It used to be about who had the larger house, or best kitchen. Who drove the sportier car or whose kids were getting the best grades. I remember my parents always resisted keeping up with the Joneses. They marched to their own tune and have always lived a contented life. Even today as they live in one of those “over 50 communities” where you'd think everyone should be mature enough to stop the competition, it still seems that everyone is playing the old “keeping up with the Joneses” game. They're always outside working on their lawns posturing with each other to see who has the best backyard or most exotic stone in their garden. My parents choose not to participate.
Their generation was one of material needs. Ours seems to be straying away from the material world but has moved on to something that seems even more disturbing. We gain our self worth on social media and who can post the most interesting photograph and get the most amount of likes and comments. We're all still keeping up with the Joneses, we're just doing it different.
Before Social Media
Over a decade ago, people thought we were nuts to leave our jobs to travel the world. We were weirdos and gypsies who didn't look like they'd ever find their way. We didn't have the means to “brag” about our travels in 2000. We traveled the world silently. We were lucky if we managed to get a phone call to family while we were away. When we came home, we put on a slideshow of photos to show our friends. But that was simply a hiccup in an evening out. It was a time where they had to endure a half hour of Dave and Deb telling them of their travels before they could get on with the night of eating, drinking and telling their own stories. It worked well. Nobody minded hearing of our time abroad because it was never in their face. It was a quick story like any other story and then we cold move on to a conversation about all the things we had mutually in common. It was a nice way to live.
With Social media taking over everyone's lives things have changed dramatically.
Social Media is Depressing
Let's be honest, social media can be very depressing.
Dave and I have been talking about social media a lot lately. We think it can be dangerous and depressing. Every time you open your computer, it's in your face. Every day you can see, just how much better everyone else's life is than yours. “God, that person from highschool looks great, they've hardly aged!” “Wow! Look at the house so and so is living in.” “Holy cow! Did you see all the likes and comments citizen X is getting on their latest status update?” They are so popular and interesting!”
Trust me, Dave and I like to think that we are content. We've managed to follow our dream and live a life that we want. We work together and travel together and wouldn't change where we are for the world. But even we can get disheartened as we look through our social media feed. I can wake up feeling content and excited in the morning and then by the time I get through my Facebook feed for the day I feel drained, unworthy, and two steps behind everyone else.
It's the silliest thing to worry about a click of a mouse key but we do.
If I posted a note on my personal Facebook page and only a few people “liked it.” I felt like a failure. “Where have all my friends gone? Are they ignoring me on purpose? Doesn't anyone like me anymore?” It came to a point where I dreaded opening my facebook account. No matter how good I felt about my life, I'd see my Facebook feed and feel bad about everything. It is like leaving someone a message on their answering machine and they never return your call.
Why are so many people happy if a bunch of strangers liked their photograph rather than a having a few of their close friends and family taking the time to truly be happy for them?
Several months ago I asked myself that same question. “Why am I worrying about this?”
Personal Facebook Vs Fanpages
Dave and I run social media for The Planet D on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to try to inspire people to travel, give information and offer others a voice. Our professional social media sites are quite different from our personal pages. In our business, we feel that social media can be used for good and positive things. We try to start conversations about travel on Facebook, we post photographs of destinations on Instagram and Twitter to help people choose their next vacation destination, and we share some of our favourite quotes and articles we've read around the web. Social media can be a tool motivate and inspire.
But it can be a difficult road to balance. I don't have any evidence to back this up, but I feel that more and more people are depressed and sad because of social media. We have an onslaught of information streaming through our lives each day.
The Kardashians take selfies (only at the right angle with the right lighting) to post their perfectly rich lives on the Internet for everyone to see and Taylor Swift shows off her ‘best friends' (really, they're just fellow celebrities that she's met once or twice in passing but they look good in a photo) having a poolside party in paradise. How is that happiness? I don't think it is. If they are that rich and already famous, why do they feel the need to keep documenting every single moment of their life for complete strangers to see?
I can completely understand when celebrities us social media to promote, inspire, motivate, and give us a glimpse of being behind the scenes. But to simply put out photo after photo of you in a bikini or you without makeup or you in a car, is exhausting.
Social Media for Good
Leonardo DiCaprio uses Twitter to discuss charity and causes, Megan Fox does a great job on Facebook using it to show behind the scenes and promote events and movies, Jimmy Fallon makes us laugh in all areas of social media and Ellen posts downright fun images that make you feel better about your day. Isn't that what makes social media fun? Entertaining, helping the world and letting people know about information and events?
Social Media and Keeping up with the Joneses
As many of you have probably come to realize, no life is perfect. While Dave and I travel for a living, we've given up a lot to fulfill our dreams. We have exactly four close, long-time friends. The rest of the people in our lives (outside our family) are acquaintances. Yes, we've made friends with travel bloggers and we have many old friends that we used to see all the time, but now we only talk to them online. Eve though I care deeply about them, they have separate lives and a separate circle of friends. We are lucky if we see anyone once a year. We gave up having a regular circle of friends years ago and it can be lonely. Even though we have each other, friends are important. I feel that we're losing our social skills to only being able to talk online.
Facebook has become our way of keeping in touch with friends and family. Sadly, that is one of the only ways we talk to many of our friends.
I started writing this post months ago. I left it for quite a while but now as everyone is in shock over Robin Williams committing suicide, I thought it was a good time to revisit. Everyone has sadness and insecurities in their life. No matter how good things look on the outside, we all face the same struggles and insecurities as the next person. When you look at social media, most of the time it is people posting only the best of themselves. I know that I never air my problems online. Rarely do I put up anything negative on my Facebook page. The dirty laundry is for my family and close friends to hear about behind closed doors. Not for the world to see.
But then, as I think about what I post every day, it can't be easy for some people to read. My initial thoughts of “putting up only the good online” have come back to haunt me and make me realize that it looks like I am only putting up the bragging posts to show off my life.
It's no wonder people have stopped paying attention to me personally. My friends aren't listening. And a thousand likes on a photo on my Fanpage doesn't make me feel any better. My work doesn't fulfill my needs personally.
We have a fanpage for this travel blog for people who are interested in our travels. They chose to follow us and be inspired by our travels. My friends didn't. My friends don't need to hear about my travels every day of their life. If they want to, they can visit The Planet D on Facebook to see what we're up to. Our Facebook fans opted in to see images of travels around the world. My friends didn't.
Since clearing out the noise, I've been seeing my friends again. The people I know and love are showing up in my feed and they're actually seeing me again too! I feel like I am connecting with people again and I'm not so worried about keeping up with the Joneses. I'm happy for my friends when good things happen and sad for them when bad things happen. It's life.
Social media isn't going away, but managing it properly can make for a more comfortable and less depressing experience.
Have you ever felt this way? Or are Dave and I completely alone on this thought?