How much of your life do you spend miserable?
Any amount of time is too much, in my opinion.
We often feel like circumstances put us in miserable situations--or that we are victims of happenstance and bad luck. It's easier to think like this, because then we are blameless and not held responsible for our misery.
It's always someone else's fault, and that's the way we prefer it. Because it's easier to blame others, even though it hurts us in the end.
One fixture in my life has made me particularly miserable in the last year. It's a little social media website called Facebook.
And it turns out I'm not the only one.
Earlier this year, Slate magazine published a very insightful article on how Facebook is making people sad.
Researchers at Stanford University studied how students evaluated moods--both their own and their peers--and found that they "consistently underestimated how dejected others were--and likely wound up feeling more dejected as a result." In other words, students often believed others were happier than they really were, and in return, felt unhappier, because of it.
Facebook exploits this weakness to a T. The site is filled only with perpetually happy status updates, accomplishments, joyful puppy and baby pictures as well as expertly cropped photos--all of which exude an ostensible super-happiness that is clearly impossible to sustain.
"By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people's lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles' heel of human nature. And women--an especially unhappy bunch of late--may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses."
Yet, even though I know most Facebook updates to be false or exaggerated, I can't help but still feel the familiar tinges of jealousy and resentment surface when I see certain people boasting about their new jobs, the celebrity parties they've attended and freshly airbrushed photos from their latest Facebook headshot session.
But over the years, this is what I have come to gather:
People have two lives. The one that wakes up in the morning with bad breath and eye boogers. And the other one, which is the photoshopped version we save expressly for Facebook.
The best Facebookers (the ones with thousands of friends; perpetually witty quotes or comments; endless numbers of party photos; demonically happy) know this distinction. They invented this distinction.
They do an amazing job of convincing the rest of us that they do not have bad breath--that they live extraordinary lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They live the impossible dream.
But what they really are are airbrushed models from magazine covers. They don't--they can't exist.
Researcher Alex Jordan says, "You will never be as consistently happy as your Facebook friends, because nobody is that happy."
The more you invest in competing with your Facebook friends and trying to improve your virtual identity, the less your true self--the one you are left with when there's no Facebook or electricity--thrives and succeeds.
Which is why I made a decision to pull myself out of my own miserable situation. I quit Facebook.
(Disclaimer: I'm not completely off the network. I need it for my job, but I don't make any pictures or relevant information public. I usually post interesting articles or pictures from around the web, never anything about my personal life. I have also unsubscribed from every friend and acquaintance on my newsfeed.)
Since then, my life has changed in unspeakable ways. The feeling I have is something akin to a former addict who can now boast she has been sober for two months and counting.
And the decision was somewhat difficult. Because a voyeuristic part of me likes having unadulterated access to everyone. It was a little strange, but ultimately, I looked forward to the relief of not being mortally wounded by inconsequential details from other peoples' lives. Moreover, who wants to feel threatened by or the need to compete with their friends or acquaintances?
And now, if you're ready for it: a safe and effective 12-step plan to permanently deleting your Facebook.
Step 1:Announce to all your friends that you are considering taking the great leap forward and deleting your Facebook account. Explain to them that it's become a wasteland of fakers, phonies and bipolar megalomaniacs.
Step 2: Copy and paste Step 1 into your status update. Share with friends.
Step 3: "Like" your status.
Step 4: Stare at screen waiting for imminent comments and "likes." Respond to each comment with a sad face emoticon and dramatic declarations regarding your exodus.
Step 5: Visit Facebook pages of all friends and acquaintances who have not replied to your status update. Copy and paste Step 1 onto their walls.
Step 6: Stalk your crush, ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend or current love interest's Facebook page one last time. Right click and save any incriminating photographs of loved ones in compromising situations.
Step 7: Google "how to delete your Facebook profile." Learn the difference between deactivating your account (temporary) and permanently deleting it (permanent, no take-backs).
Step 8. Visit the Facebook account deletion page here:
Step 9. Click the "submit" button.
Step 10. Ask yourself, "Are you sure?" Respond accordingly.
Step 11. Take a deep breath. Press "Okay."
Step 12. Rejoin humanity: Call someone on the phone. Regain use of your voice. High-five someone. Give your mom a hug. Enjoy a meal without taking a photo of it, etc.
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