The more I hear women talk about Facebook or Pinterest, the more I realize that many of us women have a problem with it. It sucks many of us into a vortex of comparison, pride, jealousy, and self-bashing. Is this Facebook’s fault?
I’m not sure it is.
Facebook is mostly comprised of people posting about the (sometimes mundane) highlights or lowlights of their lives. If a person went to a social gathering and asked someone else about the events of their week, they might hear more or less the same as what can be found on Facebook, except illustrated with fewer pictures (unless that person likes to pull out their smart phone, of course).
In the case of the social gathering, women are supposed to act pleased when their friends/acquaintances relate stories about vacations, child accomplishments, etc. Even if a twinge of jealousy starts to creep in, it might be squelched just because there isn’t time to focus on it then. Acting pleased can sometimes bring on the true, right feeling of sympathy. On Facebook, however, the woman reading is probably alone and has no reason to pretend to be excited for her friend if she is not. She might spend more time on envy instead.
Facebook might make it easier to travel down the negative route, but I still maintain that it’s not Facebook’s fault.
We do this to ourselves, girls. When that envious thought pops up in our minds, we have a choice. We can focus on it and think about how we wish we were like that person, or we can follow Romans 12:15, which says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We can choose to be happy for that person and leave it there, on to the next person on the feed.
If that simple answer isn’t enough, maybe this will help. When I take a picture of my kids or when we take one as a family, it is automatic for us to smile. We are conditioned to do so, even when we have to take one when we’re feeling cranky. If the kids won’t smile, we do what we can to make them smile. If we have five pictures of the family, we will most likely choose the one that has the most people smiling. Then we might post the picture on Facebook–never choosing the one where we’re all fighting or angry because we never even took a picture of that time (well, most of the time. Sometimes I take a picture of Little E when she’s throwing a fit so that she can see what she looks like during that time–it helps her stop sometimes). Because of this, families will look good on Facebook. It would be socially abnormal for someone to post pictures of the mess unless the mess is so bad it has become funny.
But we on the outside look at that perfect picture and think, “This means that their family is perfect. My family is not perfect–far from perfect. I wish I could be like them!”
I have a personal example that I hope will help the next time you look at a cute picture on Facebook and envy starts swirling up in front of your eyes, causing you to see it in a distorted way.
July 11 was Cow Appreciation Day at Chick fil A. Greg reminded me of the fact after lunch on that day, and I decided that once again the kids and I would put on some cheap cow costumes and head out for some free chicken for dinner. I had done it before and had ideas from a friend about an easy, cheap way to make the costumes (I used label paper cut into spots and stuck on black clothing–I also colored our noses black with face painting supplies I had from long ago, quickly made yarn tails, and dug out some cow ears from another Cow Appreciation Day).
The problem was that I was in a rotten mood while I was making the costumes. I don’t even know why I was in such a bad mood. The kids hadn’t done anything–they were happy, looking forward to Chick fil A and cow costumes. However, I was so rude and snarky that I dampened their moods in a big way. After we were all decked out as the black cow family, I thought the kids looked cute, so I wanted to take a picture of us.
Remember, we don’t usually take pictures of ourselves while frowning, so I smiled for the camera, even though my bad mood hadn’t totally faded yet, and I posted the picture to Facebook since I had seen other families do it. I was thinking it would make my mom smile: a family of happy cows. My mood improved some when we were out, and the kids had a good time, but they did get in a fight while waiting in line for some water, causing me to immediately head them out the door and into the car. They were all crying when we left, black noses smudged, label paper spots crumpled or gone, tails askew, and cow ears abandoned.
I don’t know what anyone thought when they saw my happy cow family, but I did get a lot of “likes,” and I just thought, “I wonder if they could ever guess how unhappy these particular cows were not long before and after the snapping of this picture.”
Facebook can’t give the whole story–it’s not set up to do that. The next time you see something on there that makes you feel jealous, remember that it’s just an imperfect happy snippet and choose to be happy with your friend at least for that moment. And be thankful for your own happy snippets, even when they are marred with imperfection. When we take the time to look for them, they’re all around us.