A co-worker shared an article on her Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, and I could really relate to it. It’s called Instagram’s Envy Effect. Here’s a snippet from the author:
My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t.
She talks about how community doesn’t happen when we share edited photos, but when we share our real lives — the unedited version. She also says we typically check social media when we’re bored or lonely — the worst time to see someone’s vacation pictures at the Eiffel Tower.
I know some people are quite transparent on the web — whether through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram, live journals, etc. — but for the most part, I notice that people put positive things from their lives on the web. You might share a sad news story or something, but when it comes to posting pictures of yourself, you’re probably not sharing a picture of yourself home alone on a Friday night with a Cheerwine in one hand, a Redbox in the other and tears running down your face because you’re lonely. And you’re far more likely to post that you had a blast at some concert than the fact that your team lost the 8th basketball game in a row.
Again, there are exceptions, but that’s my experience as a daily Facebook user.
I read a similar article last summer called Facebook Lies: No One is Really Having That Much Fun. Here’s one magazine editor’s response to the article:
Facebook fosters the worst type of coveting–craving our neighbors’ (or friends’) lives. We see pictures full of smiling faces and amazing experiences and we assume that our friends spend every minute of every day in that snapshot of bliss. Meanwhile, we struggle with broken relationships, insecurity and feelings of inadequacy. But no one posts about that kind of thing on Facebook. So we think we’re the only ones experiencing those things. Everyone else has a picture perfect life, at least on Facebook.
I’m guilty of the same thing. I see people on a boat in Florida with sunglasses and new tans and think, “Man, I wish I was having that much fun.” Or I see a friend who just ran a marathon and wish I looked like her. Or I see smiling couples and think about the argument Pete and I just had instead of the many other days we are happy and don’t have arguments. And what do I do? I post the same kind of pictures. Because who wants to see all the mundane things I do? And who wants to hear about my crummy weekend? Plus, I’m generally an optimistic person and I sometimes get annoyed with posts on Facebook that are always negative, always complaining, always pessimistic.
Like the first article says, social media can be great for sharing parts of our lives, staying in touch with people, getting a friend’s recipe or rallying together for a cause. And remember, I found the article I’m talking about on Facebook! But it also causes us to compare ourselves to our friends: She has a nicer house. He makes more money. So-and-so has everything together.
After reading the Instagram article, I decided to do a little project. Over the course of two days, I took pictures of all the mundane things I did — things that would never make it onto Facebook. And I compared them to more glamorous pictures portraying the same, or opposite, things. Here you go:
After taking all the pictures, I have to say that while I don’t find my life particularly glamorous, overall, I am pretty darn happy with it. On my Facebook page I have a quote that says, “Just remember that at any given moment, someone would love to be in your shoes.” While I might wish for sunshine instead of rain, or envy someone who’s traveling the world, there are plenty of people who would love to have legs to walk a dog, or who wish they had a job, or who don’t have money for a pollen-covered car. Or worse, who don’t have friends to share lunch with. I’m pretty fortunate.