Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Is everyone really as happy as they look on Facebook?

"Hi, I'm being a nice, normal person friend and checking in on you."

I am having a shitty week, no month, no...season; I'm having a shitty summer.  Looking at my personal life from the outside is similar to pulling up next to the scene of an accident 5 minutes after it happens, there's smoke coming from the engine, and you're not sure if the people in the car are even alive.  You think about helping for a minute, but you're scared that if you get too close you might see a decapitated head staring at you, or that the car is going to blow up and claim you as it's next victim; so you just keep driving and feel really glad it isn't you.

One of my good guy friends could tell I was in a funk so he called me to see how I was doing. 

The whole conversation (although well intended on his part) felt a bit obligatory because A) I'm not a phone person and B) I wasn't in the mood to discuss anything unfortunate going on with me.  Because we don't talk much, and he had taken the time to reach out, I felt like blowing him off wouldn't be the right thing to do, so I forced myself to talk.

"Thanks for calling.  I'm going to reward your kindness with horrifying, undeserved judgement because I'm nuts."

Sometimes venting can be energizing, and other times discussing things that are wrong does the opposite; it drains us.  In this case, it was the latter. I filled him in on my recent trials and tribulations, and he was very kind, and nice, and complimentary of me, which all almost felt too perfect.  I thought to myself, enough, "I'm great, I'm fantastic, blah, blah, blah", thank you, except I'm not, I'm wildly imperfect, and right now I'm stressed, and melancholy, and ready to go to bed for at least the next week and a half.

"I am not a good friend and person, you asshole, how dare you!"

(Cue Bad Idea: The part where I decided to compare my friends relationship to mine while I was in a bad mood.  Sometimes I like to learn the hardest way)

I asked him to change the subject and talk about himself, so he did.  We discussed the normal things, what he's been up to, his job, and one other thing.  He has been with a girl for a little over a year now, and it seemed like an appropriate thing to discuss, so I asked how it was going.  I think in that moment I needed to feel some reciprocal sense of chaos, to feel like my life isn't the only one that feels out of control, confusing, or difficult at times.  It was probably unfair of me to expect to solicit a specific response, but in my head that's what I wanted.  I wanted to hear, "You're not the only one going through shit, you're not the only one who doesn't have all the answers, I'm fucked up sometimes too", but that's not what I got.  I got, "Things are really great!" 

"Oh, things are perfect, you love each other every second, and you never ever fight? That's awesome, well la di fucking da, how sweet.  Sometimes my relationship is like that too, and sometimes it's like this, because we've been together for over a year and I'm not a fucking Stepford Wife."

I sensed myself having this ugly reaction inside, that I can't quite explain.  Okay, I can explain it, but I'm not sure I can defend it.  It's not as though I wanted to hear that he was unhappy, he's my friend for Christ Sake, but it didn't feel realistic.  They have been together for about a year, they just moved in together a few months ago; I mean we're friends give me the dirt!  I didn't want him to say it was crashing and burning, but I wanted to hear something that felt more human than, "things are awesome, she's the best."

So I pressed.  I said "Come on, you guys have been dating for a year.  You must have some fears, or doubts, or little arguments.  I know I do, and they suck, but they usually result in something productive, or help us understand one another."  His response was, "No, not really.  One time we got in a fight because she was dieting and it made her moody because she was hungry.  We definitely learned something about dieting.  Hahaha."  I felt my blood starting to boil.

"Boy, she sure was moody that day! Now I make sure I have snacks on hand so we never have to bicker again!"

Are you fucking kidding me? The biggest argument you've ever been in is the equivalent of the fucking Snickers commercial where some guy on a long car ride turns into Aretha Franklin because he needs a snack.  WOW, what is this, 'Leave it to fucking Beaver'???  At this point in the conversation I was feeling like either I'm totally fucked up because I occasionally get in an argument, or he was the world's biggest liar.  And then I felt TERRIBLE for feeling that way.  I'm sitting there thinking, this guy was nice enough to call and be a friend, and now all I can think about is how annoyed I am because he's happy.  That's brilliant, someone just put me in the straight jacket and haul me out of here, because I'm a demented, horrible person.

(Cue WORSE idea: Comparing your relationship or life to people on facebook)

"You're happy, we get it."
I think this speaks to a greater issue we can all relate to though.  Although, I don't know if my friend has really only gotten in 1 fight about some vanilla bullshit issue with his girlfriend, I shouldn't be comparing myself and my relationship to his.  I've never met this girl, there could be a thousand reasons he isn't disclosing things, a few being - he's a boy (no offense, but they aren't usually huge drama dwellers), I've never met her and maybe he doesn't want me to think bad of them,  maybe he just doesn't feel like talking about things like that, or maybe they really have only ever gotten in one "fight."  Whatever the case is, it doesn't serve me at all to compare myself to them.

"Oh really John Smith?  Well guess what I'm in a relationship with?  This carton of ice cream & box of wine, AND IT IS SERIOUS!!"
We see this on facebook all the time, and if you haven't related to anything I've said yet, maybe you will on this.  On social media we see the most edited, spruced up, cropped images of other people's lives.  Nobody* is going to go on a social platform and willingly air the things that aren't right, or could be better in their lives.  Why would they?  Instead we see the highlight reel - the birthday outing, the relationship status, the family gathering, the engagement. Social media can sometimes create a view of other people's lives that feels unattainable, but yet there it is, in spades, happening to almost everyone we know, so how can we separate ourselves from the endless inundation of filtered reality? 
*Almost nobody, there is always that one person on facebook who uncomfortably airs and exaggerates every conceivable drama in their lives for public consumption.

Think about social media like a Selfie fail.  What we see at first glance looks pretty great, but upon closer inspection things are not as perfect as they appear. We have to take the information with a grain of salt, compare it with the evidence we see in real life, and stop holding ourselves to some impossible standard. What your 1,000 FB friends, twitter celebrities, and lifestyle bloggers are leaving out, is the fight they had with their mom, the job they didn't get, or the girl they adore who doesn't want to be more than friends.

I started thinking about my friend for evidence I was not the only idiot who hasn't found out life's cheat codes yet.  He has had plenty of relationships that haven't worked out in the past.  Then I started to think about my best friends, they have tons of shit, good and bad going on in their lives, but if you looked at their FB profile, you'd think they're just hiking mountains, jetsetting to LA, and drinking craft beer all day. Just because the people around us aren't advertising their problems (and might even be doing a bit of work to hide them) doesn't mean they don't exist, myself included. 

"We're fun, fashionable, and constantly having a blast! PS, we don't care what anyone thinks, that's why we took, edited, and posted this picture for you to see."
I have a terrible habit of not being able to feel like I can relate to people who seem too perfect, too happy, too together.  But maybe I am being unfair to them with that assessment.  Maybe if we all admitted we're a little fucked up we'd have a lot more compassion for one another, and ourselves.

"Rainbows, puppies, and best friends forever!"

No comments:

Post a Comment