As a part of the “Facebook generation,” we’ve all witnessed the evolution of social media. Remember the good old days? The web used to be a safe haven for bad poetry and teenage angst (see also: Livejournal). Facebook used to be about coy, weird Internet flirting (see also: the long-neglected “interested in” feature). But these days, social media is for vacation pictures, and what you’re listening to on Spotify, and how your newborn is adapting to solid foods. And since we’re all plugged in to our so-called “friends’” lives 24/7, I have to ask the big taboo question: why is it that everyone out there is doing so much better than I am?
Friend Y (a distant acquaintance in college…) is planning his fairytale wedding. Friend X (someone I met at the gym…) is looking super adorable in all those photos from her backpacking trip across Asia. Friend Z just won a coveted writing award, and Friend W is in a new television series, and Friend Q’s hot new SO looks like Ryan Gosling, and the list of petty feels-like-injuries goes on and on. So, how to avoid the jealousy? The burning FOMO when confronted with other peoples’ success? In a nutshell: have more self-confidence. But for those of us who can’t follow easy advice, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting Facebook and ilk out of your head.
STEP ONE (Seems obvious, but…): GET OFF OF FACEBOOK.
If you’re addicted to social media, attempt cold turkey. You won’t spend so much (wasted) time comparing yourself to other people if you don’t make a habit of scrolling through all their photos like a lunatic. Tomorrow, attempt to monitor how often you check Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and the length of your visits. If the number shocks you, halve your quota the next day. Get rid of the apps on your phone. Better yet, find some cool other blog (such as HelloGiggles, wink wink nudge nudge) to consider your quick-fix when a real, live conversation goes stale. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised at how little happens on Facebook when you aren’t there – it’s kind of like the ‘tree falls in a forest’ thing. You’re also going to save so much brainspace, for things like Russian Literature and back episodes of Cosmos. FOMO is ridiculous, and you’re better than that.
STEP TWO: Take Stock!
Remember that a lot of social media is about how things look. Yes, your buddy on Instagram consistently makes your mouth water with well-lit pictures of homemade gourmet goodies…but then again, she’s a caterer and a professional food photographer. More likely than not, your life doesn’t look as interesting in pictures because the bulk of it isn’t designed to be photographed. That’s a good thing.
But in case you need a physical reminder of what’s so groovy in your own personal day-to-day, invest in a Kodak throwaway camera and spend the weekend taking pictures of all the mundane things you find lovely. Friends at lunch! A particularly well-decorated corner of your apartment! Your cat! Get these pictures developed and framed and DON’T SHOW THEM TO STRANGERS. They are just for you. Rejoice in the private little things you find beautiful – then you’re no longer kowtowing to the Internet’s constant demand for one-upmanship.
STEP THREE: Vet Your Friends (Mean, but…)
How many of these so-called “friends” on Facebook are people you see at least once a month? Or, rephrased: how many of these so-called “friends” on Facebook are people you’d like to see at least once a month? I’m one of those users who’s gathered a thousand plus friends since the fateful day in 2008 when I started my Second Life – and I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but that seems a little ridiculous given the fact that I’m a practicing hermit with maybe nine close buds.
If you make a habit of friending strangers or friends-of-friends, cut that business out! If there are whole swathes of people on your feed who you met once at a party and don’t plan to see ever again, subtly remove them from your cache. It’s not mean, it’s just an exercise in diminishing background noise. And hey – 10 strangers deleted is 10 more beautiful wedding photos you won’t have to sigh at.
STEP FOUR: Well, Don’t Be SO Hard On Yourself…
Okay, okay. We’re all human. Before there was Facebook, there were e-mail blasts; before there were e-mail blasts, there were calling cards and probably passive-aggressive letters tossed here and there by carrier pigeon. Envy made its way onto the ancient Christian no-no list because people have been obsessive for a long, long time. If you require more recent proof, The Independent published a study certifying our greatest fears: a team of Norwegian scientists sought to answer the question, ‘are your [Facebook] friends really richer, happier and more popular than you?’ The way it feels like they are? Through some circuitous logic and hard statistics, the Norwegian scientists turned up an answer: yes.
So, yes: your jealousy is verified. Yes, there are people doing better than you out in the world. Yes, there are parties happening that you’re not invited to and great awards being lavished on the meanies you didn’t like in elementary school. You will look at their pictures sometimes. You will be confronted with their success. But just remember: it’s their success. ‘Better’ is a relative state. Your success will not look like another person’s.
If anything, try to channel the sight of all your social media friends’ great times into personal inspiration. So you’re not on an awesome vacation – plan your own. So you don’t always look super cute in selfies – have a personal, dramatic photo shoot in your bedroom. It’s easy to stop comparing yourself to other people once you fully believe in the idea that we’re not quite comparable, none of us.
STEP FIVE: Go Outside. (Because “boredom” is NOT an excuse)
Likewise self-explanatory, but so often overlooked. Do you live in a city? Go outside. Do you have a car? Drive it somewhere. When we get busy and frustrated and the weather gets hot, it’s easy to sit around licking our wounds in the AC. But make time to go outside, and talk to actual humans. Then, compare the real world to the Internet. Take deep breaths in a park somewhere. Make a grand, silly plan at a cafe you’ve never been to. Don’t let yourself get bored. Oh, and those successful Internet buds of yours? Consider the fact that they either a) spent enough time off the internet to do fun-looking things in the real world or b) spent a lot of time on the Internet attempting to make their real lives look fun. Either way you slice it, outside is where the fun is. Turn off your phone and go there. The Internet is taking up your precious waking seconds with its tomfoolery.
Because when you worry about FOMO, consider what you’re really “missing out” on: You Time. Faith in your own life’s ambitions. And that’s the cool stuff, people. No matter what it looks like to others.