Dealing with childish jealousy when you're an adult.
February 23, 2016 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal for me to feel jealous of other people's lives?

As everyone knows, social media can really make everyone's lives seem perfect. But I've been having a hard time dealing with jealousy that arises from browsing people's instagram and facebook etc. I'm young and feel like I should be living in a city, working a great job, seeing shows, having a ton of friends and looking real good. Seeing incredibly attractive women that would never date me, having things that I can never afford. I browse through people's accounts and I feel like I'm looking at a J-Crew catalog. Full of good looking people, having drinks and having fun and traveling. My mind begins distorting reality and I get really frustrated and anxious. I begin hating my average looks and I feel really inadequate. It's like I'm watching a life that I'll never ever have because of who I am and how I look like. The feeling can be paralyzing and sometimes makes me sabotage my own efforts at improving myself.

I go to therapy and I have talked about this issue. I'm struggling but I feel I can overcome it. I would feel comfortable in knowing that other people feel this way and that I'm not just this bitter and flawed human being.

Should I take a break from social media? Any tips?
posted by MeaninglessMisfortune to Human Relations (38 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Totally normal. I recommend volunteering at a soup kitchen. That should give you perspective that Facebook is not real life.
posted by quincunx at 3:23 PM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yes. Take a break from social media. You could also ration your time (one hour per week, maybe.) Call people when you want to talk to them or send an email or a card. From what you've described here, it sounds like social media is reinforcing your feelings of inadequacy, and that's not helping.

Also, not spending a lot of time on social media will free up your time to research about and actually go do all the awesome things you're seeing. Not being on social media is also not permanent-- you can take a temporary break and come back, or not. Why not try?
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:30 PM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]

Ugh, social media is the worst. I almost never log on to my FB account but did recently to congratulate a cousin on her engagement. Spent about 10 minutes on another cousin's page (she's a new flight attendant, so all her pictures are of her drinking umbrella drinks in Hawaii with her coworkers and check-ins about flights to London) and felt the same way you to. Limit your social media time or just get rid of your accounts, I promise you'll feel better.
posted by jabes at 3:31 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

You have FOMO. And I'm starting to think it is becoming an addiction/psychological disorder that is ruining lives and will continue to get worse. I know, because I was and still am a bit TOO connected and discontent because I compare my life to that of others from COMPLETELY different circumstances and social classes.
posted by Young Kullervo at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

"Don't compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else's highlight reel."

Social media is inherently geared towards the highlight reel part. Of course people want to show off their best looking selfies, coolest parties, travels, etc. It makes you jealous because, in large part, this is exactly the response people are looking to create. However, you don't have to go along with it, in the same way you don't run out and buy a new Accord every time you see a Honda commercial.

You have no way of knowing what's really going on for these people. All those pretty pictures often mask a very real lack of self-confidence and sense of self-worth, which they are trying to shore up by attaining the dubious honor of online popularity.

Yes, take a break from social media. Get involved in people's offline lives and you'll find a lot more connection and less showing off :)
posted by ananci at 3:35 PM on February 23, 2016 [15 favorites]

This is a good article

tl:dr version: Scroll down to the last image to see how people view other's social media postings as their real life and not just the inflated version of that life and are comparing their real life to other's inflated version. Ananci siad it better! "Don't compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else's highlight reel."

Also, the whole millennial pitfall of being told you're special so you think you should have what every else does only more because of that specialness.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 3:39 PM on February 23, 2016

Dude! Just had a look at your website -- you are one cool guy! I love your drawings, and you can legitimately say you're an artist. I think that passes for cool in many circles. Whatever you end up having to do for money won't diminish that.
posted by alusru at 3:42 PM on February 23, 2016 [19 favorites]

There are a lot of cute dogs and cats with Instagrams. Follow them instead.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:55 PM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]

There are a lot of cute dogs and cats with Instagrams. Follow them instead.

This. This is what I do. Follow (and like!!) enough cute dog and cat Instagram accounts and pretty soon Instagram will show you only adorable puppy and kitten (and even piglet!) pictures. 😊
posted by un petit cadeau at 4:00 PM on February 23, 2016 [12 favorites]

To quote a friend off mine who seemed to have it all together: Don't compare your insides to someone elses outsides. Those folks out drinking with their friends won't be posting about the dui they got on the way home.
posted by BoscosMom at 4:06 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

You should definitely limit how much time you spend on Facebook. There have been scientific studies about this: And this one:

I've noticed in myself that I tend to log on to Facebook when I'm feeling lonely, and that it never ever helps that feeling--it's just a distraction. So I try to log off and make plans IRL with a friend or call someone in my family instead.

I find Instagram similarly toxic--talk about "curated" lives. Twitter hasn't had this effect on me because it's more about information-sharing (news, memes, etc.) than vacation pictures.

If you have trouble breaking the habit, you might try a technological means like the Leech-Block browser extension to help you get started.

It's normal to feel jealousy as an adult, because all feelings are normal to an extent, but if it bothers you (and let's be real, jealousy is unpleasant), then it's good to do what you can to counteract it. My mantra is "comparison is the thief of joy."
posted by purple_bird at 4:07 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, I hear you. I am constantly reminding myself that those photos are just one tiny piece of a person's life, and that those people have problems as well, sometimes big ones. My friend was physically abused by her husband, and so she left him. And I STILL can't get around the fact that "at least she found a guy who wanted to marry her!" How twisted is that?! Yeah, it's normal.
posted by Melismata at 4:09 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is absolutely normal, and honestly, learning to manage this kind of jealousy has been one of the defining battles of my adult life. So whenever it rears its ugly head, tell yourself you're building character. ;) Seriously, it's a challenge like any other, and after a while I managed to reframe my thinking about it so that whenever I started to feel jealous, I'd think, "Okay, self, here's your chance to grow as a person, to be an adult." And instead of lashing out or self-sabotaging or responding in an immature way, I'd make an effort to shake it off and focus on my own life instead. The feelings don't always go away, but as long as you act in a way you can be proud of, it's a win for you!

A few other thoughts:

-I second volunteering at a soup kitchen, food bank, or other similar organization, not just because "look at what you have that these people don't!", but because this is a great way to meet truly good people who care more about compassion and helping others than about showing off the cool things they have and how great they are. I did this when I needed to step away from the rat race and invite more positive energy into my life, and it has really made a difference.

-Social media definitely contributes, but in my case, I found that when I cut one particular person out of my life, a lot of these feelings resolved themselves. I was constantly competing with this person, subtly enough that I didn't realize it - we were friendly on the surface, but she was deeply insecure about her choices and would subtly put my choices and achievements down to make herself feel better. YMMV, but maybe there's someone (or someones) like this in your life?

Seeing incredibly attractive women that would never date me...I begin hating my average looks and I feel really inadequate. It's like I'm watching a life that I'll never ever have because of who I am and how I look like.

This part of what you wrote... concerns me a bit. It seems like you're putting these women on a pedestal, and ranking and judging people based on their looks rather than thinking of them as whole humans. This mindset seems to be common, sadly, and I wouldn't say it's abnormal, but these thoughts won't serve you. The other jealous thoughts are in the realm of "oh well, shake it off," but this is something I would work on if you can.
posted by sunset in snow country at 4:14 PM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]

I had this problem and one day just dropped all my social media accounts like FB. Things have been much better for me since. I also got the bonus of knowing who my true friends are because there are only a few who bothered to make the effort to call/text/email me after I removed myself from FB. If FB and other social media platforms are doing more harm than good it is time to pull the plug.
posted by FireFountain at 4:16 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Three things:

1) "Capitalism is based on desire," and social media has accelerated that far beyond our ability to cope with it. Social media delivers you curated versions of people's lives and of businesses marketing campaigns, in real time, as often as you're willing to look. In the age where everyone is a publisher, everything is an edited piece of content. You don't see the real version of people's lives. The struggles with bills, with weight, with meaning, with purpose. You see the curated, packaged version – the person that they want to be, and want you to see.

2) Go and sit in the most trafficked park you can find mid-morning on a weekend for three hours. Go now. I'll wait. Watch the people go by, especially the couples. You will see every iteration that you can imagine. Older men with younger women. Younger men with older women. Wealthy men with disheveled women. Wealthy women with disheveled men. People of different races together. Different gender relationships. Parents with natural children. Parents with adopted children. If you're lucky, you will see every combination of people possible. Because something different works for everyone.

On social media, your world will narrow to that of the people you follow. You will follow people that you're interested in, which are likely people like you, or the kind of people that people like you like. But that is a reductive reality that narrows and becomes self-confirming.

Outside, there are infinite numbers of different people that get together. Many are alike – athletic couple – many are different – couch potatoes and yoga teachers. How you feel may be the problem of averages, which is that averages distort the specifics. When in reality, you don't live in a world of averages, you live in a world of specifics. Whatever you define as your boundaries, those will be your boundaries. If you want everything you see on Instagram, there is only one place that you can have that – on Instagram.

3) Two key solutions are focus and gratitude. There's a saying that if you have more than three priorities, then you have none at all. And that's generally true in work, life, and love. Most of the heroes that we have excel at one thing. Be that music, politics, sport, art, film, business, travel, etc. You may see all of them on Instagram, but chances are that anyone you truly, deeply admire has one or two primary priorities. Only when they're all mashed up in one stream, it looks like everyone in the world is doing everything, which they're not.

So focus on one or two things that you really want, and then be absolutely grateful for the success that you see in those areas. Gratitude is key, for it is the ultimate antidote to envy. Whenever you feel envious of someone else, start feeling grateful for what you have.
posted by nickrussell at 4:22 PM on February 23, 2016 [14 favorites]

Another approach to social media is to be very intentional about who you follow. If someone's posts make you feel bad, unfollow them. On the other side, seek out people who are more like you or whose posts make you excited or happy.

It seems you're an artist: fill your feed with other artists! My feeds now are basically 100% weirdos and artists and dogs and friends and family I dearly love and it's sooo much better.

ADDITIONALLY: I am a firm believer in the idea that putting love out into the world will boost your own sense of worth. Once you have solid feeds, spread positivity to those who you feel good about. Positive comments on friends' posts — photos or selfies or art or just funny misc. — make others feel great and it will come back to you in their own way.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:24 PM on February 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

I go on FB in the morning, wish friends Happy Birthday and look at my feed for about 10 minutes, then log off. Someone else's nice party doesn't mean there's one less in the party closet for me. We don't get an allotment of fun times at birth.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:44 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

literally everyone i follow on social media is an anxiety-riddled confused adult baby just like me, it's really emotionally satisfying to see us all flailing together.

also kittens and tasty food.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:00 PM on February 23, 2016 [12 favorites]

Try limiting your social media use to keeping in touch with people you're actually friends with. Because when you're actually friends with them you often know the story behind the perfect photos. A friend of mine posts a photo of her family on a ski vacation... but I also know her mother has cancer. Another friend posts delicious meals... but she just had major surgery plus her father is dying. People don't tend to post often about the bad things in their lives, but if you're actually friends with them you'll know about the good and the bad and that helps balance out the pretty pictures that we all show to the world.
posted by MsMolly at 5:13 PM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Seeing incredibly attractive women that would never date me...I begin hating my average looks and I feel really inadequate. It's like I'm watching a life that I'll never ever have because of who I am and how I look like.

Well, you're just beating yourself up. I'm not saying become a narcissist, but look around and see all the other people in the neighborhood that are exactly in your position, realize life is life, and deal with it. You're not the only guy that you think "xyz" woman/person/human being wouldn't want to date. She main,y wouldn't because you don't even bother thinking of women as individuals and human beings that you happen to think are in an exclusive "incredibly attractive" club where they decide as a group not to date ugly guys. And most very attractive women don't reject guys on basis of height or looks, in my experience. They date guys who start out by treating them very sweetly and being nice to them. Some of them eventually turn into assholes, but that's normal when you're dating a human guy of any attractiveness/unattractive press or height or income level.

You're just using ideas from a toxic idea of masculinity or consumerism to beat yourself up. And while it sucks that you feel bad, you feel bad because you choose to subscribe to a really immature and possibly cartoonish idea of life, where everybody is simple and uncomplicated and happy because they say they are. And you then beat yourself up with what is essentially a lie based on an immature idea of people, society, and life in general.

What I recommend you do is stop being rough with yourself and hating yourself, develop an interest in other people that goes beyond the superficial so you can listen to their struggles and realize life is rough on everyone and in different ways and complicated, and develop a mature understanding of how life and people work.

So I vote you stay on social media and practice being nice to yourself and practice being happy for other people, like its a meditation. Learn to control your impulse to compare yourself to others, and tendency to wallow in self-pity and self hatred. Just learn to like yourself and develop empathy for others through self-compassion. Otherwise you're going to lose a real opportunity for growth.
posted by discopolo at 5:13 PM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

For every happy face on social media, there's a whole bunch of stressed you're not seeing. Sort of the reverse of Mass Media. Human interest stories are swamped by Leading by Bleeding.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:20 PM on February 23, 2016

I also struggle with envy, and I know it can be very hard. Someone once told me that envy can help me figure out what I really want out of life. But I wonder if the supposedly great job, attractive people, going to shows kind of lifestyle that is like a TV version of normal is what you really in your deepest heart want for yourself. Is that your real dream? Is that what you want to put your life energy and effort toward? And how will that feed you as you get older? Because those attractive people are going to get less attractive with age (at least by conventional standards). This just doesn't seem to be the kind of desire that will feed you for the rest of your life. Your art is what will do that. (And that's where envy helps me see what I want - a friend of mine just won a literary prize, and my envy tells me I need to work harder on my own stuff.)

I find reading history really helps me put things in perspective. Read about the holocaust. When my father was a young man, he and hundreds of thousands just like him lost years of their lives, if not their actual lives, fighting in a war. Read about the lives of people you admire. Think about how they spent their time. I think what you're really lacking is perspective - that can be hard to have when you're young, but if you can find it, it will help you figure things out more. What do you want to say about your life when you're sixty? That you went to a lot of parties?

Also, most people look average. That's pretty close to what average means. I think our exposure to TV especially contributes to the idea that people are supposed to be super attractive. Don't discount average-looking women. That's a good way to miss the woman of your dreams.
posted by FencingGal at 5:33 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

My friend was physically abused by her husband, and so she left him. And I STILL can't get around the fact that "at least she found a guy who wanted to marry her!"

Ha! I can so relate to this. A coworker I didn't know very well but who I was somewhat jealous of because she seemed to have kind of a cool life, went out on medical leave because she got kicked in the face by her horse and had to have surgery. My first, envy-fueled reaction upon hearing this was from another coworker was "she has a HORSE??? Lucky bitch." Thankfully I did not say this out loud.

You'll notice, though, that I said I didn't know my coworker very well. Any time I've really had that gut-twisting envy over someone's awesome life, it is always someone I don't know very well... someone who has a lot of qualities or experiences that I would like to have, but who I don't know well enough to know their problems or what they struggle with in their lives. Every single person I've ever had an envy-powered "hate crush" on, the more I got to know them or got to know OF them from people who knew them, it always turned out that they had plenty of problems behind the scenes that I didn't envy at all. It's just that nobody leads with the negative stuff, you know?

And another thing I've noticed: people often try to paint a rosy picture of their lives because they want to be admired and liked, and to fit in with other people who they admire. And have no idea that many people are looking at their successful facade feeling envious and inadequate.

Often it is a person's foibles and quirks that make them seem approachable and endearing. I remember the first time I visited the home of some folks I didn't know very well, who seemed rather classy and intimidating. And I went into the kitchen of their immaculate townhouse to help with dinner and the entire kitchen table was completely invisible under a huge teetering stack of mail, papers, books and other miscellaneous crap. I mean, it was shockingly messy and unorganized. Like something you'd see on a hoarder show, except there was nothing stinky and it was confined to this one little corner of their home.

But that little bit of imperfection made me feel much more comfortable around them, especially because they didn't seem embarrassed by it at all. They had people over all the time and just left their shit all over the table for anyone to see and never apologized for it. They seemed so much more normal and real once I realized they didn't have ALL their shit together, and that it was ok with them. You may find you make closer, happier friendships if you can be more real about, and comfortable with, your shortcomings.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:51 PM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]

I've unfollowed anyone that makes me feel jealous and crappy about myself. I've tried telling myself that these people don't really have perfect lives, that they're just selectively posting the best of things in masturbatory fashion, and not showing the whole picture. But it doesn't matter. I've decided I don't need to feel like I'm having my face rubbed in their pride, and I feel a lot happier about my own life as a result.

Lately my unfollowing spree has been directed towards people with little kids in my feed. We've been trying for a long time and had some losses, and even now that I'm 10 weeks along with a baby again, I don't want to see how much more success others have had. I even unfollowed my best friend's wife because she constantly posts selfies with their 2 year old. And my cousins' wives' pages filled with kids. I'm pretty close to unfollowing my sisters-in-law because of how many photos they post of my nieces and nephews. FOMO used to stop me, but I'm in touch with enough people that I'm sure I'll be told if there's any important news.

I've deliberately avoided instagram too, mainly because I've realized so many people on there are posting pictures that are complete fabrications. Posed, hundreds of pictures taken to make a perfect one - there was an article and video about some instagram model confessing her severe depression and unhappiness a while back. But my contacts' insta pictures show up in my Facebook feed, and I know my cousin posted a lot of pictures on there. Super skinny, tall, beautiful... guess what, I found out she's been hospitalized for anorexia since Christmas. That's not in her "news feed". It's sad to have seen her fall into that trap, and sadder to know the family drama that's ensued.

Don't feed the beasts - the jealousy/depression, or their desire for attention. Disengage.
posted by lizbunny at 6:08 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have a friend who's sort of insta-famous, and guess what? It is a crapton of work. I feel so sorry for her 2 small children, because they basically NEVER get to be kids. Every day it's a new photo shoot in new clothes (comped, of course), posing artificially, never able to actually eat the freakin cupcakes in the picture because then they might get their clothes messy. My friend is always stressed, always worried about her appearance, and always, always looking/focusing on/talking about herself. (I should probably call her an annoying acquaintance rather than a friend.)

It is a lot of work to have that effortless social media life. I know it looks amazing, and I get a case of the jealouses on a regular basis too, but seeing how it actually all comes together and seeing the difference between the behind-the-scenes and the picture she paints have made me a lot more critical of anyone's perfect life.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 6:34 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

One way I've found to manage jealousy is to try to pinpoint exactly what I'm envious of. This can be really illuminating and I try to use those feelings as a key for recognizing what I'm lacking in my own life. For example, I have a Facebook friend who is much wealthier than I will ever be and she's constantly traveling or going on yoga retreats and posting photos of her wildly perfect children who damnit, are also happy and successful people. Just recently I was able to pinpoint that I'm jealous of her happiness and her hobby as an artist. But you know what? I can have those things too. I don't have the ability to afford private art lessons or an amazing art studio, but I can make it a priority to make time for creativity. I could sign up for the community rec drawing course I've been debating for years. I can't go to week-long yoga retreats around the world, but I can do more yoga. I can model the way this woman has encouraged her kids to do community service and to pursue their creative passions, even if I can't afford private schools and private lessons for my kids.
Try to ask yourself exactly what you're jealous of. It could be the key to finding a new career path or hobby you didn't realize you're really missing.
posted by areaperson at 7:13 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I once met a guy who was studying social networking for an MA. He told me that he'd learned that Facebook and their ilk are simply PR websites - for everybody. If you view it as straight up advertising then is it surprising that you feel jealous? Your mind isn't distorting reality - social media is already doing that for you.

Just quit. Seriously. Go and max out your time in meatspace. Make some proper friends where you live, rather than daydreaming about how life might be in some alternate reality if you'd done x and not y.

Engage with people on your own terms. FireFountain makes a fantastic point upthread. Not being available on social media is bar none the most accurate way of revealing who your friends are. It's true: the people who care enough to call/text/send me a dead tree birthday card are, by happy coincidence, the friends I want to stick around in my life.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 8:08 PM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think people who quit Facebook are the coolest people. Seriously, whenever I meet someone who doesn't have a Facebook, I don't think "Here is a murderer trying to cover his tracks!" I think, "Here is a person who is self-confident and independent enough to live a cool, under-the-radar, wildly authentic life. He or she is probably a member of the artistic avant-garde."

You should probably quit your Facebook. But I haven't quit Facebook and so if you're not ready to yet either, I get it. Listen, though, you don't even know what it's LIKE to have Facebook envy. My younger sister just married a multimillionaire and literally her entire wedding feels like it was just an excuse to post pictures of herself on Facebook looking like a SUPERMODEL who also has MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. And meanwhile I just broke up with my fiance/boyfriend of 6 years and I make $23,000 a year.

Guess what? My sister is way prettier than me and also way richer than me. And there are a bunch of people in this world who are living in cities, working great jobs, and dating hot girls who will never give you the time of day. You want me to tell you a bunch of comforting stories about how they're probably secretly sad on the inside even though they're super rich and hot, and so you're better off even though you're poor and your job sucks? Um, no, you're probably poor and ugly AND you're sad on the inside. Good times.

Here's the thing. If you want to move to a city, move to a fucking city. If you want a different job, apply for that job. If you want to date a hot girl, go to the gym every day and get on OKCupid and learn to flirt and figure it out and come as close as you can to doing that. If you're trying as hard as you can to get the thing that you want, and other people have it, that's legit. You earned that envy. Go ahead and feel it! The world is desperately unfair, and sometimes we don't get the things we want, even when we've tried our absolute hardest to get them, and it is very sad. But also, life is long, and if you keep flinging yourself at your goals, who is to say you may not achieve them some day?

But if you're not trying? If you look at a picture of a high school friend who is now a millionaire investment banker with his three adorable kids and beautiful stay-at-home wife, and you feel envy for that at the same time that you're trying to devote your life to art? Fuck that, you baby. Don't sit around being envious of something that you haven't even tried to get. "Oh, I wish that I could live THIS PERSON'S life while also living my own!" Cry me a river. Did I ever move to New York and try to marry a multimillionaire? No, I did not. Do I even bother to blowdry my hair most days? No, I do not. So where do I get off moping about how good my sister looks on her Instagram? Nowhere. I am allowed to feel genuinely envious of the things I have tried my absolute hardest to get - and nothing else. That's my rule, anyway.

Quit your Facebook.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:02 PM on February 23, 2016 [31 favorites]

I was you before. I see the same thing on my Facebook feed. You're not crazy and you don't need to squash your feelings down to feel like you're "doing the right thing by everyone else". These people are showing off. I have friends who travel and don't make a big deal about it. I have friends with children and a happy home life who don't post feel-good statuses about it every month or so. I also have friends who humblebrag about being simultaneously pregnant, sporty, and happy in love with a husband who spoils them while also having a well-paying job. Social media can make you feel like you're not trying hard enough, that you're not enough period, and that you're always behind. Nobody should live feeling so bad about themselves for no good reason (exception for people who are cruel to children and those who torture animals).

I tried deactivating Facebook (I just logged back in). I considered deleting Facebook (but how would I contact people who only have Facebook then?). And quitting kinda felt like I was too bitter and lousy to keep up with everyone else.

I instead unfollowed a lot all of my friends. You can unfollow an ex, so why not other friends? That left me with a number of friends who posted positive things (ie, I didn't feel unhappy after reading their posts), a community of home cooks, NPR and a bunch of other public figures I like. Two months later I don't care what other people do anymore, I just do what I want and I keep up with only some friends (those who don't show off and who actually add value to my newsfeed). I'm genuinely much, much happier. I'm no longer jealous of certain people on Facebook. When their blessings are out of sight, it's much easier to be happy for them.
posted by rozaine at 9:48 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Is it normal for me to feel jealous of other people's lives?

posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:04 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Experience real life.

Take a month off. Delete your Facebook and Instagram accounts . Start reading about politics and volunteering for an organization that helps the needy. Travel abroad to a country which is poorer than yours.

Experience real life.
posted by Kwadeng at 1:55 AM on February 24, 2016

I would feel comfortable in knowing that other people feel this way and that I'm not just this bitter and flawed human being.

Hi, friend! Ever since my marriage ended I am beyond bitter about all the engagement/wedding/baby/family holiday photos that people I know post to social media and while part of me wants to be happy for them most of me wants to stamp my feet and wail "why not meeeeee?" So you are not alone.

Should I take a break from social media?
Yup. I resolutely avoid FB because it is full of shit, but just knowing that intellectually doesn't stop it pissing me off so I just don't rub my own face it in.
posted by billiebee at 2:40 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Should I take a break from social media?

Doctor, it hurts when I stab myself in the leg with this kitchen knife. Should I stop?

Social media in general, and Facebook in particular, are designed specifically to encourage the indefinite extension of high school bragging and clique formation behaviours into the adult world. Participation in this particular form of self torture is completely optional. Anybody who says otherwise is nursing an addiction. Email remains a perfectly adequate means of long distance communication.

"I deleted my Facebook." Try saying that. What's the very first thing you feel?
posted by flabdablet at 6:24 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Did you ever stop to think about how terrible you're making other people feel when you post your art on social media? Or that other people might be thinking how unfair it is that you have this magical ability to do all this creative stuff and they aren't good at anything?

You should stop showing off the good parts of your life on social media while knowing it's all a lie. Because you're making other people sad.

See what I did there? It's normal to have this attitude, but that doesn't mean it's rational or virtuous. And I'm not being sarcastic either, because I guarantee you there ARE people looking at your artwork and deciding that it's proof of their own worthlessness. The attitude that creativity, friendship, and good things in general are making the world *worse* is completely toxic. How would you like someone to be posting the same question about you and having all of us assure them that you're really completely pretentious and your life probably isn't good enough?

You could possibly make yourself feel better by feeding off the suffering of people who are in a terrible position, and I actually recommend that you do put yourself out there to help others, but it would be better (for you) if you were doing it for them and not for you.

Yes, it's probable that the people who have lives you envy also have lives full of struggle and suffering that you don't know about. Or not. Either way, it's rational for people to put only the good parts of their life on social media, because if you show vulnerability in public where everyone can see it, there's an element out there that will take it as a signal to inflict more pain on you one way or another; or just, if they are the gatekeeper to something you need, decide your bad luck or vulnerability makes you "weak" and therefore undeserving. I'm not saying everyone is like this or even that most people are like this, but the threat is out there which is why people portray themselves as successful and strong instead even when that's only a part picture.

Every minute you spend moping on Facebook about how those gorgeous women would never date you, is a minute you're not spending improving your social skills and appearance and putting yourself out there looking for women to date. Every minute you spend moping about how other people live in cities and are therefore taking away your opportunity to live in a city, is a minute you're not spending looking for a job you could manage in a city you would like to live in.

Basically, what pretentious illiterate said, all the way.
posted by tel3path at 6:41 AM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Remember: you're not entitled to anything. You're not entitled to a woman, vacations, or 100 instagram likes. Be thankful for what you have. Be humble.

(You're an AMAZING artist by the way, and I am totally jello of your work!)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:54 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have this problem sometimes and I take a totally different tack: I participate in the PR. So if I'm out for a hike and I stop to sun myself on a rock, I'll take a picture of a beautiful view and put it on FB and Instagram and say something goofy like, "Livin the lizard life of my dreams!" It doesn't have to be big or expensive to go up, just a nice moment that I want to capture (outside, or with people I like, or doing something fun.)

This does a couple of things: (1) it makes it SUPER easy to see how little effort it takes to project a "my life is perfect" vibe on FB which helps me not feel so jealous of everyone else; (2) I feel like I get to be in the cool kids club where I'm showing people what a fun and interesting person I am; (3) it gives people I care about but don't have access to all that often like international friends a sweet glimpse of what I'm up to; (4) it means I'll actually take pictures and have tangible memorabilia from fun stuff I did which I'm really bad about!; (5) lastly, interestingly, it works as a mindfulness and gratitude exercise. Maybe not the world's purest motivation for one, but if I stop to think about if I want this activity to go on social media, it makes me think about that activity in a new way, and it makes me glad I have interesting things in my life, even if they are small and personal.

So yeah. I think everyone else has good advice too, but there's a different tack to take if you want to try it.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:32 AM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]

TL;DR: A few options for dealing with social envy -
1) Turn it around so you think positively about the person ("I'm glad she followed her dream to become a master underwater basketweaver!" as opposed to, "Goddammit, why does she get all the art publicity around here?!?!")
2) Examine the different choices you'd need to make to do The Thing, whatever it is. Either you'll be ok with the choices you've made and stay where you are, OR you'll realize you need to make a change - in which case - start putting in the work to make the change.

And "should" is not a good place to be. Really look at what you think you "should" be doing and decide if it's right for YOU.


Wait a couple years, try all that AND hitting middle age. :) Fun times!

I tend to be someone who usually just posts happy things, because to me, it's like a dinner party: I'm not going to be that person dragging everyone down by posting all my unhappy crap. I think a lot of people fall in that category.

There's a beautiful post by Ruthless Bunny around here somewhere, that I will eventually go find again and copy out someplace safe. RB talks about how hitting middle age causes a lot of people issues because it causes you to look around and make value judgements about the choices you've made. I think social media does that every day, in a much smaller but more insidious way.

If these are people you like, people you want to be friends with in real life, you can try reframing things. If you're in therapy, reframing is a CBT term that says you take the same thing, the exact same thing, but change how you see it so you don't feel so bad. Here's a good example: a good friend - gorgeous, funny, brilliant - just went on a last minute ski trip to Breckenridge. She posted a ton of pictures of her looking happy and beautiful on the mountains. My first instinct, especially if things are not going well for me, is to be jealous. Jealous that she could take off at the last minute. Jealous that I was stuck at home. Jealous of how beautiful she is.

But she can take that trip because she's divorced. She's single. I know she envies me my marriage, even when it's difficult. So instead, I take a deep breath and look at her photos and say to myself, "I'm glad she got to do something she loves. I'm glad she followed her heart and sanity and is pursuing her best life. I'm glad she's healthy and having so much fun on her trip." And then I email her or text her and set up a time to get together for coffee after she gets home.

It's all around you - all the lives you could have led, all the parallel universes - and this is why people have midlife crises. I work for a giant corporation, and the list of people who became officers this year - officers of a Fortune 15 company! - came out. Their ages are listed, and 3 of the new officers are my age (40), two of them are younger than me (36 & 38). I won't lie, I looked and wondered what the fuck I've been doing with my life, that I'm here and they're there and I'm in my falling down 60 year old house in a not-great neighborhood and they're living in these gorgeous houses in really swank neighborhoods. But then I think about what I would have needed to do, the different choices I would have needed to make, and really evaluate if I had the chance - would I go back and make those choices differently? No. I've made sacrifices and so have they. I chose to prioritize stability & family. They chose to prioritize career & wealth. And that's ok! It's ok in both instances. But I'm good with my choices.

But what if you do want something different? I looked at my friend's Breckenridge photos and thought, gods, it's been years since we took even a small trip. We've been dumping every last dollar and hour into fixing up this house for the last 3 years. It would be great to go camping for a weekend this summer or autumn. So I talked about it with my husband last night, and we're setting aside a small amount of money every week to go camping in September in another state.

So - look at the choices you've made, and if you really REALLY want to do something different - then make that choice and start doing the things that will get you to where you want to go.

One more thing: I'm young and feel like I should be (emphasis mine) - gods, beware of The Shoulds. "Should" is the quickest thing that will kill your chances to live YOUR authentic life. Seriously. Every time you want to say "should", say "want". And then listen to the sentence. Do you really want that? No? Then forget should.
posted by RogueTech at 7:40 AM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]

I just came back from a mindblowing trip to New Orleans, and decided to not even mention a single thing about it on my FB. I know how great of a time I had, and I don't feel a particular need to share it with my 1k+ FB friends, when the complexity of it cannot be reduced to a single caption or photo.

I've coped with this jealousy by basically doing everything the opposite of FB's interface and how it wants me to change my psychology to match it, rather than the other way around. Instead, I write embarassing, vulnerable statuses, meta-ones about how annoying FB can be, tons of leftist political statuses and articles, and I use it to compliment people. I curate my feed so that it is completely taken up by very interesting niche interest FB pages, and by people who consistently post tons of amazing and on point articles that I wouldn't be able to find if I googled them by myself.

FB Messenger also functions as a replacement for texting, because I get fed up with being attached to my phone when I really need to be completing some projects on my laptop. I also realized that most of my friends really don't post on FB, and the ones who post on FB a lot treat it as a place to curate their interests and viewpoints, or really need a place to vent because they aren't heard very often in their own lives.

People crave validation, and FB is a website that offers a potential way at sating that hunger. What do you want to be validated for in your own life, and what would you like to make happen? And how could you curate an environment that would help you succeed?
posted by yueliang at 12:54 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

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