My brother had a milestone birthday in December. I struggled with what to get him because, truly, what do you get for someone who already has it all or can get it all? I decided to throw him a surprise “pre-milestone” party and, as a gift, a “memory book.” I asked his closest friends to send me pictures and stories of their favorite memories with my brother. I compiled them into this scrapbook to give him at the party.
What I realized when looking at these pictures with the captions and the stories his friends sent, I was starting to compare my life with his. I was starting to experience pings of envy, even though I have my own epic memories.
In a sense, this reminded of a common phenomenon known as “Facebook Envy.” It’s when we compare ourselves, our lives, our haves and have-nots, with what we see on this social media outlet. Some individuals start having thoughts relating to how their life is not like what they see from others and this comparison may trigger thoughts relating to “less than,” “not deserving,” “What’s wrong with me,” which subsequently may lead to feelings of sadness/depression, anxiety or stress. Studies (see Krasnova, Hanna, et al., 2013 and Chen, Wenhong, and Kye-Hyoung Lee, 2013) for example, while results are mixed, suggest that this not as uncommon as you may think. In fact, you may have experienced it yourself. So what is one to do if you experience this? Here are three suggestions:
- Recognize that Facebook posts milliseconds of peoples’ lives. We generally don’t know how many hours they may put at their jobs (I have yet to see posts of people sitting at their desks, working); or about the arguments and disagreements right before the picture, or about the financial struggles surrounding that vacation.
- Ban yourself from Facebook for a period of time or from certain feeds. You can block receiving notifications and control what you see.
- Take a look at what this may be telling you about your own life. Maybe you want to increase your friendships, engage in fun activities or have epic memories. What small steps will propel you in that direction? You’ve created your own Facebook space, now fill it up with things that make you happy and content with your life. Bonus: Gratitude for what you have can alleviate some of that envy. There is nothing to stop you from having realistic goals and posting it on Facebook.