Fakebook – Keeping it Real
Someone once told me that I’m “photogenic” (little did she know of all the “un-photogenic” pictures of me floating around out there). I’ve always found this term rather funny. Like a back-handed compliment: “Wow, great pic. You don’t look half that good in real life!”
Of course, what she probably, really, meant was that some people don’t come out in pictures looking as good — like they really look — in real life. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself.)
It makes me think of the images and stories projected on Facebook and other networking sites. The ones that capture a brief moment in time, framed in the very best light with the most cleverly worded caption, curiously devoid of any wrinkles or cellulite.
Somewhere in the back of our minds, we know our 499 Facebook friends are not all picture-perfect. We do. But we buy into it anyway. Research suggests that envy increases with Facebook use and that our effort to keep up with the Facebook Joneses is detrimental to our well-being.
I’ll bet there’s not one of us who logs on to Facebook in the morning thinking, “Hmmm, let me see where I’m falling short as a parent today.” Yet, according to psychologists, that’s exactly what many of us are doing. It’s what psychologist Leon Festinger called the social comparison theory — humans’ innate tendency to track our progress and assess our self-worth by comparing ourselves to others, especially those to whom we feel inferior, for whatever reason …
The mom who made the gorgeous vegan zucchini & walnut brownies.
The friend holding up margaritas with her BFFs, looking fit and fab, not a hair out of place. And not looking tired. On a school night.
The family who somehow manages to afford an AMAZING vacation every six months (or worse, the couple who manages to do it without their kids).
Somewhere in the back of our minds, we know our 499 Facebook friends are not all picture-perfect. We do. But we buy into it anyway.
What we don’t see in the amazing vacation post is what it took Mom to get that shot — stopping everyone in mid-vacation, memory-making stride because they looked halfway put together that day, and stopped arguing and whining for 10 seconds.
Or the stale plate of “brownies” that no one ever actually ate.
While Facebook is great for keeping us in touch with long lost cousin Ingrid and our friend with the new triplets, studies suggest that the network can quickly become addictive and, in one study, craved even more than alcohol or tobacco. And as with other addictions, psychologists say, it comes with a nagging sense of negativity, as well as resentment of others’ lives and the image that we feel we need to continuously maintain.
We begin to wonder, where are all the parents who are struggling like we are? Who can’t seem to make it home from work, gymnastics and baseball practice at a decent hour with take-out, much less put a homemade meal together? Who are just barely scraping by at month’s end? Whose kids are having trouble making friends?
What’s ironic is that by virtue of being a parent, we know just how hard and messy it can be. Yet, based on our news feeds, it still can seem like no one else got the memo.
We begin to wonder, where are all the parents who are struggling like we are? Based on our news feeds, it still can seem like no one else got the memo.
The reality is, we’re not all going to suddenly start posting our messy selves and secrets in an effort to make one another feel better. Nor is this necessary for living an authentic life. But what we can do for ourselves — and in great parent solidarity — is take a few steps to keep it real, and keep a healthier perspective:
Pause before posting.
Ask yourself why you’re posting something out. To share something positive or uplifting with your loved ones, or the world at large? To share a significant moment with those you know would want to be informed? What’s your intention?
Don’t mindlessly scroll.
Studies suggest that the more time people spent browsing Facebook, as opposed to actively creating content and engaging with it, the more envious they felt. And if you’re scrolling when you’re restless, or late at night when you’re worn out, you’re even more susceptible to feelings of envy and anxiety. Pay attention to how and when you’re using social sites. Do you find it uplifting, or draining?
Find a way to maintain perspective.
Susan Cain, who wrote the bestseller “Quiet,” talks about the benefits of quiet and alone time in order to re-set and recharge. When we’re constantly networking, allowing others’ energy into our lives, it can be harder to put things into perspective and stay grounded. Take some time away from your social sites, or at the very least, set limits. Or try networking with friends in their real lives, in real time, which can’t be filtered or Photoshopped.
My trick is a ceramic piece that my daughter made for me in one of those pottery painting shops. It’s in the shape of a quote bubble, and she painted one of my favorite quotes on it: “A grasping hand is never full.”
I still don’t know who said it, but I keep it within eyesight on my office desk for those times when I tend to fall into the comparison trap. It helps me keep perspective on what I should be doing, getting, achieving, according to the latest social ear-to-ear grin.
Of course, I know it’s not the full story. I’m sure the fab friend with the margaritas is probably, at this very moment, in disheveled hair, nursing a hangover while scrambling to get the kids to school. And I only know because, in reality, I’ve been there.