The other day, I had a chat with a friend about mentioning on Facebook when things are not going so well in our lives. It seems as though people are quick to update their status with happy photos, lovely travelling and holiday news, children, friends, funny situations they go through or fun things that they do in their daily lives. We all want the world to know how happy we are.
Why is that? Is it because we don’t want to burden people with our troubles? Is it because Facebook is supposed to be a platform to share happy things and happy things only? Is it because we all just want to show off and tell the whole wide world how happy and perfect and fun our lives are? Or is it because we just don’t like talking about what isn’t going so well?
It’s easy to post a happy picture, to share with others that we are visiting a nice place or to broadcast that we are having the time of our lives. Not so easy to disclose things that make us sad, such as ilnesses, scares, break ups or arguments.
I’m just as guilty as the next person (just hours earlier I posted a happy picture of me and my boyfriend walking in a beautiful park). I only really infect the online world with my happiness (or the occasional little moaning session). But why is that? Why don’t we give the happy and the unhappy equal importance online?
The ones close to us, the really close ones, will know all about our ups and downs. But there is something about sharing sad news with your school friend from 20 years ago, the same one we haven’t spoken to in 20 years, but is still a Facebook friend. It’s almost like we give them the right to witness our happiness, but not the right to share our difficulties. Even if we do post something not to be celebrated as a happy moment as such, there isn’t even an ‘unlike’ button right there for us to commiserate with our so called ‘friends’. In other words, Facebook doesn’t really encourage us to share bad news, only what’s ‘likeable’ matters.
It appears that sad things are far too close to home to be on the internet. We somehow and for some reason have been conditioned to show our brighter side, our fabulous news and our fantastic lives online, but does that glittering profile represent real life? When did we begin to lose touch with our own realities? Possibly when we began to convince ourselves that everything is ok, as long as we’ve posted that photo of us smiling wide.
A recent study said that a person is only truly 100% authentic when no one is observing them. However, nowadays we seem to need to have our actions examined and interpreted so we can believe that what we do (whatever that is) is important. We need validation, we need to be recognised, we need approval. Would it be right to say, then, that the reason why we don’t share bad news or sad aspects of our lives on Facebook is because we don’t like to shout about what we do wrong? It makes sense, doesn’t it? Who likes to tell everyone that they were told off at work, had an argument with their brother, got into debt or were truly mean to a friend? Yeah, thought so. This kind of ‘update’ would perhaps say much more about ourselves than a happy smiley picture. That kind of sharing provoques many more questions about our lives than the usual ‘ah, she is doing well’ reaction that a happy picture does.
If we look back to the time when we were kids, we were also after approval. We wanted to be loved by our families, and a ‘well done’, a smile or even just an approving nod went a long way. That made us carry on. I suppose nothing has changed, then. On Facebook, we want the same, which comes in the form of likes, comments and shares.
I’m not saying that Facebook is bad. I like it myself. I live very far from my home country and I take full advantage of it to keep in touch with the people I love on the other side of the Atlantic. However, we must establish a healthy limit, so we are not living our lives though it and depending on it to feel worthy.
I’ll still keep the sad and the miserable news out of Facebook, though. It works for me and I guess the most important thing is for people to be comfortable with what they share. For me, for example, saying something personal and not very ‘happy’ on Facebook feels like I’m exposing myself. I’m giving too much away. I’m trespassing the main boundary when it comes to sharing information: intimacy.
I guess that the main issue with Facebook, no matter if we share happy or sad news, is that it can cause heartache. For the ones that like to compare themselves with other people (and we all do that to some degree), it can become very tiring and very frustrating to realise that there is always someone happier, always someone with a wider smile, going to a nicer place, fully enjoying the Saturday night that you are spending on the sofa eating ice cream. It’s just as Montesquieu said: “If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, and that is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.”