I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sucked into what I like to call a “Facebook hate spiral.” For me, Facebook hate spirals are those moments in life when I’m cruising along and someone does something or says something or wears something or achieves something that I want, but don’t have.
Facebook is a great social media tool for promoting yourself, as well as keeping in touch with friends and loved ones who may live far away, for certain; but it’s a terrible, awful, rotten website if you’re feeling insecure.
My day can be going along just fine, but then I’ll see it: someone I haven’t talked to in years posts about their fabulous life or their fabulous job or their fabulous dog/house/kids/wardrobe/ experience, and I’m seething with jealousy. If I were a cartoon character, my face would literally be green with envy. I have a nasty habit of taking other people’s successes as indicators of my own personal shortfalls.
In moments like those, I lose myself. I focus on whatever it is that person has that I feel like I don’t have and I start to tick off all the reasons why that should be me. Or I think about all the ways my life sucks in comparison. Or I start to think I’ll never amount to anything. Or I tell myself why they don’t deserve [whatever it is].
All the while, I’m falling deeper and deeper into the hate spiral as I obsessively click through every photo album on their Facebook, ever, trying to glean some nugget of information that might make me feel better about myself. Then, of course, my negative feelings are two-fold: I feel bad because of whatever thing set me off in the first place, and then I’m angry, disappointed, and ashamed that I let myself get to such a dark place.
In short: it’s unhealthy. So I’ve been working really, really hard to rectify this problem. And if this sounds at all familiar, here’s how you can, too.
1. Keep things in perspective. When it seems like people on Facebook have got it all, it’s hard to remember that how we present ourselves online is hardly our reality. I try to think back to the times when I post. Usually it coincides with something good happening, like a job promotion or a great photo I take of myself. I don’t post that I have a huge pile of laundry to tackle or that I’m feeling run down. Chances are, your Facebook friends are the same way. So even if they’re living a glamorous life, they still have to do their own dishes. Remember that.
2. Their success is not your failure. I struggle with this most. Just because someone I went to high school with is now living in New York City, my original dream location, doesn’t mean that I’m a failure because I’m not. It just means that their life path differed from mine. I don’t know why they ended up in NYC; they don’t know why I didn’t. Stand by your choices, and be proud.
3. Unfriend or unfollow. If someone’s posts consistently bring you down, there’s a simple way to solve that: unfriend. You can also unfollow their status updates. You’ll be happier, and they’ll be none the wiser.
4. Delete or deactivate. It seems extreme, but when I lost my job, I couldn’t deal with other people’s success. I couldn’t even bring myself to change my job description because I didn’t want to face the inevitable questions of “What happened?” or “Where are you working now?” So I deactivated my account. It helped. Once I got a new job, I came back, and I was fine. But I needed that little break to get me through my rough patch.
So there’s nothing wrong with Facebook, but there certainly are times when it can make self-confidence tough. If you’ve never run into any problems with self-doubt while peeking into the lives of others, that’s amazing, and please share your secret. For the rest of us, there are ways to preserve your happiness and still kill time at work browsing your Facebook feed.
Part Two of this series will delve into how to build yourself up so Facebook hate spirals are less likely to happen to you. Part Three deals with Facebook etiquette.