Have you ever felt a little envious of a friend’s fantastic vacation or your neighbor’s new car? It’s OK if you have. Jealousy and envy are natural emotions. Everyone feels them from time to time.
But thanks to social media, we are in an era when some people are overcome with envy because the Internet bombards us with beautiful images from the remarkable lives of our friends, co-workers, and even fringe acquaintances.
Recent studies show a connection between social media use and conditions such as mood swings, anxiety, and even depression. There are questions about whether social media use leads to these conditions or people with the conditions intensify their feelings through overexposure to social media. Either way, the situation is alarming.
It was disturbing beyond words to see that four teens tortured and verbally abused a young man with special needs on Facebook Live. The girl who was broadcasting the shocking event had the nerve to turn the camera on herself and ask followers why they weren’t posting comments. I was truly gutted seeing this. Her desire for affirmation and attention outweighed her sense of human dignity and compassion.
THE RESULTS ARE IN
I recall about seven years ago I was enjoying a lovely glass of port with my friend Dr. Martin Seligman at his home in Pennsylvania. Marty is a psychologist, a self-help book author, and a promoter of the “positive psychology” theory within the scientific community. I asked him how he thought Facebook would change humans. Marty said it was too early to tell. The platform hadn’t been around long enough for us to know.
I look forward to my next conversation with Marty because clearly we now have enough data.
Like most of you, I joined Facebook and Twitter early on as a way to stay in touch with friends and family. It was a lark to see what folks were up to and to see which one of my old buddies had the most chins. I say that with love by the way. Because depending on the season, sometimes I’m the guy with the most chins.
Now social media is big business and, sadly, it has become a place where many humans go to seek validation. It’s a place where users feel sad when the most recent picture they posted doesn’t get enough likes or positive comments. For them, chasing likes and comments is like a drug, and they always need another hit.
Please don’t think you need to behave like that. By all means, you should share what’s going on in your world. We’re all in this life together, and it’s important to connect with others. But having said that, you don’t need pseudo friends or complete strangers on a social media platform to validate you as a human being. Your real friends and family are who matter.
If you catch yourself having social envy for even a few seconds, please try to focus on something else. Having those envious feelings for just five seconds can imprint on your subconscious.
And remember you are seeing only a small slice of that other person’s life. Most people choose to share a narrow, curated version of their reality. Everyone struggles on some level. If you still feel like you somehow don’t measure up, then I suggest taking time away from social media and spending it with friends and family who love you for being the beautiful, individual soul you are. It’s far more rewarding to hang out with people in real life. Eat, drink, laugh, play games – just enjoy life together.
Personally, I have always viewed social platforms as a great place where I can share positivity. I was thrilled to gain access to these channels because they gave me a bigger soapbox to share my love for life. They provided additional outlets for inspiring people to think more positively and to hopefully help them as they may be going through dark times.
I’m careful with my posts. My goal is never to make anyone feel envious of my life or me. I only want to encourage other people to be the best version of themselves, to work hard, and to give back. If Facebook were a box of donuts, I would consider myself to be the jelly donut – the one with the yummy, sweet center.
Facebook has been very good to me. It provided me with introductions to some peers in the food industry I might never have had the good fortune to meet otherwise. I have developed professional relationships and friendships. Through these connections, I’ve made new friends, offered help when I can, and encouraged other chefs to follow their dreams.
That’s what social media is all about from my perspective.
If one thing sticks with you after reading this post, I want it to be that you should always be you. Don’t measure yourself by someone else’s definition of happiness or success. Be authentic and associate only with people who appreciate and support the real you. Do that, and you will be on the road to finding joy, happiness, and contentment.
PARTING THOUGHT: It is so important for all of us to be aware of the signs of depression. Depression is an awful illness that can lead to suicide. If you see a post from someone who is crying out for help or love, please be there for that person. You never know if you may be the one to stop them from doing something drastic. Learn more in this post from Dr. Norman Rosenthal, MD.