Picture Courtesy: facebook.coversdaddy.com
One has to hand it to novelist Gore Vidal for his candid quote, “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.” Though most experience it, envy is an emotion people are normally wary of admitting. Call it the art of counting your neighbors blessings instead of your own, but measured in different degrees, most people envy their compatriots: more famous, more paid, more successful, and more intelligent.
And stoking the fires of envy is Zuckerberg’s progeny. Recently a friend confessed that her daughter was troubled after pressing the ‘like’ button on the pictures of her friend vacationing in Mauritius. The girl felt she was missing out on opportunities. Likewise, several others resent their single status because friends regularly upload cozy pictures with partners. The thought, “Why should friends have all the fun?” can be distressing, especially if one keeps up with friends from childhood .
The phenomenon is not restricted to impressionable teens. From what I hear from my son, the bonhomie between batch-mates was under duress when companies started visiting his college for placements. Who got what, and how much, was playing on the status bar. And on most minds!
Psychologists say, “Boasting on social media triggers the same sensation of pleasure as food, money or even sex.” Since self-disclosure is extra rewarding, it can instigate some kind of competition to highlight fun moments and achievements. I have indulged in some generic boasting too. This is not to say that all Facebook users intentionally indulge in a boasting spree. It is the nature of the medium. And also a matter of personal choice!
Some do it inadvertently, some subtly while some blatantly. Bragging may or may not be playing on the mind of a friend who decides to post, “Gosh…There is a long queue for I Phone 5,” or, when a friend innocuously inquires “Anyone in UK this weekend? Shopping at Harrods?”
The question that begs to be asked is: How real is the virtual world? Peel the layers and most are going through some sort of challenging life experience - stressful job, strained relationship, financial crisis, failed marriage, family feud, exam phobia, or health scare. Yet, how many wish to admit and discuss their personal challenges on a public platform? Have you come across a status message which reads, “Fired, Divorced, Abused, Failed or Depressed?”
For one, there will be no ‘Likes’. Fine, some concerned friends will possibly move to the privacy of the message box and inquire, “What happened?” Some will try to cheer by sharing motivational pictures with the message, ‘Never Give Up’. But how many will call to say, “How can I help?” And if they do, thank the Lord for being blessed with such friends.
To my mind, social media is an amazing platform for raising awareness, advertising, keeping up with school friends and venting ire against the establishment. Essentially, it is a platform for the good times. A place for social niceties. Start ‘disliking’ pictures or try being brutally honest and you are sure to be ‘un-friended’ and tossed away in the cyber space. What else can one expect after, “Is this your wife? Now I know why you wanted your marriage to be a private affair,” or “Congratulations on winning the award. I heard you paid your way through.”
Well, in a way, viewing happy status updates and photos of peers having a gala time can make one feel worse about their own life.
The trick is to realize that the greener grass on the other side could be an astro-turf. Like competition, as long as envy inspires, I don’t mind it at all. But add extra dollops and the risk is entirely yours.
(This article has featured in the ‘Young Adult’ section of the newspaper ‘Friday Gurgaon’ dated 28 September 2012.)