Envy, connection and the world of social media

How the desire for complete connection can turn into total detachment.
A revised version of this article has been published on Psych Central.

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Image borrowed from Borrowed Light.

This week I decided to delete my Facebook profile. Spring cleaning is in the air and social media is on the list of things I want to decrease out of my life. I’ve had a personal Facebook account for several years and last year I worked a contract job where I managed a business Facebook and Twitter page. While I learned a lot participating in the online media realm, I’ve realized that it isn’t quite for me (except for this blog of course).

I love the fact that the Internet and social media allows us to communicate and connect with one another. The fact that we can reach someone on the opposite side of the world is pretty darn amazing. Technology, science, and engineers have created systems that almost at times seem impossible. Yet data is being transmitted constantly, information is traveling at lightening speeds and online communities are continuously being built at every moment. It is often overwhelming to try and keep up with all that is happening!

I personally thrive in community-building and love developing authentic relationships with others. However, something about constantly being behind a screen doesn’t feel quite right. A barrier is created between you and the person or group of people you are trying to connect with. Of course if your family, friends or colleagues are out of town, the Internet provides an extraordinary vehicle for correspondence. However, when does the barrier become too divisive? When does the very thing you are trying to achieve (complete connection) turn into the direct opposite (total detachment)?

During my time on Facebook, I checked the news feed several times a day and probably posted on average 3 times a week. I considered myself an “average” user (nothing too “over-the-top”). However, over the past few months, I started noticing the complete attachment I had to this website. On my spare time, I would be on there wandering aimlessly and even in my non-spare moments when I “should” have been working on something else, I would again be perusing through endless pages, links and profiles. I also found myself admiring my own profile, continuously looking through pictures that brought up happy memories, and reviewing posts on my timeline. I felt proud of all the things I announced and shared with the world. People’s personalities really shine through on their timeline. I was the type that of course only boasted about all the great things going on in my life, or whatever witty one-liner attempt I could try and come up with, hoping someone out there would “like” my subtle, direct and at times sarcastic style.

I also started noticing that constantly watching the lives of others was starting to make me feel bad about my own life. Every time I saw joyful photos of people in relationships, with their kids, or going on epic world travel journeys, it made me wish I could be doing the same thing.  Every time someone made an announcement about their engagement, anniversary or birth of a child, I found myself conjuring up feelings of envy and jealousy. I’m not the mean-spirited type and am usually happy for others when good things happen in their lives, however, I couldn’t shake off the comparison blues. Read here for more about the “comparison trap.”  I became fixated, self-absorbed, angry, and was often drowning in a hole of despair.  Negative self-talk and thoughts permeated. Why does person A, B and C get to have X, Y and Z and not me? I’m a hard worker, an honest person, and a faithful woman that doesn’t screw over other people, so why does it seem like my dreams have been completely crushed while everyone else is thriving? That’s when I realized.. it’s all a facade.

First of all, what people portray to the online world isn’t necessarily a reflection of what’s really going on behind the scenes. Second of all, if I’m spending so much time worrying about why other people’s lives are working out and mine isn’t.. then I’m not really living. Third of all, I’m really not that great of a person and actually don’t deserve to have a bunch of great things happen at the wave of my command.  Perhaps there is a reason that A, B and C isn’t happening right now and X, Y and Z is.  Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, maybe I should start being thankful for what I do have.  And even though my dreams seem so far in the distance, impossible or unrealistic at times, maybe there is still a glimmer of hope out there.  There’s probably a bigger dream to be had beyond what I could even imagine.  So instead of trying to control my life through a profile on my computer screen or phone app, desperately trying to “connect,” and being envious of everyone else, I’ve decided to step away, leave the phone at home and go for a walk.  I invite you to take a break and go for a walk as well.

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by Kristin Bach
Copyright 2014

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