Finding balance in the second half of life

Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Status Anxiety

In Community on January 31, 2011 at 7:02 pm

She’s a close friend. As in, we know each other’s therapists by their first names. As in, we’ve told each other things we’ve never told our therapists. As in, when one of us has work accepted by a big name literary journal, the other one is genuinely happy for her.

So, I miss her. Her emails say she’s working hard, she’s under a lot of pressure, she’s worried about her aging parents. She doesn’t have time to get together.

On Facebook, though, she’s loving the snow, she’s skiing with amazing women, she’s just back from a fantastic massage, she’s winning at Scrabble, she’s had a great weekend viewing ice sculptures and drinking manhattans with K.

In a recent piece on Slate, Libby Copeland argues that “by showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers,” Facebook is making us more miserable than we need to be.

Copeland cites recent Stanford studies showing that people generally tend to believe that others are having more fun than they are. And that we all perpetuate this misconception by being more willing to publicly express positive emotions and experiences than to share our sad thoughts and wasted days.

According to the abstract, one study found “people underestimated negative emotions and overestimated positive emotions even for well-known peers, and this effect was partially mediated by the degree to which those peers reported suppression of negative (vs. positive) emotions.”

And, you know, all my Facebook friends seem to be having so much more fun — and accomplishing so much more — than I am. This one is writing the last chapter of her novel, that one is cooking mushroom soup. He’s hiking the Appalachian Trail, she’s working out every day and loving it, they’re celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary or volunteering in an orphanage in Ghana or driving their daughter to Yale. It’s hard not to feel like a slacker.

I’m not sure how to counteract this kind of status envy. Maybe I’ll address it in my next piece for The New Yorker. When I get back from Cannes. Where I’m really looking forward to meeting J. for manhattans.

–Debra Wierenga

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