Facebook Fame, Real-Life Shame
“People aren’t posting about their Pinto breaking down on I-80 or their glamorous work trip to Walla Walla,” a friend wryly observed.
No. No, they aren’t. Instead, we are treated to a barrage of adorable baby photos, beaming couples, and far-flung destinations. If Tinder requires every attractive female to proclaim their love of (insert hometown) sports team, Facebook stipulates that every couple proclaim their undying devotion in mushy status updates. Maybe Facebook should sponsor Prozac — or, at the very minimum, provide every singleton with a complimentary bouquet of flowers.
Facebook is more than a blinking scoreboard for your unrequited love. Satisfying your voyeuristic needs, you can track your high school crush, freshman roommate, or gawky neighbor. Facebook is a creeper’s paradise — and a troublesome one for those clawing their way through mental health issues or a difficult life transition.
A directionless 30-year-old, I lived with my beloved aunt in Minneapolis. My daily routine: job applications, doting on her Labradoodle, and prepping for the occasional job interview. As my employment search dragged on, Facebook dragged me down. Slinking around her apartment, I would click on acquaintances’ glossy photos. Friends and acquaintances were gliding through life as I stumbled from one unfulfilling position to another. Or so it seemed.
These misperceptions — or cognitive errors, to borrow a clinical term — invite feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. According to author James Hamblin, “Because Facebook tends to serve as an onslaught of idealized existences — babies, engagement rings, graduations, new jobs — it invites upward ‘social comparison’ at a rate that can make ‘real life’ feel like a modesty festival.”
Hamblin is right. Facebook distorts reality. In any social comparison to Facebook, we fall short of its glamorized life — and then redirect perceived shortcomings on ourselves. On Facebook, there are always more anniversaries to commemorate, destinations to marvel at, and babies to caress. On Facebook, every day is a booze-filled Friday afternoon or a sun-splashed getaway. It discounts those dreary Monday afternoons which, as much as the lavish Bali vacation and swooning honeymoon, represent life.
Of course, as I questioned my employability, I posted uplifting quotes or endearing status updates. My Facebook facade was unbreakable. According to Medical News Today, we post “highlight reels.” Glossing over life’s troublesome moments or personal frailties, we present our most interesting, dynamic selves. Would you rather browse through your friend’s Machu Picchu photos or listen to him shred his boss in a bitter polemic? You and I both know the answer.
Facebook, more than a glitzy car or extravagant wedding, is our generation’s status symbol. We gloat about our accomplishments, seeking affirmation for our personal virtues and professional successes. How many of us have changed our profile photo and obsessed over the number of “likes” trickling in? If you can’t share it on Facebook, did it really happen?
We depend on Facebook for news, information, and trends. It satisfies our insatiable craving to know, judge, and gossip. But as we disparage our ex-girlfriend’s trashy outfit, we miss out on life’s good stuff: the authentic conversations and close relationships that define us.
My Facebook recommendation: Turn the page. Leave the cheeky Facebook status updates to others; you are the author of a far more captivating series: Choose Your Own Adventure.
Hamblin, James (2015, April 8). “The Psychology of Healthy Facebook Use: No Comparing to Other Lives.” The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/ways-to-use-facebook-without-feeling-depressed/389916/
Paddock, Catherine (2015, April 8). “Scientists Find Link Between Heavy Facebook Use and Depressive Symptoms.” Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/292081.php
Loeb, M. (2018). Facebook Fame, Real-Life Shame. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/facebook-fame-real-life-shame/