Saturday, August 29, 2015

Does Facebook Need More Misery?

Does Facebook need more misery?

This has been on my mind a lot lately.

As I’ve been trying to deal with my bouts of depression these past few months, Facebook (and social media in general) has been a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, it’s been a great way to share my darkest feelings and get support from friends. On the other, I’ve also felt as if I’ve been burdening others by putting negative energy in the newsfeed.

 This conflict, I think, exists on some level for a lot of people.

There’s an unspoken rule on Facebook that sharing too much negativity is taboo and that posting a status that reveals or alludes to a darker personal issue is simply attention seeking.

Personal problems should be kept personal, talked about in private or among close friends in a closed online setting like messages, email or Skype. 

These attitudes were what kept me in the past from sharing many of my problems online and they’re understandable.

Sharing too many personal issues online does get grating. It’s tiring to see that negativity in your newsfeed.

Yet at the same time I think there’s also a danger in allowing too much positive energy.

What do I mean by that?

Well, social media has a powerful emotional effect on people.

As much as we like to think that Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram are separate worlds from our ‘real life’ deep down we all know that what happens online is just as important as what we do in the office, at home or in the grocery store.

Our selves, for better and worse, are intimately connected to social media and the line between our day to day lives and what we do in cyberspace is increasingly blurry.

If you’re a millennial, this is especially true.

The younger you are, the more your feelings, attitudes and sense of self-worth are going to be informed by your online personas.

Now, you might say: ‘Okay, so doesn’t that mean we should focus on sharing positive or non-negative items so that we avoid bringing ourselves and others down?’  

 Well, in my opinion, no not necessarily.

Much like in ‘real life’ the unspoken rule about not being open about our miseries causes more problems than not.

For someone who struggles with depression, bipolar, loneliness, social anxiety or another issue social media is sometimes the only outlet they have for sharing their misery

Again this is especially true if you’re a teenager who’s practically been raised from the crib with a device in your hand.

If you’re wrestling with personal monsters the constant barrage of selfies, personal accomplishments, funny memes and self-aggrandizing updates makes it that much harder to open up both online and in person.

The fact that most people predominantly share good news about themselves, creates a false impression that everyone you know is in a better place than you and that no one else can relate to what you’re going through.

Essentially, it’s the iceberg effect. With social media, we almost always see the tip of the person floating above the water not the much larger, deeper part that’s beneath the surface.

Most of us know this. However, we’re human beings and that means what we know doesn’t always match up with what we feel.

Even if we know that the doctored Instagram images of Susie with her smiling baby don’t represent the hours of tantrums, dirty nappies and sleepless nights that come we parenting all we see is the smiling picture and that clouds our minds.  

The same can be said of Molly’s vacation to Spain, which no doubt was earned with hours of tedious paperwork and years of being unable to take long vacations.

Because of this, and because we are so intimately familiar with our own shortcomings and faults we bottle ourselves up.

 So what to do? If anything? 

Well, as I said before sharing every single difficulty is not warranted. Disputes with another person, no. Venting constantly about how awful work is, yeah probably not.

However, deeper issues I actually think are worth sharing. Deep personal misery, uncertainty in yourself, the fact that you aren’t as strong as you are at a moment are just as much a part of life as our happiest triumphs.

Sharing our miseries and uncertainties openly allows others to know they are not alone. It allows others to understand that most of us have similar or identical insecurities.

And when we do achieve something, the fact that we’ve been able to overcome the darker periods of our lives makes our accomplishments even grander.

I’m sure there are certain aspects of this issue I have overlooked or haven’t discussed.

However, ultimately I think adding a bit more serious, self-reflective and self-questioning updates about ourselves has more benefits than detriments.

If nothing else, the least we can do is know we aren’t the only ones who hide our miseries behind a smiling profile picture.


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