No…no it’s not. And I would find it kind of hard to believe that anyone would view my life as perfect, but I have received comments—joking comments—such as “I can’t be friends with you, you do way too much” or “You make me feel bad about myself with all the stuff you do” or “How do you have time to do everything you do??” And some of these statements are from family members! Once a comment is made I can laugh, twice I can shrug it off, thrice I kind of just want to permanently ignore you for making me feel bad about myself for “making” you feel bad about yourself. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at another person’s life and felt a twinge of envy at the perfect little package presented with a beautiful (and probably designer) bow. Or how there have been times when I’ve jokingly said, “Ugh! I hate her!”
In the past few weeks I’ve seen many mentions to the illusions (or delusions) that Pinterest creates**. One article from Today Moms mentioned that in a recent survey 42% of surveyed moms feel bad or have a lowered self-esteem after they browse Pinterest. Momastery recently wrote about Pinsanity and I’ve seen similar mentions here and there about Facebook making folks feel badly about their own lives because they see the beautiful and gorgeous and sunny lives that others lead. Social Media and blogs are a slippery slope towards skewed perception of reality because we mostly see the shiny rather than the failures. Why would we want to post our imperfections for all to see? Isn’t it easier to post the picture perfect?
Recently a friend showed me an acquaintance’s photo journal of her daughter’s third birthday. It was beautiful and clever and adorable and picture perfect. My first reaction was to feel bad that I don’t have the creativity to pull together something like that and my second reaction was to scorn her for having too much time. And then I harkened back to the times when others have made such comments to me and immediately felt sorry I had internally criticized this complete stranger and internally criticized myself.
I have so many thoughts about social media and these rising articles I don’t know where to begin. I try to paint a realistic picture of my life for you, my dear readers, but I also know that I sometimes edit. I don’t tell you when I’m depressed or when I’m feeling badly about myself. I don’t post about my dirty bathrooms or the fact that I haven’t cooked a decent meal in how long? If you’ve been around long enough or follow me on Twitter you might be able to read between the lines, but generally I try to focus on the good rather than the bad all while trying to remain truthful. I’m guessing most of you try to do the same. On the other hand, if we don’t discuss our difficulties or stressures or even sometimes our failures then we are potentially missing out on a very strong and reliable support system. Maybe this is why I usually take the approach of writing “I’m thinking of doing XYZ so tell me your suggestions!” rather than “This is how you do XYZ and Why” (although I envy those who can write with such authority on a subject). Where’s the balance between showing the positive and showing real life?I don’t have the answer regarding balance but I have thought about Internet Envy quite a bit.
At the end of the day, it is important to keep a few things in mind when measuring your life against someone else’s. You’ll hear me say this time and time again, but what we see online is merely a snapshot of someone’s life. We don’t see the tears or the sadness or the failures that might have led up to the perfect picture. We don’t see how a person’s life is lacking or how someone’s circumstances are wildly different from our own. We only see what people choose for us to see, just as we choose what we want other people to see.
We also need to keep in mind our own limits. Do you even want to throw a Pinterest party for your child? Or read 400 books in a year? Or bake cookies every day? Or cook completely from scratch including possibly raising some chickens? If the answer is yes, then think about how you can prioritize to fit these things in your life (although you truly are crazy pants if you want to do it all). If the answer is sort of then pick out details that are manageable and will not cause you stress. If the answer is no, then move on and don’t criticize the other person for wanting to throw a Pinterest party. (And by “Pinterest-party” just think something that you might see in a magazine spread). I admit that at times I take on too much in my life–this is a personality trait/flaw that I absolutely own up to. But I’ve also had to learn when to take a step back and when to not let the details stress me out. Of course this is always a work in progress for me.
Finally, measure yourself against yourself. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter whether you measure yourself against anything at all. Do what makes you happy or what brings joy into your life. Focus on the beautiful pictures that you have or the beautiful things that you have or the beautiful things you created rather than the failures or set-backs or disappointments. Certainly it’s natural to compare oneself with others and it’s natural to sometimes feel lacking or down, but we need to spend more time focusing on the good in ourselves and the good in others. I didn’t mean for this post to end up being a cumbaya-let’s all hold hands post, and it probably won’t stop me from envying others every once in a while, but every day I will work hard to appreciate myself for who I am.[**and for the record, I don’t think that Pinterest is evil–heck I run a challenge based off of it–but it makes me terribly sad to see that folks are using it to weigh their self-worth].
What tips do you have for keeping Internet (or real life) Envy at bay?