So there is this, which is sort of explaining with a study what we already know from experience: Facebook makes us miserable. But I have a couple observations. 1) Germans. 2) Of course someone else’s raise, beautiful baby, weight loss, vibrant social life, amazing vacation, or pseudo-intellectual tidbits make us sick. But it’s not because we’re jealous or exhausted by someone else’s success. It’s because there’s a quiet understanding (or maybe an assumption) that it’s not real.
Option A: I don’t take vacations. I am allergic to cats. I hate children. Food is stupid. Or maybe I just don’t like one of those things. And literally everyone in my Facebook feed is posting about these things I hate or don’t have access to. Sure, there’s a twinge of “Wow I wish I was on a beach right now” or “Gee, wouldn’t it be great to be able to afford those nice meals all the time?” The study basically acknowledges people are jealous of other people’s lives.
Option B (Assumes most of A): Let me assure you: my “misery” is not simple jealousy. It’s anger and annoyance, too, because Facebook offers no context. There’s not a story to go with those vacation pictures explaining that someone saved money for five years to go. There’s not a biography of the family that lets you know a woman suffered five miscarriages before having her first child and yes, you should like all those photos because it means something more to her. There’s no way to observe (the primary activity taking place on Facebook, no doubt) meaning. The result? Everyone runs the risk of looking like a braggart and an asshole.
This is nothing new, really! “Look at me” is essentially social media’s mantra to which we all ascribe, however reluctantly. I’m miserable because I know I’ve posted a photo of myself somewhere because yes, I feel happy and lucky and relieved I’m not in an office somewhere and yes goddammit you should be jealous because I work my ass off. Or yes, look at my fucking baby. This baby is perfect and awesome, and I created it in my own body and fuck you if that’s annoying.
But Option B has this darker underbelly, too. Option B allows for you to be annoyed at someone bragging, and also make the next step in your mind, which is clearly annoyed at this point: This person is lying. They’re not that smart, they’re not that well-traveled, they’re fucking hillbillies masquerading as savants for their peers. I’m miserable because I know these people, and they’re not happy. They’re not thrilled about their new job. Their vibrant social life is a magnificent lie designed to mask their bottomless pit of self-despair. They’re not that smart, but linking to articles about complicated things makes them feel better. It empowers them to appear the way they’d like to be perceived. Educated, politically savvy, cultured, insightful, tasteful, opinionated but correct, loving, loved (perhaps the most important piece), selfless but well cared for.
A simple text update about a weekend in a great place with great people quickly devolves into a quiz show on the observer’s end about motivations, hidden agendas, false pretenses and above all, sadness.
How sad is it to observe someone else’s happiness and second guess it? How pathetic is it to wish you had the food or apartment someone else has? How absurd is the activity of using Facebook to show your friends who you are? Or who you’re pretending to be? How outrageous is it that there’s a study dedicated to the undeniable fact that the entire bizarre chasm promises to make you hate yourself, whatever end of it you’re on?
OF COURSE WE ARE MISERABLE