Thursday, January 24, 2013

comparison is the thief of joy

There's been a lot of chatter on the news this week about a study that says visiting Facebook makes people depressed about the state of their own lives.  This is hardly the first time we've been told that our online activities are bumming us out.  The same has been said about design blogs, mommy blogs, Pinterest, Instagram...

I get it.  Even my favorite mommy bloggers bloggers-who-happen-to-be-mommies, the ones who take care to talk about the unpretty things - their frustrations with their kids, their messy homes, their dogs puking on the nice carpets, their miscarriages, their hair falling out weight gain weight loss takeout meals and formula-filled bottles - I find ways to get jealous of them, too.  Why?  Who knows.  Because I'm good at it.  Because this one takes amazing photos, and this one has the funniest wit, this one has the most thoughtful insights, and this one gets a zabillion hits every minute and earns a little money while she writes.  And just forget about the design bloggers I follow.  Even through all the discussions they've had recently within their communities and on their blogs about whether or not they should talk about the tough things they're going through as they post the most gorgeous unattainable lifestyle photos, yeah - I've found ways to be jealous of them, too.  Why?  WHO KNOWS.  Maybe it's because they're still so pretty online, or because their blogs are their jobs, or because they're all having drinks at Alt Summit right now while I'm sitting here in my jammies with a too-tight bank account and no babysitter.

My point is, can't we let this drop?  Is it really worthy of news coverage?  Because we all - ALL of us - have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to other people.  When we're not doing it online we're doing it at the office, at playdates, and at the grocery store.  I still remember my first day of kindergarten, when I first walked into my new classroom and spotted the prettiest girl, chose the desk next to her, and spent the day wishing I was her, from her long dark hair to her sweet, unusual name.

I don't think it's a healthy tendency, but I do think it's a natural tendency.

And pointing the same alarmist discussion at Facebook made me angry.  Because most of my friends on Facebook are my real friends and family.  They are people with whom I was raised, met in gradeschool, attended college, shared offices, lived overseas.  There are a lot of reasons I've wanted to quit Facebook over the years, but what keeps me there is this amazing chance to keep in touch with so many of these people I love.  And maybe I just have the best group of friends, but when I log on I see everything from new jobs to lost pets to kids home sick from school.  The same day one friend is having an amazing wedding might be the same day another friend learns their child has a chronic illness.  We have one good friend heading off to Sundance today.  Do I wish I could go to Sundance?  Um, YEAH.  But it seems like on Facebook, just like in our regular live-and-in-person days, we just need to remember to be happy for our friends who are doing well and keep reaching out to our friends who aren't.


I post a lot of photos, mostly of my kids, on Instagram and Facebook.  (Probably so many that half of my friends have hidden my feed.)  I do like to think the photos can be pretty, and I work at that.  But I sincerely hope they don't portray some sort of fictionalized life that I honestly do not lead.  Please tell me that is not the case, because this blog here?  Mostly it's here so that I can write about my depression, because writing about it helps almost as much as the prescription medication I have to take every day to keep me going.  And I think I've been pretty honest about the ongoing showdown I'm having with toddlerhood, how much I don't understand about myself or my needs, the worry that I have for our finances, or the daily grinding-glass-on-glass that the question of having a third baby is for me.  We live in a fabulous city, but the rent is high and more often than not I have to usher my girls around yet another man getting drunk under the tree out front of our home in order to get into our family car.  For every day that we drop everything to let the girls play on the beach, I've spent a week missing the midwestern trees and thunderstorms and seasons from my childhood.   And for every cute photo of our cute cute girls?  I've spent an hour in tears that they are driving me crazy and I am parenting them badly and how on EARTH do my other mommy friends get by??

Like most people, our lives are not all bad, and not all good.  Taken together, I think that does make us blessed.  So I say that here, over and over, mostly to remind myself - we are blessed.  We are blessed.  And when I log on to Facebook, I log on to be with friends, to check in on how they are doing, to share some stupid thought or new insight of my own, to brag AND to complain, but mostly just to be with friends.

Friends that I am blessed to have.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

ahh Facebook. Sometimes it makes me miss occasional phone calls with fam/friends that don't result in "oh, yeah. I saw your status on Facebook earlier." I cannot imagine life without it for the sake of convenience though. It saved me when my husband was gone for months for military training. It irks me nowadays due to my father's extreme political views that get thrown in my face almost daily...

You are so right on about how distorted life can seem when you get only a snapshot or happy stories when behind it there is usually more that is shaping our lives.

melanie said...

I absolutely agree. Facebook is a great tool, and also entirely frustrating. It ensures that politics are difficult in my family, too. But I do love being able to keep in touch with so many people through it - that has been a genuine blessing for me.