For many of us, we often find ourselves beginning our days by reading through our Facebook wall noticing all the fun things people around us (or at least in our virtual world) are doing. People are attending little league and major league baseball games, going on vacations, sharing fun pictures from family gatherings or simply while relaxing at home, and their latest travel updates. And in case you were wondering, of course we want to see your latest food creation, completed DIY Pinterest-approved project, an hour-by-hour visual of your day, including a sweaty picture of yourself posing with your treadmill, and all of those pictures of your kids. Without going any further, I will admit that I am definitely guilty of these things too!
It is interesting that although we have not seen many of our “friends” in some time, we are very up to date on all the on-goings in their lives. Is this virtual voyeurism? Or, how can we not be? It seems as though this is the main tool of connection we have among us, and it does allow us to see people we do not have the opportunity to see every day due to distance, circumstances, and time constraints. Why is this bad? Well, it’s not really, but it is a little ironic that as we become more connected in our virtual world, the less connected we might be in our real world. For some, this might be a good thing. After all, we like our identity we have created online, but, this can have consequences too. There has been a term in the media for some time now called “FOMO”, referring to the Fear of Missing Out. For a lot of us, we feel the need to check our Facebook wall first thing in the morning, experiencing some anxiety until we are caught up from anything we have potentially missed overnight. This is especially important if you have friends overseas with a completely different time zone. We definitely need to see what they ate dinner last night and who they were with. In addition to the frequency in checking out our news feed, we can also feel some negative emotions, such as frustration, sadness, or inadequacy, when looking at others’ lively posts and our lowly timeline wall. For some, we may just post those superficial “look at me, I’m really having fun!” pictures that do not really share a true depiction of our day.
When we evaluate our social media participation, we need to maintain awareness that seeing is not believing. This can occur when you look at everyone else’s adventures and begin to feel as though you do not have the best things, have as much fun, or look as good as everyone else. This can extend to your kids or family as well: While it seems as though everyone else’s kids are well-behaved, fun-loving, achievement-driven, or simply charming 100% of the time, we might experience our own kids’ meltdowns and wonder why they cannot behave as we perceive others behaving. Are those parents not having a tough time ever?!
Before we get too negative about social media, there are many positives: It is a great place to share and receive information, see what others are up to, and a way to feel part of a group from the comfort of your home or laptop. But, we need to be aware of social media boundaries. That is, being sure to stay connected in your real life without being consumed with your online life and keeping in mind that for most people, they are likely to mostly post the good going on. Just like we need to maintain a buffer when viewing the magazine industry’s constant Photoshop effects, we need to remind ourselves that what we see is not reality, just virtual reality!