Added: Leshia Leiser - Date: 19.07.2021 22:39 - Views: 42519 - Clicks: 2890
Social media has created a world in which everyone seems ecstatic — apart from us. Is there any way for people to curb their resentment?
O ne night about five years ago, just before bed, I saw a tweet from a friend announcing how delighted he was to have been shortlisted for a journalism award. I felt my stomach lurch and my head spin, my teeth clench and my chest tighten. I did not sleep until the morning. Another five years or so before that, when I was at university, I was scrolling through the Facebook photos of someone on my course whom I vaguely knew. As I clicked on the pictures of her out clubbing with friends, drunkenly laughing, I felt my mood sink so fast I had to sit back in my chair.
I seemed to stop breathing.
I have thought about why these memories still haunt me from time to time — why they have not been forgotten along with most other day-to-day interactions I have had on social media — and I think it is because, in my 32 years, those are the most powerful and painful moments of envy I have experienced.
I had not even entered that journalism competition, and I have never once been clubbing and enjoyed it, but as I read that tweet and as I scrolled through those photographs, I so desperately wanted what those people had that it left me as winded as if I had been punched in the stomach.
We live in the age of envy. Career envy, kitchen envy, children envy, food envy, upper arm envy, holiday envy. And it is not particularly pleasant. Our use of platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, she says, amplifies this deeply disturbing psychological discord. Andrew has observed among her patients that knowing they are looking at an edited version of reality, the awareness that nofilter is a deceitful hashtag, is no defence against the emotional force of envy.
Participants received texts five times a day for two weeks, asking about their passive Facebook use since the message, and how they were feeling in that moment. No age group or social class is immune from envy, according to Andrew. In her consulting room she sees young women, self-conscious about how they look, who begin to follow certain s on Instagram to find hair inspiration or makeup techniques, and end up envying the women they follow and feeling even worse about themselves.
But she also sees the same pattern among older businessmen and women who start out looking for strategies and tips on Twitter, and then struggle to accept what they find, which is that some people seem to be more successful than they are. We gaze at our slimming, filtered OutfitOfTheDay, and we want that body — not the one that feels tired and achy on the morning commute.
There is a different, even darker definition of the concept of envy. For Patricia Polledri, psychoanalytic psychotherapist and author of Envy in Everyday Life, the word refers to something quite dangerous, which can take the form of emotional abuse and violent acts of criminality.
Not just wanting it for yourself, but wanting other people not to have it. This can make it very difficult for envious people to seek and receive help, because it can feel impossible for them to take in something valuable from someone else, so strong is the urge to annihilate anything good in others and in themselves.
As a cognitive behavioural therapist, Dryden is less interested in the root causes of envy, focusing instead on what can be done about it. When it comes to the kind of envy inspired by social media, he says, there are two factors that make a person more vulnerable: low self-esteem and deprivation intolerance, which describes the experience of being unable to bear not getting what you want. To overcome this, he says, think about what you would teach. We could also try to change the way we habitually use social media.
Kross explains that most of the time, people use Facebook passively and not actively, idly and lazily reading instead of posting, messaging or commenting. While it is less clear how active usage affects wellbeing, there does seem to be a small positive link, he explains, between using Facebook to connect with others and feeling better.
Perhaps, though, each of us also needs to think more carefully when we do use social media actively, about what we are trying to say and why — and how the curation of our online personas can contribute to this age of envy in which we live. When I was about to post on Facebook about some good career-related news recently, my husband asked me why I wanted to do that. I did not feel comfortable answering him, because the truth is it was out of vanity. Because I wanted the likes, the messages of congratulations, and perhaps, if I am brutally honest, I wanted others to know that I was doing well.
I felt ashamed. It is easy to justify publicising a promotion on Twitter as necessary for work, as a quick way of spreading the news to colleagues and peers.
Friends, family, colleagues — anyone who needs to know will find out soon enough; with news that is quite personal, do we need to make it so public? Honing your personal brand on social media may seem good for business, but it does have a price. It all creates an atmosphere where showing off — whether unapologetically or deceptively — is not just normalised but expected, and that is a space where envy can flourish. I do not think the answer necessarily always lies in being more honest about our lives — it might sometimes lie in simply shutting up.
Of course, raising awareness about ly hushed-up, devastating experiences of miscarriage or abuse or harassment can have the power to challenge stigma and change society. But ostensibly authentic posts about mindfulness, or sadness, or no makeup selfies are always deed to portray their poster in the best light. But as a less extreme emotional experience, it can serve a function in our lives. Just as hunger tells us we need to eat, the feeling of envy, if we can listen to it in the right way, could show us what is missing from our lives that really matters to us, Kross explains.
If that is achievable, you could take proper steps towards achieving it. But at the same time, ask yourself, what would be good enough? When I reflect on those two moments of piercing envy that I cannot forget, I can see — once I have waded through the shame and embarrassment so much for keeping the personal personal — that they coincided with acute periods of unhappiness and insecurity. I was struggling to establish myself as a freelance writer and, before that, struggling to establish a social life after leaving home for university in a new city.
The age of envy: how to be happy when everyone else's life looks perfect. Illustration: Alva Skog. Moya Sarner.
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The age of envy: how to be happy when everyone else's life looks perfect