I have been listening to “The Hidden Brain”, a podcast produced by NPR (National Public Radio). There are many thoughts and ideas I can take from these podcasts, but this week’s podcast was a startling, yet unsurprising, revelation.
The episode (#68), “Schadenfacebook”, looks into how people react and feel when they use Facebook.
For the last two years, I have spent an inordinate time online. When you are homebound by a chronic illness/disease, and when you leave a city that you have spent the first part of your adulthood in, you pine for the established connections, the activities you were involved in, and an identity.
Most of my week are spent in dialysis (3 days/week multiply by 6 hours each visit = 18 hours a week). When I arrive home after treatment, I am physically and mentally drained. I am at home most of time, trying to recharge.
Before I was sick, if I got 6 hours of sleep in my bed, it was a miracle. I was doing something, or finding something to do: looking for work, volunteering, connecting with friends and acquaintances. I hated going home at the end of the day. It was a lonely feeling because I was returning to the reality of my “real” life as a struggling young professional without a compass to follow. My “online” and “social” life was my lifeline to be distracted from lamenting my own life and struggles.
As I spend time alone recuperating from dialysis, I check into Facebook to see what I missed. I’ll post something quirky, or informative (like the podcast in question), but I spend most of the time reading and seeing how the “grass is greener on the other side.”
I have fallen into the all-too-common trap of comparing my life to those who appear to be living better lives online.
One acquaintance and his girlfriend spending a weekend in Europe, a party being planned at the local art center where I used to volunteer at. One friend on a business trip. Another one moving into a new house. Several are trying out the new restaurant on Ingersoll Avenue, Des Moines popular thoroughfare west of downtown.
When I read and see my friends’ posts, I don’t think about how I have survived major life challenges over the last ten years (unemployment, kidney failure, depression). I only think about the the activities and life events that I haven’t, or may never, achieve because everyone else is living or enjoying those moments.
The fear of missing out, or FOMO, as it is called today.
Trapped behind a keyboard, worrying about how life is passing us by through images and words.
The fear I am experiencing is that the people I knew in Des Moines have moved on. They have moved on with their own lives, which is what we should do, but they have moved on from me. I’m not there. What ever accomplishments or projects I have done is forgotten. If I’m not there, would anyone notice? Would they miss me?
Studies show that the more we spend on Facebook, the less positive we feel about ourselves and our lives, the more depressed we are, and in turn, we post more on Facebook to receive validation from others.
I have stayed away from Facebook on occasion for various reasons (tragedies, politics, needing a mental break). However, I have realized that I go to Facebook to “feel good” because on most days, I’m not feeling so good about my status.
I have some friends who are on Facebook, but they do not post, comment, or take pictures everyday, or every week. In fact, some do not post for several weeks at a time.
Reframing how I view and use Facebook is something I need to consider . I need to learn that I do not need to post and publicize things on Facebook and Twitter. Do I need people to know what I think, what I do, and am I making people feel “bad” about themselves with the pictures and the posts I put up on sites like Facebook?
Life is not always pastels, bright colors, or syntax errors. Then again, that’s what we go to Facebook for…to feel better about ourselves.