Of all the ways social media can be bad for you, one of the worst, according to science, is the ability of Facebook and the like to induce envy. You see your friends posting smiling selfies at exotic destinations and humblebragging about their professional and personal accomplishments, and you end up thinking your own life doesn't measure up.
Of course, intellectually we all know that our real life selves and our highly curated online selves differ hugely, but it's still easy to fall into the trap of letting other people's perfect social-media profiles convince you that you're somehow falling short. An emotional and revealing new Twitter thread should explode that worry for good.
The grass really, really isn't greener.
im curious. if youre comfortable doing so, post a picture of you that you shared on social media where you were actually having a really tough time in life even tho you look perfectly fine in the picture.-- Tracy Boomeisha-Ann Clayton (@brokeymcpoverty) July 11, 2018
Apparently, she hit a nerve, as responses poured in. People shared a torrent of posts about the reality behind seemingly cheerful vacation snaps, glamorous selfies, smiling family portraits, and sports triumphs. Happy-looking couples confessed to fighting moments before the photo, while others bravely told of the mental health issues they were hiding in their smiling posts. Here's a sampling:
Me on the right, a little over four years ago. I was mega suicidal. pic.twitter.com/SKWsBuV7kY-- slut puppy (@kkmcswain) July 11, 2018
this was circa the height of Michael Brown's murder. I was extremely lonely in a pred. white city miles away from my fam and the only POC in my grad school cohort. everyone was oblivious to the current events. and I had like $2 in my account and had been regularly skipping meals. pic.twitter.com/egtkw6e2uN-- Super Eagles Fan Account (@tdouble_u) July 12, 2018
This is a fabulous prompt.-- Jessica Langer, PhD (@DrJessicaLanger) July 11, 2018
This photo is of me and my daughter (now almost 9) as a baby. I hadn't slept in months and had RAGING postpartum anxiety. I loved her but mostly wanted to run away. I was tired and angry and scared all the time.
Life's amazing now tho. As is she. pic.twitter.com/HDOAbvXoOY
Friend's wedding. Both those smiles are fake because we'd been fighting. I still cringe seeing my body language in the photo. I remember feeling guilty that our other friends would know and that we'd be a distraction from a happy and important day. pic.twitter.com/mFsni7ZZAI-- Whitney Adkins (@littlewhits) July 11, 2018
Took this on a solo road trip, during one of the more major depressive episodes of my adult life. It was a relatively good trip, during which I spent a lot of time crying alone in my car/motel room. pic.twitter.com/BqyxKdo2Mb-- Jennifer Marmor (@jmarms) July 11, 2018
These posts obviously testify to the courage of those who shared them. They also speak volumes about our yearning for genuine human connection and authenticity, even at the cost of potential embarrassment. But on a less personal level, the sheer scale of the response to Clayton's tweet is a useful reminder that what you see on social media bears basically no resemblance to people's actual lives.
Remember that next time you're feeling bad after comparing yourself to something you've seen online. Or even let this torrent of truth motivate you to consider scaling back your social media for good. Science suggests you'll be happier for ditching a habit proven to induce envy, disconnection, and loneliness.
Have you ever posted a happy pic online to mask your real-life suffering?