Sometimes (mostly while browsing social media), I feel like my life isn’t as breezy and beautiful as the lives of other people. I’m thankful and happy with my life and I know that pics on Instagram don’t tell the whole story, but even with my rational brain it still ends up making me feel crummy, weird and inadequate. What should I do about it? Care less? (I’m trying!) Stay off the internet forever?
I have to agree with you: your life isn’t as breezy and beautiful as the lives of [some] other people. That will always be the way it is! There will always be lives we look to as the ideal. And, continuously throughout our lives, we will want lives that we do not have. So should you just give up? Hell no! But you can accept that that feeling will rear its head from time to time, especially if you choose to stay on social media. And you’re so right! The pictures aren’t telling the whole story. The jealousy-inducing things you see on social media seem noteworthy because they have been chosen to be witnessed, right? You’re not scrolling through a person’s actual camera roll and seeing the 15 other selfies they took that they thought were unflattering. But still, you can feel terrible even while being fully cognizant of the fact that all the shitty moments that exist in your own life that you’re not seeing on social media are still present for others. Boredom at work. Being exhausted in the morning. The crushing weight of the passage of time. Feeling lonely. Even if social media posts do discuss these things, they can’t be truly felt, because they are just representations. That’s why a movie about depression can be somewhat pleasurable to watch – suffering can be rendered beautiful by its representation. But the actual crushing weight of depression is anything but satisfying or beautiful. Even knowing all that, representation can still trick you! You seem to be aware of this. You seem to know that what you’re seeing isn’t 100% representative of the way things actually are, but you’re still getting sucked in. What do you do?
Something that I’ve done in the past is avoid and unfollow a lot of the accounts that make me feel what you’re describing. I used to follow a lot of style and fashion Instagram accounts because, well, I love clothes. And lots of celebrities too because, well, I love celebrities. Following these accounts was cool and interesting sometimes, but then I began to realize that every time I looked at Instagram I: 1) wanted to be rich, 2) wanted to buy A LOT of things, 3) suddenly hated my life. I was buying in! I wanted the things, the beautiful things. I wanted to go the parties, the beautiful parties. I wanted the hair, the beautiful hair and the beautiful clothes and beautiful apartments and a million record deals AND THE FANS, THE BEAUTIFUL FANS. I don’t know what your buy in is. Maybe it’s the damn hiking pictures. “I go to really beautiful places in my hip-looking workout gear!” Maybe it’s artist accounts. “I have seemingly endless time to effortlessly create beautiful things!” Or maybe it’s the accounts of your own friends. “Look at us at this low-lit bar, having sooooo much fun WITHOUT YOU!” Whatever it is, you gotta unfollow those accounts that make you feel terrible about your life. Even if it’s stuff you want to see. Is it really worth it to see what Mary-Kate and Ashley are up to if it’s gonna make you feel like crap about yourself? (No. It’s not.)
I definitely don’t think that you have to avoid the web forever. If you’re anything like me, the feelings of inadequacy are intermittent. Sometimes it hits me like a ton of bricks when I’m cruisin’ the web, sometimes I don’t feel it all. It’s crucial, though, when you begin to recognize those feelings and thoughts creeping into your heart and brain, to get off the web immediately and get into your damn life. Crack open a book. Take a walk. Make some art. Go see a loved one IRL instead of URL. The web will still be there when you return, and you may be more equipped to actually enjoy it! This is about to sound like one of those framed photos with an inspirational quote inside that you find in the housewares section of a Ross Dress for Less, but the key is learning to revel in the simple, beautiful things that are already in your life. The stuff that you already love. The alienation and inadequacy you feel is really just robbing you of feeling gratitude for everything you have and everything you are. You already have so much. You already are so much. It’s okay if you have to repeat that in your head over and over again. I do.