Distress: Three Ways to Keep Facebook—and Your Life—in Perspective
Here are 3 ways to keep yourself from spiraling when you OD on FB:
1. Know your triggers. We all have them, and Facebook can’t take the credit. It’s just one big button-pusher. If you’re unhappily single, pictures of lovey couples may make you want to vomit. If you’re unemployed, seeing a post about someone’s recent promotion will make you churn in angst. If you see someone you never really liked having a great time in St. Bart’s, the universe becomes suddenly unfair (by the way, you should really hide some of those feeds). Facebook reflects back to you not just what other people are doing, after all, but your own feelings about yourself and what you feel or fear you are lacking.
My sister, who consumes FB as a way of life, says that things were rockiest online when she was going through a breakup. “I not only had to unfriend him, but all his friends too so I wouldn’t see him tagged in any photos, otherwise I was constantly reminded of how he was going on happily without me,” she recalls.
>>Set some rules. If your jealousy wire gets tripped easily and often, then you should limit how often you check—and WHEN. If 10pm on a Sunday is not a happy time for you, then that’s when you should read something else, like a book.
2. Facebook is a fun-house mirror.
Facebook is not a reflection of reality; it’s a warped, carnival view of how people want their lives to look and be. Meaning: It’s highly curated and shows you only what other people want you to know, and more likely, what they want you to think about them—that they’re: funny, brave, lovable, sexy, snarky, and so on. It doesn’t mean they aren’t these things of course, but let’s just say that no one puts anything into a Facebook filter that they don’t want to look better.
>> Keep a critical eye and a light heart. To judge your own life by the FB-ready versions you see online is a recipe for despair. Remind yourself that every single post is—literally—saying, “like me.” So, go ahead—like them. Throw digital high-fives everywhere and engage in the fun part—which is, at its best, a community of people really trying to make sense of what they’re doing and who they are. Keep that perspective and you can share without self-loathing.
3. Facebook is a magnifying glass—and a litmus test.
Your reactions to what you see on Facebook are anything but objective. Because if you’re seething with anger after a post by someone you barely knew in college, chances are, this has nothing to do with him; it has to do with you. Resist the temptation to make huge sweeping assumptions about other people’s lives or to cast yourself in the role of Miserable Outsider. There’s not a person in your newsfeed, not one, who isn’t unhappy about something right now, who hasn’t been frustrated in the past week, or isn’t achingly lonely from time to time. They’re just not posting a picture about it.
>>Evaluate your choices. Rather than worry that other people’s posts are making you unhappy, or that you aren’t “winning” whatever race you think you’re in, look to the choices you’re making in your actual life right now, because therein lies the real issue. Note I said choices—because if you start believing you’re the victim of circumstance, it’s all over.
Lastly, remember that Facebook was not designed to be a divine oracle; it’s supposed to be fun. It’s your own personalized tabloid news feed, except it’s people spreading gossip about themselves. Which in itself is laughable. Keep that in mind and you’ll be just fine