After going through high school and college, I’ve accumulated a ton of Facebook friends. While Facebook is one of my favorite social media sites because of this, lately I’ve realized that most of my 700+ Facebook friends are people that I no longer talk to. Some of these “friends” are people that I never really have, but instead have some sort of meaningless connection with school or a friend of a friend. This basically means that I know entirely too much about people that I don’t care about at all.
But I’ve noticed through the years that there are a lot of people who I won’t cut out of my social media circle. Why? I look at their Facebooks the same way a lot of people watch a Bravo reality show (in my world, that’s Princesses of Long Island.) Basically, I’m hate-viewing their profile page.
I did this recently with a girl I knew (in the loosest sense of the word) from school. I came across her page on her birthday with the intention of removing her from the list. Instead, I ended up perusing her page for a few minutes. I clicked through her photos. There were pics of her luxury vacation, her brand new BMW convertible, her hot boyfriend, and her quilted Chanel bag.
It felt like I was a member of The Bling Ring and she was Paris Hilton circa 2003. But I couldn’t stop. And with every picture, I became more and more jealous… and sort of angry, which was ridiculous. I was mad that someone would have the audacity to post these self-obsessed pictures on such a public forum — clearly forgetting that we had both entered into a contract when one of us (who can remember who) added one on Facebook and the other accepted.
She wasn’t the only person that I fell into the Facebook profile rabbit hole of. My jaw dropped when I learned that a former classmate of mine was working with a very high profile musician. Naturally, I headed to his Facebook to see if there was truth in the story. It was even more incredible than I could have imagined — how I had missed all of his selfies with celebrities I’ll never know, but now that I learned that they existed, there was no way in hell that I was going back.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a Facebook voyeur. I think on some level that’s what Facebook is really for — you want to feel connected to people and “in the know” about their lives but don’t necessarily want to put in a lot of work to do it.
But while I could justify looking at these pictures, I felt really weird about my reaction to the profiles. Suddenly, looking at all of my Facebook friends accomplishments was starting to make my own accomplishments shrink. I didn’t have an all-access pass to the Grammy’s like this random person I kind of know so clearly I must not be doing very much with my life.
Jealousy is a weird, weird thing. Instead of oohing and awing at the stuff that these people had that I didn’t, I began to think about all of the ways that they didn’t deserve the good stuff that they had gotten in the past few years. I started thinking about how so-and-so wasn’t a nice person and that her boyfriend probably only dated her for a ride on her private jet (basically.) Or that the only reason he got that job was because of some nepotistic connection with somebody’s manager.
Obviously, I had no idea whether these people “deserved” that kind of life — who was I to judge them, anyway? Truthfully, I was busy riding the train to bitter town to notice how crazy it is to hate so hard on other people’s success. And while in retrospect I think that my internal thoughts were childish, bitter and silly, I’m certainly not alone.
There’s been a lot written about social media and the FOMO (“fear of missing out”) effect that it can bring to people. The weird thing about this is that I usually expected to only feel real FOMO when people that I knew personally were having good things happen to them — not acquaintances whom I never thought about before happening upon their profiles. But FOMO can hit you like a ton of bricks, particularly post-college, where graduates are told from the second they are handed their diploma to prep for the epic battle that is the job search — because not everyone can come out a winner.
Our Facebook profile is supposed to be a reflection of ourselves, and I was jealous that these people seemed to have far more awesome and glamorous lives than I had. Don’t get me wrong — I love my life. I have amazing friends and do the things that I love. But since I don’t have any pictures with Lady Gaga on my iPhone, I gave myself the excuse to feel bad about what I did have. And that’s ridiculous. Who said that life had to be this big, weird competition? Why couldn’t I be happy for people who got to do cool things? Sometimes, I even get to do cool things. Sure, I don’t do cool things with Beyonce, but that doesn’t mean that I have to hate on the people who do.
In 2014, I’m not going to focus on clearing friends off my Facebook profile or necessarily staying off the profiles of people who make me insanely jealous. Instead, I’m going to make an effort to stop the drinking the haterade. Maybe, when I click “like”, I’ll actually start to mean it. FOMO sucks, but it’s something that we can take at least a bit of control over — even if it’s through faking happiness at our Facebook friend’s good fortune.