In April, a piece titled “Stop Instagramming Your Perfect Life” started making its way around Facebook and Twitter. The author raised a point that the things our friends post on social media can make us depressed about our own lives because we only see people’s “post-worthy” moments: fabulous meals, vacation photos, good experiences. The title of the piece was later changed to “Instagram’s Envy Effect,” and it was liked on Facebook 145,000+ times.
“When you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, the majority of your friends probably aren’t doing anything any more special. But it only takes one friend at the Eiffel Tower to make you feel like a loser.”
I wouldn’t be the first person to point out that if you’re jealous of your friend’s life as it looks on Instagram or Facebook, the problem is not social media – it’s you.
My Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of friends getting after it, riding mountain bikes, climbing, catching sunsets and sunrises, dawn patrolling, taking their kids out in the outdoors, capturing their dogs looking adorable – in general, finding beauty in everyday life. Pretty positive stuff, I think. Why would your reaction be to feel bad about yourself when seeing that?
Say your friend Joe Penacoli has just posted another Instagram photo of a before-work ski run, after-work mountain bike ride, or sunset hike. Is your reaction:
a) “Joe is always doing something cool. I hate that guy!”
b) double-tapping the photo, causing a heart to pop up on your screen
If you said a), let me ask you this: If you were having coffee with Joe and he was telling you about his recent vacation, would you listen, nod, and become jealous of him and think about how you disliked Joe because he made you feel bad that you hadn’t taken a vacation recently? Or would you listen and say, “Joe, that sounds really great,” and be happy for your friend Joe?
Instagram and Facebook have given us a way to share things instantly, but it should provide more ways for us to be excited for each other, not become more catty and talk shit about our friends. Do you remember life pre-digital sharing? Nobody ever invited you over and said, “Hey, after dinner, I need to show you our photos of the time I got food poisoning and shat my brains out the whole night.” Or, “We had a pretty challenging day a couple weeks ago – the kids were being fussy and miserable, crying all through dinner, and Bob and I had a big fight about money. We got most of it on video, want to watch it?”
Are we really comparing our lives to those of our “friends” online? Do we do the same thing in person? Do you hang up the phone after catching up with a friend and say “I hate her. Her life is so perfect.”? Well.
I’m a big fan of social media. I like to know when friends find places that make them feel awesome, or do things they’re excited to share, or find joy anywhere. I also like photos of dogs, and there appears to be no over-saturation point of dog photos in my social feeds. I know life is hard, and has its ups and downs, and if you want to share those, that’s great, too. Please share photos of your new baby, recent trip, day hike, birthday cake, rock climb, sunrise, cute dog, dirty feet, amazing meal, inspiration, and happy moments. I will double-tap that, and click “Like,” and I will be happy for you just a tiny digital bit.
Brendan Leonard is Semi-Rad.