Y’all, it’s time to talk about Facebook, that addictive, terrible-wonderful black-hole of photos and words from friends and “friends” that makes about 90% of us feel like our lives are crap, at least occasionally. How do I know this? I was on Facebook for ten minutes up until about 10 seconds ago, and in that time I came to believe that all of my friends and “friends” are all unambivalently happy about everything in their own lives — kids and jobs and partners and the like — and all having a terrific ball in their abundant free time. Just like all of our lives really are, right?
Facebook comes up in my counseling office fairly regularly, since in addition to connecting friends and “friends” it also provides constant opportunities for us to compare ourselves and our lives to all the people we know. Since Facebook has us comparing our own inner experiences with curated external experiences, we’re usually doomed to feel bad. There is research to back this up.
Here is what I want to tell friends and clients: What people post on Facebook does not reflect the entirety of their inner and outer experiences. Since people rarely post, “Oh, hey, I feel really depressed today” it can be easy to think that nobody else ever feels depressed. Since people rarely post, “Oh, hey, I spent Friday night alone eating marshmallows and binge-watching American Ninja Warrior” it can be easy to think that everyone except you is always out having ridiculous amounts of fun with their amazing, hilarious friends.
But it’s important to remember that people only post on Facebook what they want you to know about their lives. And it’s the rare person who wants all our friends and “friends” to know about our deep sorrows, big regrets, chronic worries, or loneliness. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t all have deep sorrows, big regrets, chronic worries, or occasional loneliness. We are all human; we all feel all the human emotions, even the difficult ones. We just don’t always share them with others.
Most of my clients do have Facebook accounts. And if you met most of them, you would never think that they struggle in the way that almost all of us do at some point in our lives. My clients are good at putting on happy faces, just like most of the rest of us, and my guess is that they only post positive things on Facebook. And until the Facebook Revolution or Be Honest On Facebook Day, it’s up to us to remember that what’s visible on the surface is rarely the full truth of what exists deeper down.