A newly published study suggests the phenomenally popular social networking site may be skewing the way users perceive their lives. It finds those carefully selected photos of cheerful, contented people cumulatively convey a self-esteem-shattering message: Our lives are fantastic! What’s wrong with you?
You know there’s nothing wrong with you, right? Your life is probably not more boring and less fun than anyone else’s life. (Except for George Clooney. I’m pretty sure he’s having the funnest life ever.) Or maybe right now it is pretty boring or pretty difficult, which is ok, too, because sometimes that’s just how lives are. It’s kinda like when you look over someone’s scrapbook or photo album — we rarely save pictures of unhappy times because we’re not keen on remembering them. Likewise Facebook is the perfect place to cull the lowlights of our life so that we can give the impression to others — and to ourselves — that our women are strong, our men are good looking and our children are above average.
If you are feeling unhappy with your life right now, it might be a good idea to stay off of Facebook where the self-portraits are always flattering and everyone’s food looks better than whatever you’re eating right now. Because even if you know it’s (somewhat) imaginary, it still doesn’t do us any good to look at an idealized real life when we’re feeling blue.
Sometimes if a client is having trouble seeing the positives in her own life, I will ask her to share what the idealized version might look to an outsider. Not to encourage her to go paint an incomplete picture on Facebook, but because it can help her see the good things she’s been missing and also help her see that our lives are much more complex than a social networking site allows us to share.
I say we should all do the virtual world a favor and include more whine in our updates. I mean, when there’s something worth whining about. Otherwise, carry on with your bad, bragging self! It’s all good! Let’s just all remember that Facebook encourages us to photoshop their lives and we’d be better off remembering that it’s photoshop.