Facebook envy getting you down?

There's a cure for Facebook envy. It's called Photo: Paul Walsh (Flickr)

NATCHITOCHES, La., January 23, 2013 — Is Facebook making you miserable? A German study suggests that it is. The researchers report that a third of people who visit Facebook feel worse after they do. Reading about other people’s happiness, vacations and successes makes us feel like failures. Comparing the number of Facebook friends they have and the number of Facebook birthday greetings they get compared to us makes us feel unpopular and isolated. 

Men are more inclined to use Facebook to self-promote, while women more often use it to stress social successes. Your friends are on Facebook to make you feel bad.

I intend to start writing Facebook status updates about how miserable I am and how awful my children are, just so that I can cheer up someone whose life isn’t as bad as mine. My son tells me that I have dry, scaly feet (he’s right, I do; I can go barefoot and cover my feet with black shoe polish and everyone will think I’m wearing alligator shoes). My financial advisor sent a breakdown of my retirement funds and told me that if I work until I’m 75, I’ll probably die before I have to go to work at Wal Mart as a greeter. He also sent me a gift certificate for cigarettes and a discount coupon for a weekend at Abe’s Budget Sky-diving School, just in case I want to retire sooner. 

He shouldn’t worry. My cardiologist tells me that since I have the heart of a 25-year-old, I ought to see about getting it transplanted in place of my own. My daughter has decided she likes boys and makeup, the only good news there being that she still likes makeup more than boys. My son has started asking what’s so wrong with tattoos. The discount travel agency I found set up our family vacation next summer to Syria. My wife baked me a cheesecake, and while it was cooling on a rack, the cats licked the entire top off.

The person I am on Facebook is really me, but just a sliver of me. I put the stuff there that amuses me and cry myself to sleep over the stuff that doesn’t. And the truth is that most of us don’t tell the whole truth about our lives on Facebook. We share the good stuff and don’t burden our Facebook friends with our rocky relationships (get off of Facebook and make some real friends and have some real relationships, and they might be less rocky), our boring jobs (if we put half as much effort into our jobs as we do into Facebook, we might be promoted to run the London office), and our messy houses. 

So let’s go easy on ourselves when we feel sick from envy about what we read on Facebook. I’m sorry I don’t usually think to send people birthday greetings, or even “like” all the stuff I like, but until recently, I didn’t even notice that Facebook was announcing birthdays. I didn’t know about the “other” folder where messages from friends of friends, or real friends who aren’t Facebook friends, were going until I read an article about it a couple of weeks ago. And I never accept things people send me that involve a request from some ap to access my private information and share it with the world.

If you feel bad that your friends ignore you on Facebook, go visit them in real life and take them out to lunch. Having real friends wish you happy birthday on the phone or to your face is much more satisfying than messages from Facebook friends (though I treasure those, too, and secretly compare how many I get to how many my friends get). 

Friends on Facebook are like the woman who told her jeweler, “I need just the right piece so that when I meet my dearest friend from high school for lunch, a woman I love more than anyone else in the world and think of like a sister, she’ll drop dead from envy.”

Okay, my wife is strong, I’m good looking, and my children are above average. But please, don’t hate me because I’m handsome and have great hair. Wake up with cat vomit in your hair every morning like I do, and you’ll have luxurious sheen and bounce just like mine.


James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics and teaches economics at the Louisiana Scholars’ College in Natchitoches, La., where he went to take a break from working in Moscow and Washington. But he fell in love with the town and with the professor of Romance languages, so there he stayed. Now he teaches, annoys his children, and makes jalapeno lemonade. All his friends have more Facebook friends than he does. He tweets, hangs out on Facebook, and has a blog he totally neglects because he can’t remember the password at pichtblog.blogspot.com. 


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Jim Picht

James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics and teaches economics and Russian at the Louisiana Scholars' College in Natchitoches, La. After earning his doctorate in economics, he spent several years working in Moscow and the new independent states of the former Soviet Union for the U.S. government, the Asian Development Bank, and as a private contractor. He returned to Ukraine recently to teach principles of constitutional law and criminal procedure at several Ukrainian law schools for a USAID legal development project. He has been writing at the Communities since 2009.

Contact Jim Picht


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