Why Is Facebook So Happy? Or Is It?

I have a Facebook friend (I’ll call her MR, since those are her initials) whose wisdom I admire very much. I’d like to share some of her thoughts and add my own. She recently posted:

As I scroll the feed and see endless perfection and happiness, I reflect on my childhood, youth, teens, to adulthood and reaffirm to myself how unrealistic and unhealthy social media can be if taken literally. This is molding our children[;] many false beliefs and visuals are creating a society stricken with major depression, high anxiety and extremely low self esteem.

Faccebook post, March 11, 2019
Come sit a while in my favorite chair, since I have a lot to say again today.

This friend has recently experienced the loss of a young adult child, and has shared her grief experience and thoughts about her son very openly and honestly. I really appreciate this, because I’ve learned a lot, and her perspective has helped me with my own young adult children and their issues (that’s right; my children have issues). She continues:

As I continue to walk through my life, experiencing the rolling hills, twists, turns and storms, I’m realizing and confirming it’s through my imperfections and dysfunction that helps define who I am.

MR, on Facebook

Any of you who know me personally will recognize that sentiment as something I’ve conveyed many times in one way or another. I firmly believe that if you never screw up, your path to wisdom and inner peace will be long and hard. We grow through our mistakes, learn to forgive and accept forgiveness through them, and gain a sense of community by sharing what we learn.

Let’s get to the root of the problem. Notice these roots had grown around rocks. Even trees have their challenges.

So, Facebook, why so happy?

MR raises a good point, though, that if you just look at a typical Facebook feed, you might get the impression that everybody else is doing just fine, thank you very much. Their kids are friendly, make good grades, and are well adjusted. Their spouses are peachy, their jobs are fulfilling, and wow, do they have a busy social life! (And if they are young, their grooming is always perfect, especially those eyebrows!)

Let me admit that I also tend to share fun and cheerful bits of my life. There’s an occasional crabby rant about traffic or something, but I’m as guilty of being overly upbeat as the next person, even though, actually, I’m having a rough family time right now.

Why is that? I don’t know about other people, but here are some reasons I tend to minimize my negative/sad/divisive thoughts:

  • I don’t want to offend people I care about, so I’ve been severely limiting political content, especially humor/digs about individuals or institutions I disagree with, because I see how offensive that sort of stuff is when directed at my point of view. I’ve also found that I manage to offend my more radicala friends and family by trying to come across more measured, rational, or open to other views. So, I limit political discourse to in-person conversation.
  • Like I said in the previous bullet, I care about my Facebook friends (many I care about more than they will ever realize). So, there are a number of topics that I avoid, because I know others are sensitive to them (eating disorders, reproductive rights, guns, whether it’s okay to own purebred dogs (that’s right, I’ve lost friends for buying a ranch dog rather than rescuing), etc.).
  • Also, and I think those of us who are critical of the over-perkiness of Facebook need to remember this, I want to respect the privacy of others. Sometimes the things we are struggling with involve friends or family who don’t want their personal struggles shared with people they don’t know who don’t know the whole story (you can never really share the whole story on Facebook). This certainly may explain why everyone else’s children seem to be so perfect; people hesitate to broadcast, “My kid made straight Cs,” to the shole world if their kids are not proud of that.
  • I do like to bring a little joy into people’s lives, so I don’t think it hurts to share pictures of my cute dogs, horses, donkeys, chickens, or whatever is running around being cute. Everyone needs a laugh or a smile.
Obligatory cute pic. Hawks in love (they are in love a LOT lately).

Should I change my habits?

Still, MR makes a valid and vital point. If we don’t share both our ups AND our downs, there are people who actually think perfect people are roaming our planet. Well, THAT isn’t true! As MR concluded:

My message today is don’t put pressure on yourselves by thinking someone has a better life than you, realize at the end of the day, that perfect family or person has most likely experienced more pain and troubles than you’ll ever know. I connect with people more than ever, my struggles are real and there’s no shame in sharing your heart with others. I wholeheartedly believe we heal and help each other by letting the guards down, being your true self.

MR, on Facebook

This is the best point my Facebook friend makes. I concur that what connects me with others is sharing their struggles, being a good listener for them, offering advice when asked, and acknowledging our shared humanity. I love it when people are real with me. (I do acknowledge that there are a few people who are ONLY negative, as well, but there are usually reasons, and I can understand and empathize.)

I can’t JUST post photos of my pretty flowers. But, they do remind me of the beauty that’s around me, even when I’m struggling.

I’m going to try to be a bit better about sharing my own struggles, though I admit I’ll probably do it more in closed groups of like-minded folks than in public. Maybe I WILL say when current events drag me down, when something annoys me at work or home, etc. I won’t be engaging in put-downs, making fun of others (a thing I need to work on, big time), or being belligerant, because that’s not who I want to be. But I can strive to share both my downs AND my ups, in a balanced way.

Let’s be real!

(Many thanks to MR for allowing me to use her thoughts as a springboard to my own. Everything that’s not quoted is my own, not hers.)

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

4 thoughts on “Why Is Facebook So Happy? Or Is It?”

  1. It’s a pertinent discussion – one the one hand, we share all the happy perky pictures on our FB feeds and then in person we tend to overshare our troubles. Being able to talk about the essence of both our struggles and our joys in person and on social media would be a good balance – not getting too deep into the details but mentioning the aspects that are universal to all of us. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

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