A while back, I read this article titled Instagram’s Envy Effect. The author writes of the negative effects of social media: the comparisons, the jealousy, the flat out depression it can dredge up. She writes,
“…it only takes one friend at the Eiffel Tower to make you feel like a loser.”
I’ve completely been there. (Most of my envy issues center around those grainy ultrasound pictures.) At the time the article came out, I posted the link on my Facebook page because I thought it was so relevant; the comments from my commiserating friends rolled in.
Everyone can relate. Everyone gets jealous. Everyone ponders the greener grass as seen through the lens of social media postings.
It’s been over a year since this article was first posted and it’s stuck with me. I’ve thought about it when I scowl
stick out my tongue at the endless feeds of baby bellies. I still think the author makes a completely valid point. I still agree with her. BUT I have also come to think that posting our pictures of edited life can actually be a GOOD thing.
So, in order to explain this I have to first admit to you that I am a perfectionist. Except, if you’ve met me… ever… at all… it isn’t really a secret I need to admit. (Is now an appropriate time to plug the benefits of therapy? Of course it is. It is ALWAYS an appropriate time to plug therapy!) My therapist calls it performance mentality: I judge myself based upon how well I’m performing. At anything. I’m talking, like, I want to be perfect all the time. I totally hear that it sounds super conceited when I say that, but it is more of this obsessive thing- I’m failing at life if I’m failing at anything. I’m not alone in this right? RIGHT?! I’m not.
The sad reality of my day to day is that *deep sigh* I will never be perfect. So the crap effect is that I’m constantly evaluating the ways in which I’m flunking at being a mom, being a teacher, being a wife, working out, washing my face, recycling, cooking, BREATHING. (You can see how the whole failure in getting-a-baby-to-be-in-my-belly thing has brought up some issues beyond just wanting more kids…)
On the one hand, seeing all the ways in which others are seemingly achieving the perfection I can’t attain through their posts and their pictures and their comments is pretty awful. It is definitely the Instagram Envy Effect.
On the OTHER hand, when social media calls for us to post our lives in the best possible light, we rise to the occasion. When I look over my feed, I see:
- autumn hayrides- Ryan, Isaac, and I bright eyed and grinning
- a beach picture from the time Isaac and I went on a last minute trip to the lake over the summer and we ate bunny crackers laced with gritty sand bits
- a video of Isaac heavily debating over which Christmas cookie to eat after having decorated them at a party with some of my closest female friends and their kids- women I see weekly who support me with a genuine, faith-based love
- the picture of my parents who took Isaac to the Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade while I stayed home and relaxed with Ryan and my inlaws who I truly really love being around
- my dog and my son posing next to a snowman we built on a snow day, on the steps of a home I feel rested and whole in
You know what I DON’T see? The times I overreacted to Isaac’s mistakes, the times I worked on lesson plans too long trying to make them perfect when I should have been spending time with my family, the times I reacted rashly in a disagreement with Ryan, the times I tanked a lesson at school and felt like an utter and complete failure.
I DON’T NEED TO SEE THAT JUNK BECAUSE IT ALREADY FESTERS IN MY MIND FOR AGES LONGER THAN IT SHOULD.
I need the chance to rise up and look down. Social media does have the potential to make us pit ourselves against each other. I recognize that. But on the flip side, it gives me a breather from the negativity I have to battle every day in my head. It MAKES me recognize that things are okay, things are good, things are beautiful. Like an alter ego, I can post the pictures of my family choosing the perfect Christmas tree to cut down and, like no small miracle, it can replace the memory of us postponing the trip for a week because the weekend before we were all so crabby with each other that even Christmas spirit couldn’t overcome the funk. This, here:
THIS is the social media silver lining.