 10, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/09/12/put-on-a-happy-facebook/