There is no defeating social media, at this point. And it's not what I want.
I am a user of it, mostly just facebook, some pics on instagram. But mostly facebook, since it came first and I got used to using it to connect when I moved overseas.
And so now it's a part of my life, and inextricably so. I can honestly say I would not be friends with several of my current closest friends had it not been for its existence.
My college friends, I might still be friends with since I met them in person first, but would we have stayed in touch? How often would I be emailing them? And I'm not much of a texter.
My running team? I only started running altogether because of a friend from college I reconnected with on facebook. She told me about Team for Kids, I joined, eventually I joined my team because of a different friend I met through a different social network.
And all the parties I organized in the mid-20s era, they don't happen if I'm just sending emails, though amusingly I have circled all the way around to a more official e-vite for a party next week.
But, and there's actual data to support this, if life is difficult, the newsfeed is not the place to go for help. Oh facebook itself can be of help, as there are plenty of valuable communities within it, groups for people in certain situations, bonding that would be impossible because of physical distance.
If you open the app, or the site, and just look at it, people post their best selves. The people who are sharing the difficult parts of their lives on a regular basis are thought of as deeply unwell. It's not said explicitly, but it's true that people tend not to open up when they struggle. People will share if someone has passed away or been diagnosed, but the only ones who usually post about their difficulties are people who are struggling overall.
It's all a mix of small talk and ranting. I try not to be this way, but I'm sure not posting pictures of the version of my body I wasn't happy with 5 years ago. I wasn't posting pics after failed dates. And I have only been open about my struggles with loneliness and isolation now that I am mostly past it. So I'm guilty too.
I think we need the people whose outer lives look amazing to open up a bit more. I don't mean every single negative thought you have. And if you don't use the tool to share emotionally, that's fine.
But if you're only sharing the emotional highs and the fantastic vacations and the race PRs, maybe think about sharing that some days you worry your career isn't what you want, or that you feel shunned and ignored at work, or that you are fearful you'll never meet a partner and that you know you really do want one.
I think we all think our inner issues are unique, and to some extent they are in the sense that our lives are different. But we all want to feel safe, and heard, and loved, and successful, however we define those terms.
When people post a longer emotional post, most respond with wide-eyed alarm and slowly back away. And hey, no one really enjoys reading that.
But, and not to pretend our lives are harder, especially for men, it's still seen as rather unhinged to admit to emotional turmoil, despite the fact that we all feel it.
The famous quote that's probably misstated goes, "Never compare your insides to everyone else's outsides." And our profiles are, by nature, almost entirely our outsides, spiffed and shined to brilliance. Jealousy isn't great, but it's natural, if you look at your bank account and then look at the pictures of someone's new house, or if you think about the date you just had and then look at the pictures of someone's wedding.
I used to walk to Team for Kids practice by crossing the entire east side, and think about how I'd never have a life like the people I passed on Madison, and knowing it was mostly my own fault. I could easily have walked a different way, but I think I was metaphorically flogging myself like the albino monk in the Da Vinci code.
I started this site because I like writing and it's therapeutic. But as my life has changed completely since I started this 4.5 years ago, I still write about running, and occasionally politics (but rarely). I see my main purpose here to try to be of use to people who might read (and the data shows that about 15 people read each post, lol).
The greatest service I think I, or any of us, can give, is to be honest that even if things look perfect, they're still hard in some way.
Some might say that, well, this inner life is no one's business so who cares? And yeah, I can see that argument. You wouldn't start talking about your anxiety in the middle of a dinner party unless you're a character in an HBO dramedy.
But perhaps I myself would have felt less inadequate those years back if I hadn't looked up to see everyone seeming to be living their best life all around me. I came out of it, but I was lucky, and not everyone is.
There is no reason not to celebrate your triumphs publically. You best believe I will post every marathon medal I receive, and announce any great success. But we should all, I think, admit to some of the things we feel that might not be as fun. I think, in the long run, getting a clearer picture of everyone around us might help those of us who could use a boost.
It would have helped me, and maybe it can help someone in the future. Just my thought.
Peace and love.