I’m sat here, in my dressing gown. My fingers are greasy from eating crisps all morning. My back aches because I spent all night playing a stupid video game. The gin hangover isn’t helping either. My week off work has been a wash out. I didn’t write any code, I didn’t cook anything other than pizza, and I’m beginning to smell of used dish water.
I log on to Facebook – and this is what I see, all complete with photos of smiling people doing awesome things.
- Melody checked in at Bury Lane Farm Shop “Stocking up on pâté :)”
- Dan “First sky diving lesson. Love it!”
- Lloyd “Sushi!!!”
- Luke “Welcoming the birth of our new baby with some champagne”
- Steve “not being a fan of either presents or parties, just receiving tons of messages on Twitter and FB for my birthday is pretty much perfect :)”
- Ewan “Read my latest piece in Forbes magazine”
- Laura “Red wine, cheese and live classical music… how else would one spend a balmy Australian summers eve?”
- David “Amazing street art in New York City”
- Andrea “Jason & I have gotten around to updating our relationship statuses on Facebook.”
- Lexy “London. Heathrow. Cape Town. All in 24 hours”
- Gillian “Is loving being at Hotel du Vin, Henley.”
- Menna “This evening I bought a Le Crouset casserole dish before attending a pub crawl at which several people were dressed in onesies”
- Helen “spent a very long time in the swimming pool today and might have to go to bed early to recover!”
- Jess “This Knickerbockerglory may be the death of me!”
- Kate “Planning a trip to see my astronaut friends!”
Literally everyone I know is doing amazing stuff! Sure, there’s the odd moan about a crappy commute, or a missed Christmas present. But everyone is so unnervingly upbeat all the time.
I wonder what this does for our mental health? When all you see is the relentless cheeriness of all your friends, suddenly finding yourself miserable can be deeply distressing.
Your friends are always flying off somewhere exotic, and buying new cars, and having exciting careers. You just sit in your underwear wondering if visiting Vimeo rather than YouTube counts as a life changing experience…
It’s no longer a case of “keeping up with the Joneses” – you now have to keep up with everyone you’ve ever met, no matter what the cost!
What we’re overlooking, of course, is that Facebook presents us a rather one sided view of our friends.
Let’s say your average friend only flies off on holiday every two years. With 100 friends, you’ll see someone jetting off every week. All of a sudden, our view of reality is distorted. Our friends aren’t all globe-trotters who do nothing but sip champagne in the first class lounge – but the steady drip-drip-drip of friends posting their adventures makes us feel like we’re missing something.
Look through your photo album – digital or physical – and count the ratio of photos of people smiling vs looking grumpy. We want to remember the good times. We want to capture and share the brief moments of joy in our lives.
But all those perfect moments combine to a deluge of unfettered joy and love which, if you’re not careful, can drown out any rational thought.
I’m not saying that people should post more depressing status updates, or that they should refrain from sharing their happiness. It’s just that perhaps we, as a species, aren’t yet used to dealing with a constant flood of our friends’ successes. It can make even a little failure feel like you’re letting down your entire social circle.
Looking through my Facebook updates for 2012 – I’ve been to some incredible countries this year, changed job, visited zoos and art galleries, had my work published, been retweeted around the globe, raised money for good causes, eaten at some lovely restaurants, won best in show at OverTheAir, drank expensive cocktails with a friend I haven’t seen for a decade, been to a Beatles gig, and completed Angry Birds Star Wars.
I am, ostensibly, not a loser. So Facebook can fuck right off.