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I am not engaged, nor do I plan on being so anytime soon, maybe ever.
Most of my friends know this, yet I still received 25 comments on the photo of an engagement ring I posted on Facebook last week with the hashtag #this.
The only other time I received that many comments was never. I received nine comments when I posted that I got a new job. Six when I announced the opening of my first museum exhibition. Not even a photo of my 80 pound dog dressed as a taco aroused that much interest.
Congratulations! We are so happy for you! Best of luck <3
Who is the lucky man??
An hour and a half later, I felt bad. So I came clean and deleted the post.
My guilt did not come from the false excitement that I may have spurred in some, nor the anger that came from those real life friends who were offended I didn’t tell them I had someone in my life. (I assured them I didn’t and that I would surely tell them in an adult fashion should I ever want to enter the institution of marriage).
It was an experiment to help me write an article, I said.
At first, my guilt stemmed from the possibility that I wasted people’s time and energy for something of a Lindsay Lohan attention grab. But I accepted this because 1) it was not my intent and 2) this charade did, in effect, make a comment on the allure and obsession of other people’s lives via the social media platform.
My real qualm came from the fact that I made a mockery of my friends’ public support for love and commitment. Worse, it was support for me. I felt nothing short of an abusive partner.
The reason I used my friends as unwilling subjects, simply stated, is that I wanted evidence to prove that social media lies.
Too often we—myself included—assume public profiles are a true indication of someone’s life. As a result, we set standards for our own life to match those who seem truly happy, in love, successful, or any other adjective that we deem desirable enough to identify ourselves with. Unfortunately, we can never win in this situation.
Even more unfortunately, it’s in our nature to try.
“I understand that it sucks to see your partner go heart-crazy on his/her exes online photos, and that it could be reason enough to exit stage left, but I urge you to consider the fact that there are probably deeper problems in the relationship than the like of a photo, problems that are worth exploring.”
In 1954, almost 30 years before the invention of the internet, social psychologist Leon Festinger proposed a theory called social comparison, which states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others.
Well hot damn.
Without knowing this theory, we know this theory. It is why, I believe, the internet is filled with images of picture perfect lives, of couples frolicking through golden fields (yes, such an image showed up on my Facebook feed this morning), of young people standing outside their first home, of diplomas and first baby photos, of new cars and sexy selfies.
I would like to believe this need to share a perfect version of our selves—without the documentation of the student debt, of the arguments or the disappointments—is due to reasons of insecurity as opposed to a sadistic need to tease or brag.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for those of you who genuinely want to bring out the best in others by sharing your happy tales, think again.
A study conducted by Dr. Hanna Krasnova, a professor at the Institute of Information Systems in Berlin, found that envy—along with jealousy and feelings of loneliness— increases with Facebook use.
The more time people spent browsing Facebook, as opposed to actively creating content and engaging with it, the more envious they felt, the study stated. This is especially true of the participants who compared themselves to like-minded peers.
Over the last 5-10 years there have been hundreds—maybe even thousands—of research studies aimed to prove Facebook’s effects on our emotional well-being.
I wonder how legitimate these studies are, though, considering the fact that our society is so good at pretending. How do we prove that someone is jealous or envious? Do we simply ask them? Well that doesn’t seem like grounds for any real scientific proof. It’s kind of like using Facebook as evidence in a court of law. . .
Which apparently is a thing.
“Taking a good look at ourselves is difficult. It is completely opposed to the Norman Rockwell world that we have been trained to live in online.”
The fact that social media is used as evidence for anything is horrifying enough, let alone for court-related decisions. As I stated above, social media are carefully constructed platforms. I can very easily tag my location as being in a different state, county, or food store, and use that as “proof” that I wasn’t at my exes house on the night in question. Yet:
A 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that four out of five lawyers used evidence derived from social networking sites in divorce cases.
I find this use of social media quite ironic considering there are still state-issued laws dictating guidelines for ensuring the admissibility of digital images in court—including a data sheet stating image security, chain of custody, whether image enhancement was used, original file names, metadata, etc.—yet posts on social media are admissible as a ground for decisions such as divorces and child custody.
“Five years ago Facebook was rarely mentioned in the context of a marriage ending, but now it has become common place for clients to cite social media use, or something they discovered on social media, as a reason for divorce,” stated Andrew Newbury, head of family law at Slater and Gordon.
In 2010, Slater and Gordon commissioned a study of over 2,000 Brits. They found that one in seven of the people polled contemplated divorce because of their other halves’ activities on Facebook, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter, or What’sApp.
I agree that this information is depressing. I also understand that it sucks to see your partner go heart-crazy on his/her exes online photos, and that it could be reason enough to exit stage left, but I urge you to consider the fact that there are probably deeper problems in the relationship than the like of a photo, problems that are worth exploring.
Social media has made it too easy for us to avoid root issues, both within ourselves and others. It’s easy to break up with someone because of a heart or a kissy face emoji. It’s harder to admit that you were not compatible on a grander scale.
Taking a good look at ourselves is difficult. It is completely opposed to the Norman Rockwell world that we have been trained to live in online.
I recently had a conversation with one of my closest friends from college—who now lives three-and-a-half hours away but who I manage to see once every six weeks or so. On the porch of her 500 square foot log cabin, we spoke about the demise of culture—mostly due to social media—and our transition away from being in tune with our natural surroundings.
It scares us, we agreed, that we build assumptions about the well being of our friends based on the photos and statuses they post online. This false perception makes it acceptable to not reach out, to assume everyone is fine and happy.
It makes me wonder how honorable virtual support actually is, then. Don’t get me wrong, I fall into the game, too. When I come across an engagement photo or post on my feed, my natural instinct is to respond with a “Congratulations!! <3.”
And why wouldn’t I? No one would lie about such a thing.