It’s amazing how good a life can look on Facebook.
Everything about the site is designed to help us make our lives appear perfect. We can inflate the positive and gloss over the negative. We can handpick the words, photos and interactions that best suit the image we want to portray.
Smile brilliantly and angle that picture the right way and you’ve got happiness and health. Post selectively enough about your accomplishments and you’ve got a successful career. Click attending on enough events, throw your arms around enough people, grin coolly in enough group photo ops and you’ve got a rich social life.
Conversely, it’s so easy to let someone’s Facebook persona make you feel bad about your own life – your very real life, where you’re intimately acquainted with all the bumps and flaws and confusion.
Don’t let it.
Remember that smiling photos and glowing wall posts don’t equal a perfect support system. The girl who sat next to you in bio lab freshman year, the one who litters your news feed with grinning party photos and clever quotes from her stable of friends – she still gets lonely sometimes. She still feels insecure in her friendships. She still scrolls through her phone some nights, seeing dozens of familiar names and not really feeling close to any of them.
Remember that having a tight handle on social media overshare doesn’t equal mental stability. That guy you worked with this summer, the one who never posts a complaining status and who always sounds bright and calm and happy – he’s still miserable sometimes. He still stops, sometimes, in the middle of a walk to class or work, and wonders where his life is going and how he got so far without figuring that out. Everyone hurts, even people who know how to tailor their pain out of their social media presence.
It goes for everything else, too. People who post creatively-angled photos of their pricy, artfully arranged meals still eat at McDonald’s every now and then. People who place kisses on their significant others’ cheeks in profile pictures still have screaming, door-slamming fights. People who reduce their entire Facebook presence to pithy lines and intellectual-sounding Belle & Sebastian lyrics still trash-talk their coworkers and watch marathons of Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Everyone on board with the social media revolution picks and chooses what appears online. And some are better at it than others. They know how to choose the right photos, the right quotations, the right snippets of conversation to make their lives look shining and enviable to all those staring at it through their screens.
It’s not that it’s fake, exactly. Popular Bio Lab Girl may well have a wonderful group of smart, interesting, supportive friends. Mentally Stable Summer Job Guy may find himself in a state of complete well-being much of the time.
But it’s not the whole story. It’s never the whole story.
So don’t let that veneer, those partial stories, discourage you. Don’t let it blind you to the fact that other people are just trudging through, trying to make it work, finding little glimpses of joy along the way…just like you are.
We’re all just trying to figure it out.