By Olivia Pan
It seemed innocent enough when Facebook first made its debut, whatever the sordid back story was. After Facebook’s initial college connection application morphed into more, it found a universal audience, becoming a forum to connect, find long-lost pals, share photos with family and friends, and stay close with those far away from us. Facebook has competitive issues now, one being Instagram, which they have acquired among other popular social media apps.
If you haven’t already noticed, something insidious has been lurking in our social media connections. If you have ever felt a pang of envy when viewing a friend’s Facebook page or Instagram feed then you are already a victim of it and, maybe, even a player in this new phenomenon.
The phenomenon is the idea that we are editing our own lives on social media as if they are movies, and we are watching the edited movie versions of other people’s lives, too. Have you ever left a movie wishing that the Hollywood version of life was real? You feel a twinge of jealousy when you leave that darkened cinema and walk to your car knowing that your life does not quite replicate the romance, action, or excitement of what you just witnessed. It quickly sinks in that you most likely will never be able to humiliate the school bully in front of everyone and teach them a life lesson, or have a romantic, happy ending with the right guy, once the wrong one has exited stage left.
This feeling when leaving the cinema is like the same bittersweet pang when viewing someone else’s social media-edited “movies.”
You are not alone if you have ever felt any of the following: envious, inferior, slightly depressed, or more than a little disgusted mixed with envy.
I actually know a guy who posted on Instagram every college acceptance letter he received, and then later bragged about the famous celebrity for whom he was interning. Those are his humble posts. When I turned 16, a barrage of fellow peers at my high school posted pictures of their new massive earth-destroyers—their SUVs—that their parents had bought for them as birthday gifts. To date I still don’t have my license.
Some parents—not mine, certainly—can also be the worst at driving this envy bus, posting veiled congratulatory posts to their kids in a less-than-transparent way. They let the world know that “Hey, my kid is exceptional. Little Apple has been accepted to Yale and Harvard, heaven help us with these blessings! Thanks to everyone for the support while we attempt to make this very hard decision!”
My mom is just too low-tech and can barely work her Facebook account, so neither parent in my home is driving the envy bus. Just search YouTube for the “Inside Amy Schumer” sketch “Mom Computer Therapy,” and you will see why my mom is so humble in her Facebook posts—she just doesn’t know how to post much of anything.
Although it sounds funny and silly that we are living in an age where frivolous people can reach out and make us feel envious or lesser with a post about how glorious their new car, promotion, or vacation abroad is, this is becoming a serious mental health issue. We are being bombarded with messages and photos about how perfect everyone’s life is, from the new house to the ocean front-villa vacation. Studies show that it makes most of us feel inadequate, gloomy, and as though we and our lives are simply not measuring up.
The reality is this: the new car is leased, and most likely, the kid will total it within a month. The vacation was off Groupon, and the interior of the villa had mice and no working plumbing. The Yale or Harvard parents got a shock when Apple finally had the guts to tell them he was going to culinary school, but at least they can post his first scone now! So, at the end of the day, nothing is as it seems, especially in the world of social media. Make your next vacation a great one: take a vacation from social media and then post all about it.