I’m sorry! I have a big apology to make to my Facebook followers, but I swear. It wasn’t my fault. One recent Saturday night as I enjoyed a medley by the band Old Dominion in Nashville (amazing town if you love any kind of music), a glitch with an update to my website caused a frenzy of blog-posting to my Facebook page. I noticed that followers were liking some really old posts and the next morning when I checked my feed on my smartphone I was shocked to see all the blogs flung there. Perusing Facebook that night, followers would have had the notion I was one busy girl indeed: starting a blog, honouring the anniversary of my late husband’s death, stuck in a snowstorm and building houses for Habitat for Humanity in the Philippines. All while in Nashville enjoying country music! Yee-haw!
Which goes to show. What happens on social media isn’t always an accurate reflection of real life. Or, as Jamie Friedlander, writing for success.com in Why Social Media is Ruining Your Self-Esteem – and How to Stop It, says, “May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook.”
Do you pretend to have an awesome life? On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat? Or do you actually have an awesome life?
I’m so old that once upon a time my life – awesome, mediocre, bad or downright ugly – happened without the ability to record it 24/7 and share it with dear, near or distant friends for consumption and comparison. It’s normal to look at others, to see how we stack up, a thing psychologist Leon Festinger referred to as “social comparison theory” in the 1950s. But what’s always changing, rapidly, are the technologies that permit us to do so, which in turn, no doubt, affects us psychologically. I mean, right this minute you can sneak a peak into countless lives at the touch of a finger, almost anywhere, anytime. Which also gives you the opportunity to feel like shit, slothing there with your chips and ratty sweats, while being assaulted by the rock hard (are they even real?) abs of that fitness guru you follow on Instagram. Why do you even follow her? Geez. Unfollow. Stat.
A recent Doctor on Demand survey of 1,009 U.S. moms with kids found that nearly half of moms admit they’re jealous seeing other moms’ lives on social media. Why? Because they’re comparing themselves to edited versions of other mom’s lives. Says Friedlander in that success.com article, “Now we compare ourselves to perfectly crafted (and sometimes exaggerated) representations of people’s lives, without seeing the engagement ring that doesn’t fit, the sunburn while surfing in Costa Rica, the less-than-stellar salary at the new job or the anxiety that comes with having a newborn baby. We see exactly what they want us to see.”
I think all of it, like anything, is good in moderation, yes? And with proper awareness? When I first got on Facebook – so late to the game I know – a few years ago what impressed me about it were pretty ordinary things like some really interesting friend connections, discovering that my brother was in Iceland (he hadn’t told me he was going) and, sadly, that I needed to get my butt to another friend’s dad’s funeral.
What we don’t want to do is get addicted to our smartphones and our social media, right? Right?!
I know it’s hard for my kids – who’ve never had a landline – and future generations, like my grandkids, who had the finger swipe down by the age of 2. Addiction lurks. Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, posits that smartphones are the new cigarettes, in his blog titled, well, Smartphones Are the New Cigarettes. Just as smoking harms the lungs of those around us, smartphones harm the attention and focus of those around us. “It hijacks our senses,” Manson writes. Conversation is interrupted. Are we here, in the real world? Or are we there, in cyberspace? My husband B and I have had disagreements about this, to the point where I never take my phone off vibrate anymore. The ping of an incoming text was too much for me, I guess. I’m like Pavlov’s dog, salivating, needing to respond immediately. I tried to make the argument, well, remember back when the phone used to ring? A person would get up and answer it? But the problem with the smartphone? It’s so much more than a phone and it’s with you all of the time. There’s no break from it, unless you forget it somewhere. Or break it.
And these constant hits of information – important, mundane or otherwise? Not healthy. Says Manson, “There’s evidence that suggests that we are doing long-term harm to our memories and attention spans.” Like the man walking down the street in Paul Simon’s song You Can Call Me Al, we’re all going to end up with “a short little span of attention”.
“To be happy and healthy,” says Manson, “we need to feel as though we are in control of ourselves and we are utilizing our abilities and talents effectively. To do that we must be in control of our attention.”
Control. That’s key. Hanging with my granddaughters over the weekend, at one point Simone, almost 5, was asserting herself, as usual. Her sister, Naomi, 3-1/2, said, “Gia (that’s what they call me). Simone doesn’t always get to be the boss. Sometimes you can be the boss.”
Your smartphone? Not always as smart as its name suggests. And not human! All of the time, you get to be the boss.
Website picture: my granddaughter Simone, Superhero, in control.