My friend Kristina said that she deleted Facebook because it made her depressed. Amen, sister, I thought. I hear that. But then she continued to say that it upset her to see all the sad things that happened to people. One of her friends had recently lost their newborn baby, and she found out about it through an eloquently written letter he wrote to all his friends on Facebook. She felt that there was too much sadness in the world and that she couldn’t handle scrolling down her feed and observing it all.
I have also debated getting rid of Facebook. But my reasons were the complete opposite of hers. I actually didn’t find that many people in my network posted about their misfortunes. It feels like my feed has exclusively happy, successful people who never experience even the most minor of setbacks. When I scroll, all I see is weddings, babies, travel photos and promotions.
On Easter weekend here in Ontario it was still winter. Yet, when I went on Facebook, everyone I knew from BC was camping, sailing or skiing. The striking blue skies and ocean backdrops in photos just made me homesick. All the pictures of family Easter egg hunts and ham dinners didn’t help. I was alone on the other side of the country from my family, stuck in an endless cold spell. I felt incredibly lonely and depressed.
At the end of Easter weekend, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I couldn’t bring myself to delete the account completely, but at least not having the app would make it harder for me to get non-stop updates on how much more fun the rest of the world was doing.
When I Kristina told me why she had deleted her account, it made me wonder. How come Facebook makes me feel bad about myself, when it makes Kristina feel bad for other people? Am I more self-involved and less empathetic than she is? Or do her friends simply experience more misfortune? Perhaps we just notice different things. I’m sure we must see similar types of updates on Facebook but the positive ones stand out to me while the negative ones stand out for her.
Oddly, I find hearing about other people’s misfortunes to be comforting. This is why I like websites like PostSecret where people mail in painful confessions. Don’t even get me started on So Sad Today. Realizing that other people also face insecurities, heartache and tragedies makes me feel more connected to humanity. Although I am often happy, I don’t find that this emotion is one that makes me feel connected to others. I don’t look at the photo of someone’s university graduation and think, wow, I’ve felt like that too. That content, proud, accomplished feeling – I have had it on occasion too. Yet, if I hear about someone feeling alone in the world, or like their understanding of the universe no longer makes sense to them, I think – Oh I get that. That sucks but I get it. I’ve been there.
I know that everyone’s life isn’t better than mine the way it looks on Facebook. I know not everyone has it together and that I have a rich, full life that I should be thankful for. Yet, as another friend once put it “It’s hard to be happy for people”. I wish I didn’t find it easier to share in others people’ misery than celebrate their happiness. But I do. Facebook reminds me of the things that I don’t have and how I’m not always the person I want to be.