We live in a world where other people’s happiness becomes an indication of what is missing in our own lives.
Comparison is the cause of all misery. If you have no benchmark to compare your life to, you will never know if it is good or bad. I recently read that the millennials are now addicted to their smartphones and are always plugged into the world of social media. The virtual image and positioning matters as much to them than their real selves, sometime even more.
The purpose of this article is to share with you another perspective of human psychology and not to belittle its importance and utility. Just like any other tool, social media’s utility also depends upon the way it is used. Imagine before the social media days, your reference points or benchmarks of human achievement came from family members, friends or news. Usually the news was right and it could be verified if necessary.
In today’s time, every individual on social media is sharing updates on his or her life. Have you ever noticed that most of the personal updates that people share on social media are about the ‘peak’ or ‘best’ experiences of their lives? And sometimes, the update is not even true and people are pretending to present a positive picture of their life. We live in a world where other people’s happiness becomes an indication of what is missing in our own lives. And when we think too much about what is missing in our life very often we find it and it is accompanies with the guest called unhappiness.
You may or may not be happy about the success of people on your social network, but their achievements always make you question about if your life is getting better or not. While earlier you had access to lives of only your close friends and family members but now you have access to the lives of hundreds and thousands of people on your virtual network. There is always going to be someone better, faster, smarter, richer or more successful than you are. It is human nature to share the news that gets you compliments and to hide the updates that share your weakness and stupidity. How people want to be perceived virtually matters more to them than their physical reality.
What people share and what they never share
1. Promotion and international transfer news: People share updates of promotion they got and international assignments that came their way. If your work does not bring you too many promotions and international assignments, you will feel unhappy. There may be nothing wrong with your job but now your aspiration have increased. However, people do not post about the delay in promotions and bad fights with their bosses as that will position them as weak personalities.
2. Placement and job change update: When your college friends get the desired placement, everyone rejoices on the outside but not many people are really happy from the outside. Likewise, when people get a fantastic new job offer they share an update but they will never share an update if they have been passed on for promotion. It makes you think that most people in your network are succeeding, while you are stagnating.
3. Marriage or relationship news: People post their wedding pics and dating pictures on social media to share how well their relationships are going. However, they will never post the daily fights and arguments they get into. They all want to show they are the most loving spouse or most loved spouse on the face of entire planet. It is important to work on the relationship before you work on its social acceptance. I recently counselled a girl who wanted to make sure that she and her boyfriend looked compatible in a selfie before they can even think of getting married. And the funny part is the people in relationship do a lot of public display of affection on social media and when things do not work, they go on hibernation.
4. Vacation updates: Another pattern that we notice is the holiday and international business trip check-ins. Social media will show their airport check-ins for catching an international flight but it will not show their daily drudgery. Out of your social media friends, some will always be on a vacation and that might make you feel that your life is not a very happening one.
5. Ostentatious behaviour: Nobody notices you unless you are rich, famous or good-looking or all of them. People go to any extent to get likes on social media. Their communication and experiences are nothing but highly exaggerated versions of a simple event. When regular updates do not get them the desired attention, they increase the intensity of expression just like humans who want to be heard in a crowded space start talking loudly. They give birth to an attention-seeking monster in them and it is always hungry for more attention. Till the time their life circumstances support, it works but the moment life events take an unexpected turn they find it difficult to maintain the reputation they created.
6. The flood of opinions: I recently went to a typical Indian street market, and I realised that every vendor was shouting at the top of his lungs. I could hear some of them once a while but it was clearly a very cacophonous atmosphere. Social media is somewhat similar too, where every account holder is offering an opinion to those who will give him or her attention. Social media has transformed every account holder into an expert who thinks that their opinion matters. They give advice to people who are not even present on their social media network.
7. A world of distraction: People usually spend 3-4 hours every day on their smartphones and most of it is spent not at a stretch but in little chunks of time in the middle of work or conversations. I have seen employees fiddling with their smartphones during business and team meetings. In the long run, they lose the ability to concentrate on any work without taking a social media break. This does immense irreparable damage to their productivity and calmness quotient. People spend hours in the virtual world of gaming and chatting.
I use social media too, but only as a marketing tool to reach out to people and make them aware of my work. My profession is a very public in nature but ask yourself if your profession too requires exposure to social media or can you cut down on its consumption and spend the same time to improve your personal and professional relationship. I do not ask you to believe my words but I do ask you to evaluate them before you reject them for being false and label me as a hypocrite.