Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Facebook Facade

My most recent post, Going at it Alone (click here to read), generated much interest.  Readers invited me into their private lives by sharing their own troubles - the very things which keep them awake at night.  What this has shown me is, firstly, I am not alone in my current situation, and secondly, we are so good at not only hiding our inner most misfortunes to the outside world, but have in fact become experts in creating a whole new world where life is carefree and fun beyond comprehension.  It is the latter which led me to reflect on this very fact, that most of the information that I receive via social media is almost always positive, uplifting and seemingly so much more utopian than I have ever had the privilege of.

Many years ago, I wised up to the fact that Facebook brings with it an unrealistic highlight reel whenever I scroll through my news feed.  The "Going At It Alone" post brought this to my attention once again when you (my readers) started getting in touch.  It is evident that those of us using social media can "sell" an image of who we want to be so easily.  I can create a happy family.  Add in a child.  Add in a dog or a cat.  I'm not saying that all posts on my news feed are pseudo or made up to sell an image which just isn't true, what I'm really trying to get at here is the fact that we are selling our ideal selves and not our actual selves.  Whilst likes and friends boost our self esteem, is it not a self esteem based on the actual self, but rather than the ideal self.  I'm not suggesting that people photoshop in backdrops etc to make out as if they are having fun, but that moment when your phone takes a photograph is not necessarily all moments - it may be just that moment - that great moment - one worth sharing and "selling" to the world, but it isn't our reality and so we go back to our world and wait for the likes to reel in.  I too suffer from this.  I write a post and my shadow side (as Carl Jung, the famous psychodynamisist, would call it) wants to know who is reading my post, where are they in the world, who has liked it, who has shared it.  We all fall prey to this and it is not always a negative thing.  The problem creeps in when we start to compare our actual selves to the ideal selves of others.  Depression sets in - "how is it that everyone else has such an exciting life and mine is so monotonous and bland?".  We reflect on our own lives and feel inadequate.  Why don't I have holidays like that?  Why am I stuck in this rut?  Why isn't my relationship that fun, full of life?  Why aren't my kids as bright, as quirky, etc, etc.  This is not the first time I'm writing a post with this sort of theme, but as previously mentioned, the fact that I had been sold so many happy images, only to learn that all is not what it seems, compelled me to share this with my audience.  

The idea of this post is to offer a sense of normality - whatever that word means (side note - it's always dangerous for people in my field to use the word "normality").  I recently found myself standing in front of some pretty vulnerable teenagers explaining how social encounters via the internet are accounting for the rise in teenage depression.  I continued my talk by mentioning that social networks are not always conducive to positive mental wellbeing - no one has a permanent highlight reel I found myself preaching.  Not one of the friends you host on social media have perfect lives which carry zero adversities.  It is so easy to get caught up in the lives of others by scrolling through our news feeds without taking a step back to recognise that the moment they are projecting is not all moments; that moment is not all moments, and whilst you may be experiencing adversity in that moment, others aren't ... and vice versa.  Just like you, I already know this, I too get caught up in all of it, sometimes feeling overwhelmed like my life is substandard in some way.  The alternative of course is to wear your heart on your sleeve and watch your friends on social media dwindle into the ether - I guess that's one way of reducing your friend count - people just don't want to read about the miseries which others have to endure when they are scrolling through their happy place which happens to be Facebook or Twitter.

As an additional note, a "PS" if you will, I have been a massive fan of Rob Bell for some time now (in my view he is the modern-day rockstar of Christianity).  For about a year now he has been recording and producing a podcast called ... wait for it... The Robcast (genius!).  If you too find yourself in the middle of adversity, no matter how great or how insignificant, I would like to encourage you to download and listen to Episode 17 (What To Do With The Waste - click here) and Episode 18 (It Comes In Waves - click here).  These two podcasts in particular have been comforting through some of my darkest hours.

Let me know your thoughts...and as always, thanks for reading. 

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