Many people I talk to tell me they have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. On one hand it keeps them connected to people who they may not be able to see or talk to anymore, but it also allows nosy, semi-stalker type people to creep on their page. They may get to hear many compliments about pictures and status updates, but also get slammed from the haters who are jealous. They can proclaim their relationship status to the masses, but they can also see pictures of people who seem to be leading more exciting lives. It can bring you up and it can bring you down. Build up your self-esteem one day and body slam it to the ground the next.
It is hard to be confident in a world where you can constantly compare yourself to so many others. The internet has opened up the world. On one hand, this is a great thing. On the other hand, it seems to be leading many people to have doubts about their happiness. I’m reading several literary classics this year. I’m currently reading “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens. Little Pip is being brought up by his sister and brother-in-law. It is not a great life, but Pip doesn’t know any different. One day he is asked to go visit with an older lady who is a recluse. Pip meets this girl, Estella. Estella has been brought up to think she is better than other people and is very privileged. She tells Pip that he is common and he immediately feels inadequate. Estella is very pretty and he is hurt that she doesn’t like him. For the first time in his life he feels ashamed of where he comes from. He then starts to have great expectations for his life. He wants to learn to read and write. He aspires to become a gentleman. He no longer wants to work in the forge as a blacksmith with his brother-in-law, who by far is the nicest person Pip has ever met. This is now too far beneath his expectations. Pip goes on to come into mystery money from a benefactor unknown. He is able to be tutored and can afford luxuries. He continues to be ashamed of his family and no longer sees them. He also continues to aspire to win over the beautiful Estella, who has never approved or liked him. I won’t ruin the end of the story if you haven’t ever read this book, but it is interesting to me that Pip isn’t happy even after he starts to rise to his expectations. He continues to feel discontent and doesn’t understand why he feels this way when it seems he is getting what he has always wanted.
Why is it so hard to be content? You could be happy in your life only to go on Facebook and see something that a friend of a friend has in their life. All of the sudden you feel less than adequate, even though you don’t even know this person. Maybe you feel like you have to lose weight to look like someone else. Or have more money to have something that someone else has. You may love your job but now see that someone else is more successful and you wonder if you’ve made the right choice. Some of my students go on Facebook to brag about their great weekend or to show off how hot their boyfriend or girlfriend is, only to be disappointed once they see what other people are doing. They all agree that is it is great to be able to keep up with people from high school and meet new people they may not have been able to meet otherwise. However, there is a big downside to being able to be connected to so many people. To open up your world to so many possibilities. It causes people to doubt themselves and their choices. They may feel happy until they creep on their ex-boyfriend or girlfriend’s page and see how well they are doing. All of the sudden jealousy and discontent floods in.
So why do people torture themselves so much? Because there are perks too. Again, social media and technology isn’t all bad. Its great to get so many birthday messages. It makes us feel more important than we really are sometimes. It is great to get a compliment on a picture or have so many people “like” something you said in your status update. It is a way to stay connected to those you love and miss. In order to get the good, you have to accept the bad.
It is possible to minimize the bad. If you feel like you have more bad experiences than good on Facebook, I suggest that you limit your time spent logged in. Do you really need to look at all 200 pictures that were posted from a party you didn’t attend last weekend or click on a link on friend of a friend’s page that you don’t even know? I also encourage students to weed out their friend list. If you don’t know someone, delete them from your friend list. They may not even notice you’re gone if they have 973 friends. Block your ex’s from being able to creep on your page and leave nasty messages. Also erase ex’s from your friend list so you won’t be tempted to write things on their wall unexpectedly in a weak moment. Don’t be so quick to un-tag or delete pictures of people you may be mad at. Wait it out, if the fight doesn’t blow over in a couple of weeks, then take down those pictures or delete them from your friends list. Sometimes people work things out and it is annoying to delete and add things all the time to your page based on your fluctuating feelings.
The hate part of Facebook can make life hard even if you have minimized a lot of the bad things. If social media continues to bring you down and ruin your self-esteem, consider staying off of Facebook for a while or deleting your profile all together. You want to put as many positive things in your life as possible to help your self-confidence flourish. If Facebook is a negative influence and is causing you to have unrealistic expectations of yourself, consider finding other ways to spend your time that help you feel good about yourself. Don’t play the comparing game. We are all different, with different abilities. It is okay to be you, no matter what other people think or say. It may be easier to believe that when you don’t have negative comments or so many other people to look at in comparison. You need to decide what is best for you, and social media is not always the best thing for everyone these days.