People only post the top 1% of their life on Facebook
And in the optimal words of my brilliant sister, “It f**ks with you!”
Do you ever feel like everyone else has it… better? Like you know they’re out having the time of they’re lives RIGHT NOW? That, of course, happens to me every so often, especially when logged onto Facebook, Instagram, or some related social media.
If we’re being honest, I’ve had weeks where the highlight was finding a yellow Skittle in my shorts pocket [mind you, I was younger then–22 or so]. Meanwhile, in the last 7 days, I learned the following:
- One friend received the keys to a brand new house.
- Another finished her 4th triathlon in two years.
- A friend from college won a bunch of money in Vegas playing penny slots. Go figure.
- One friend got married (Thanks for the invite, ya nogoodnik).
- Also, someone I know partied with Jay-Z and Donald Trump backstage at a One Direction concert, while Daniel Tosh did some impromptu stand-up just for kicks.*
*Did not occur
Be that as it may, comparing my own life circumstances to those of people on the Internet is generally a no-no. It seems like a surefire way of ending up depressed enough to eat 6 tubes of Oreo’s and 3 tubes of Ritz Crackers (Side note: tubed foods, mmm).
Fortunately, thanks to science, I know I’m not alone. In 1954, an American psychologist named Festinger first claimed that humans have an innate desire to attain self-evaluations. We want to know where we stand. Furthermore, if there are no objective measures around, we use other people as the basis of our evaluation.
As over one billion people today know, Facebook is an easy way to gather information about the status of those around us. Before Facebook we relied on MySpace. And before MySpace we went outside. If you find yourself looking up (as is often the case when we see posts about promotions, vacations, graduations, and tooth fairies—so jealous of my nephew, it’s not even funny) your own happiness could be falling down like autumn leaves, hitting the ground, drying up, and getting stepped on by those of us who secretly love that crunching sound.
Meanwhile, it seems people are far less inclined to post the crap stuff.
I combed the literature with a comb, but it wasn’t fine-toothed. So I may have missed any experimental research looking at the influence of today’s Facebook newsfeeds on one’s overall well-being. [Know of any? Link to it below.]
Nevertheless, as we continue to compare ourselves to others, I feel it can be quite easy to exaggerate any real differences in factors that contribute to happiness. If we base judgments solely on the limited information we see of our peers online, it could be tough to resolve any arising cognitive dissonance [another Festinger idea, by the way].
In other words, seeing a picture of your friend shaking Shaquille Oneill’s hand creates a perception that is hard to match, at least in the short run. And that notion could be depressing.
Fortunately, we still have a shot.
A correlational study from 2011 showed people who tend to disclose more information on social-networking sites are happier compared to people who disclose less information. Personally, I’m on my Facebook profile or Instagram every now and then because, like you, I possess some level of narcissism other than zero. And again, like you, it turns out I tend to post a skewed bombardment of information reflecting more of the positive and memorable moments of my life.
Recall from a prior article by Matt DellaPorta, “counting your blessings” tends to be one way of increasing well-being. In fact, there have been plenty of studies giving us clear scientific evidence!
So as a result of my own distorted Facebook posting habits, I’m able to see detailed examples of how nice my life is after all [not to mention fully equipped with photos, videos, and interesting comments from others].
In reality, the Internet holds a public diary of some of my most memorable moments as a human. My life isn’t always otter pops on a hot summer day, but no one’s is. And, no one’s Facebook profile offers a true and complete conceptualization of who they are.
Every day we are exposed to a barrage of just partial reflections of others. This discrepancy can seriously mess with your head! But perhaps we can buffer any negative effects by reflecting on our own profile, and remaining grounded in the notion that people tend to post the top 1% of their life on Facebook. In reality, we are the 99%.