Family, Media

Social Media: Sharing Joy instead of Stroking Envy

Social media is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used for good…  Or not so good.

In the context of family life, I have been reading on various discussion boards and forums about the effects of social media on family life.

On the one hand, it can be quite inspiring to see how some families manage to lead such fulfilling, active lives.  It can give others the boost needed to reach for higher levels of fulfillment.  But on the other hand, seeing how some families have fulfilling, active lives can stroke envy, competitiveness, and even depression (did you know Facebook can make you unhappy?)

There are different ways of responding to this issue.

One extreme response is to completely unplug from social media—cancel your accounts and stay removed from it all.  Those who have chosen this method are not exposed to the curated pictures of other people’s lives and I assume this makes them less affected by envy, competitiveness, and depression caused by social media consumption.  But I am not sure how wise or healthy it is to cut oneself completely off from a major conversational platform used daily by such a large portion of the population.  I also don’t think this helps eliminate envy, competitiveness, and depression caused by comparing oneself to others; it just limits the challenge to “in real life” exposure.

I feel that the response on the other end of the spectrum has been to share “candid” shots of how messy family life can be, with shots of children crying, messy kitchens, and harried parents.  Seeing how others can be having as much difficulty as we seem to have can come as a relief to many others.  But although the feeling of “being in the same boat” can be a powerful one, I’m not sure this is the best approach either.  Helen Keller is often quoted as having said: “Keep your face to the sunshine and you can never see the shadows.”  Is it really that inspiring to see someone else’s struggle?  I would personally much rather be inspired by the beautiful shots of families having a good day (or even a good hour or good moment) to inspire me to work my way to creating beautiful moments of my own.

Once again, I turn to the concept of how we consume media.  In this case, I wonder if we need to shift away from consuming media with our egos and instead consume it with our hearts.

What I mean by “consuming media with our hearts” is to look at a picture of a family having a great day and feel a surge of love for them, feel joy at their joy, and, if we are having a bad day, feel inspired to reach for that same joy, however it might look for us.

As for “consuming media with our egos”, it’s looking at the same picture with anger, pride, and envy.  We might then feel compelled to take out our frustration on our loved ones; or perhaps we would feel compelled to stage some pictures of our own, at whatever cost, to give the impression that our life is fabulous as well.  We will do anything we can to give the impression that we have this same joy in our lives—even if we don’t.

I wonder if this unhealthy consumption of media could be connected in part to the guilt many parents feel about not being good enough.  Logically speaking, no parent is perfect; so a parent that is “good enough” should be defines as a parent that is giving it their 100%.  But this is not the conversation that surrounds us; rather, just like with so many other things, our deepest insecurities are triggered in a bid to have us consume more to feed the big consumerist machinery that has been set up.

The long term solution then seems to be a transformation of the foundation of our society—i.e. the reasons why we consume in the first place.  And while it is a huge work-in-progress that requires the participation of millions of people, it doesn’t mean that every single one of us can’t start contributing to it, slowly, humbly, but systematically and powerfully.  It requires that we enter the social media forum with the purpose of sharing joy, be it when we post or when we consume a post.  This might not seem like a lot, but I feel it would go a long way into creating a healthier online environment.

Picture courtesy of Chaitra of PinkPot

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