[This is part two of yesterday's rant.]
A study came out several months ago about the potential depression-factor of Facebook: a lot of people are reporting feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction with their lives, because they’re comparing themselves with what they see on Facebook.
There’s nothing new about comparing ourselves–I don’t think Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was talking specifically about Facebook in the book she wrote in 2001!–but we’re having to sort out a lot of new media and new social structures all at once, and some of us are struggling to adapt.
Interesting tidbit: that study, the one referenced in the Time article I linked to above, came out in late January, right before Lee and I went on a week-long cruise. We talked about it at the time, because that’s the kind of thing we chat about. Lee made the comment that he was hesitant to even indicate on Facebook what a great time we were having, because he was feeling hyper-conscious about gloating about our lives. It wasn’t a particularly fancy or expensive cruise (can you say tiny inside cabin, no window, much cheaper than a hotel?), but still. We both try to be fairly honest people in our daily lives–I am who I am, and I don’t feel compelled to worry too much about what other people see or think about me–but the intensely public nature of social media requires that we think carefully about both what we say, and what we absorb.
And that’s squirrelly, confusing part of the conversation that makes me feel like I’m trapped in a maze: Lee and I do think very carefully about what we tweet, what we post on Facebook, what we write on our blogs. Every now and again I slip and say something I regret (more often than he does; I tend to be more impulsive), but for the most part, the image I present to the world is very deliberate.
I know enough people in both contexts–real life and online–to know that what we put out there on sites like Facebook and Twitter is not reflective of the full measure of a person. Someone whose status updates are always about how perfect her kids are might be compensating for how much they drive her crazy, or how incompetent she feels as a parent, or how abandoned she feels by her travelling spouse, or how guilty she feels about working all the time, or –who knows.
And because of the consciousness–the hyper-awareness of the public nature of these sites–that I referenced in the second-to-last paragraph, I know that I’m just as guilty of “spin” as anyone else. I may be presenting a different sort of image of myself than some of the people I see on Facebook, but you can bet mine is just as carefully edited, if not more so.
I don’t mean to suggest that this habit of comparing ourselves to the rest of the world is new, or unique to social media–on the contrary. But it’s difficult not to see that all these (relatively) new methods of communication have heightened our awareness of, and possibly susceptibility to, unhealthy and unhelpful comparisons.
Just–take it all with a grain of salt. It is, as I keep pointing out, a brave new world, indeed.
ps–sorry if that rambled. I’m feeling totally swamped by deadlines, and am having trouble thinking in a straight line.