The moment happens when I’m scrolling through my Facebook page and come to an unexpected picture of a bunch of my friends all together at an event they didn’t tell me about.The jealous questions immediately start popping into my mind, “why didn’t they tell me they were doing this? It looks like they’re having so much fun, how did this get organized? Who else was there, and what happened that I missed out on?” This is one of the main detrimental effects Facebook has on me. I am no longer living in my present situation, but instead, find myself wishing I am part of something that seemingly looks like a great time. This is what author Wendy Sachs describes as “Facebook Envy”. Characterized as a phenomenon in which people feel worse about their lives by seeing what others post, it most certainly is experienced by most Facebook users, and unfortunately is frequently experienced by me.
So, why do I subjugate myself to this – this feeling of jealousy, and wishing I wasn’t in my current situation? Should I just delete my Facebook account? Especially since Facebook “can provoke depression, anxiety and envy”. The horrifying thought of losing connections with so many people if I were to delete my Facebook prevents me from doing so. Instead, I settle on playing the game others do. Just as my friends embellish their current situations, I, myself, create a small façade of my life abroad. I want others to experience the Facebook Envy I feel and succumb to when looking at their Facebooks and missing home – the thing I try to avoid missing most while abroad. Obviously, living in Prague has already been such an amazing experience I would never take back. However, the fact I use filters on every picture before uploading them and exaggerating stories I tell contributes to the hope of making others jealous of my so-called “enhanced” current situation.
Never having confronted this problem, I am now forced to. Luckily, this article has opened my eyes to simply be happy where I am, while also realizing that my friends at home are not as happy as they truly are since “people over-estimate the happiness of others”. As difficult as it is to not let Facebook and its constant updates affect my abroad life, I am aware that others hope to create Facebook Envy out of me. After all, my friends on Facebook probably have to try that much harder while in rural Pennsylvania, whereas I am in the fairytale land of Prague and travelling to several European cities people die to go to in their lifetimes. On a more mature note, I think it is now necessary in today’s world to retreat from tools to principles. Persistent conductivity, mass self-publishing, network collaboration, and instant feedback are not going away. At a minimum, you have to play with the new technologies, and realize – and analyze – their costs and benefits. Recognizing where new technologies, i.e. social media sites, fall short is a problem that must be confronted individually in order to improve one’s general – and current – happiness with life.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Sean MacEntee
Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Francisco Huguenin Ulfelder