It seems like just about everyone is taking center stage to engage the social world for lighthearted cyber play. After all, Facebook alone has more than one billion users—one seventh of the earth’s population! Twitter, MySpace, Blogger and Instagram are a few other popular platforms that have skyrocketed online communication…and for the better, right?
For someone like me with family and friends overseas, social networks provide a medium to swap photos and share status stories without a great deal of effort. And although society celebrates the likes of Facebook, in the same breath social media also comes under much criticism: it wastes our time, invades our privacy, and creates narcissistic people. Haven’t we all read countless articles reporting the negative effects of social media, both on individuals and society? We even hear murmurings suggesting that browsing social networks can bring out the green in some of us—fueling negative emotions of jealousy and envy.
In fact, an experiment at Stanford University yielded results revealing that some students felt worse when they thought their friends were having more fun than they were. Additionally, another study discovered that those who battle with envy in the context of social media typically tend to be the same individuals who struggle with measuring themselves to their peers in their day-to-day life.
What about you? Do you spend more time envying the lives of friends on Facebook, or enjoying your own life journey?
If you are allowing these glimpses of others’ cyber existences to get you down, or if you get agitated when someone posts a celebratory status or a photo album highlighting an exotic vacation, it’s possible that you have acquired the key killer of joy: envy. Fortunately, once you’ve self-diagnosed, you can stop blaming the things that contribute to symptoms of envy or jealousy, and take a deeper look at the root cause of your suffering.
Let’s quickly look at what we’re dealing with. Envy is a negative emotion produced by the awareness of the advantage, good fortune or prosperity of others; it can stem from insecurities that negatively affect our perceptions and self-esteem. Envy has enormous potential to cause other conditions: resentment, jealousy, anger, ill will, depression, and bitterness— just to name a few. And what is the eventual prognosis? Discontentment and dissatisfaction, which manifest either towards ourselves or others.
Is there a cure? Certainly, yes! To a large extent, the burden will fall on us to control unconstructive thinking and negative emotions. When you find social media envy creeping up on you, remember Darling’s six C’s to treat online resentments:
1. Compare ourselves to no one. Measuring our good looks, character, brains and achievements to someone else will only prove to be one thing—futile!
2. Don’t Compete. Rivalry with friends, family, or other women will only end in frustration.
3. End Criticism. Criticizing others simply serves to elevate ourselves and thus reveal our own insecurity. Be respectful of the opinions, choices and differences of others. Everyone is entitled to her own opinion, and this doesn’t mean you have to “like” it, agree with it, or for that matter comment on it at all.
4. Beware Covetousness. There will always be someone who seemingly has more or better than us. Celebrate the happiness, acquisitions and accomplishments of others— and of other women especially! Take every opportunity to give positive feedback, or show support. True friends openly express joy for the good fortune of each other.
5. Stop Conjecturing. Avoid judging others or making assumptions based on social media posts. We really don’t know the thoughts and motives of others, and we should not draw conclusions derived from frivolous online chatter. Let’s face it— our interpretation will not always be correct. Try to assume the best in others, rather than the worst.
6. Choose Contentment. To ward off envy, one of the finest remedies is to appreciate and show gratitude for what we do have.
Two things seem clear to me: social media does not create jealous, spiteful, or envious people; but rather, jealousy can be exacerbated by social media. And, when feelings of discontent or resentment are aroused by someone else’s good luck, how we react is up to us!
So the next time you sign-in, be reminded: we can chose to free ourselves from the negative effects of envy. We do this by choosing to be grateful, recognizing our own
value, and by rejoicing with others!
“It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.” -Aeschylus
Darling, what is the art of being a woman? It begins with celebrating the achievements, joys and blessings of others.
Image via Vanessa Jackman