Does Facebook Affect Your Self-Image?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Because it does mine.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Facebook.  It's an amazing social networking tool, and it's a great way to keep up with people.    With as busy as everyone is today, it's especially invaluable for that.

I've had a Facebook for several years now.  I first got mine in high school, when you still had to have a college email to join (I went to a "boarding school" for geeky kids on a college campus, and we were basically treated like university students with restrictions).  When I first joined, there was no such thing as a newsfeed, let alone a timeline.  Facebook has changed considerably since I first joined (in what was it?  2005, I think?)

The way Facebook makes me feel has changed too.

A good number of my Facebook friends are people around my age that I know from various walks of life (school, camp, fangirling, etc.).  When I see the things they're accomplishing, it makes me feel inadequate.

A friend posts their engagement/wedding pictures, and I feel embarrassed because we didn't have engagement pictures or a wedding photographer.

Someone announces they're pregnant, and I feel like less of a woman because I'd give anything for a baby, yet my ovaries don't even work.

Someone posts vacation pics, and I feel bad that my husband and I haven't even taken a honeymoon, let alone any other kind of vacation.

Someone mentions closing on their new house, and I feel like a complete lame-o because we currently live with my in-laws.

And yeah, I sound whiny.  I'll give you that.

But I wouldn't feel so bad about myself if I didn't see these things on Facebook.  If I didn't see these things, I wouldn't think about them, and then I wouldn't feel so inadequate.

I wonder if other people feel this way.  In the age of social media, is this the new version of the middle school clique?  Has Facebook become a place to feel bad about yourself and make others feel bad?

So is it masochistic for me to continue getting on Facebook?  Maybe.

Will I continue to get on Facebook?  I'm sure I will.

But I am cutting back on how much I'm on there.  I've also been cutting back on spending time on a couple of message boards I've been a part of.  They were just making me frustrated, annoyed and jealous, and I'm tired of feeling that way.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent."  And I'm tired of giving my consent.

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  1. I agree. It is hard seeing pictures and hearing about life experiences we have yet to experience. I have also been on Facebook since 2005 and it is crazy how much it has changed. I try not to take it personally and just think about how soon enough, I will be sharing photos of my kids and buying a house. The one thing that does drive me crazy is people who use their status as a diary. I really don't care that you are 15 and just realized you are pregnant with your ex ex boyfriend and like omg what R U goin 2 du!?! *unfriended* :)

    1. That is annoying, but I also find it kind of amusing. I have a couple of FB friends like that who I keep around pretty much for entertainment value (mean, perhaps, but it does make me feel a little better).

  2. I go through this all the time. Its hard to not compare yourself to other people. There is always going to be someone who seems to have a better life than you. Its easier said than done, but try to look at everything that you have instead of everything that you don't.

    1. It's definitely easier said than done. The one thing I pray for more than anything is for peace. I'm really impatient, and extremely emotional, so when it seems like everything is going wrong and I feel bad about myself, I find it difficult to not be a weepy mess.

  3. I feel that way at times. Me and my husband had never went on our honeymoon until recently (close to 3 years after getting married). We also didn't have an engagement photographer. My sister took our engagement pictures with her digital camera at Roberts Park. My husband's aunt is a photographer, so she took our wedding pictures because she gave us a great deal. (and by great I mean REALLY amazing, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to afford them) Look at it this way. You are living within your means, which means that in the long run you will not only be a lot better off, but will eventually be able to afford these things that you are wanting. Plus, living with family not only means you are saving, it likely means you also have a great relationship with your in-laws, which a lot of people don't have. When I look at the friends I have on facebook, you are one of the ones I always think of as accomplished and well put together, so don't get down on yourself. Although I shouldn't, there are some on facebook that I'm just like what the heck are they doing with their life...nothing. You are not one of those people Alex. Btw, I thought you and Thomas were expecting a wee one? If not, I wish you very good luck in your conceiving goals. I think you would be an amazing parent, and although I have never met this Thomas character, I'm sure you wouldn't have married him if he wouldn't be an amazing father.

    1. Thank you, this really made me feel a lot better :)

      As for the baby thing, we thought we were, but I had a hysterical pregnancy. If I would have actually been pregnant, we would have had a little one at the end of May. We're not really trying right now because we're not really in a good financial position to, but even if we were, I haven't ovulated in quite some time. I've been debating whether or not I'm ready to go see an RE.

  4. I totally understand... I think facebook makes me feel like I should be getting married more than I would feel otherwise. I only attend a few weddings a year, but it seems like EVERYONE my age is getting engaged or married and posting their pictures. It seems to create a culture of marriage being the complete norm in my mind, when in reality at least half my friends are still single (though in a long-term relationship) and many are older than me. And really, I have a lot of great stuff going on and should not get fixated on that.

    Everyone has their goals they want to achieve, and you will probably notice the people who are posting about those goals more than others on facebook. There are also people who want what you have or have achieved, because human nature is that everyone is always striving for what they feel is their next step. I think facebook magnifies people's achievements disproportionately, so it can be frustrating and make you feel like you're not good enough. But really, you are young and there are lots of other people like you.

    So that's my thought for the day. :)

    1. Thanks Baneenee :) That's a good perspective.

  5. I definitely feel this way sometimes. It's easy to look at what other people have and feel like you're not good enough because you don't have the same stuff. It just takes time. And while it's not always easy, you have to remember that things will come to you when God decides the time is right.

    1. I know. Patience has never been my strong suit.

  6. Totally with you on this Alex.

    I find looking at fellow academy-students' (for other commenters: alex and I went to that same geeky high school, known as the academy) posts particularly difficult, because we all kind of starts in the same place any some people seem to have made it so much further than me. I had a surprisingly hard time watching Mar get engaged and married. Mar was my roommate in high school, and we started dating our boyfriends only days apart. She married hers, I had a nasty breakup with mine. I don't regret the breakup--if I were married to that guy now, it wouldn't be pretty--but it's hard to be reminded that not everyone made my colossal mistakes. I also get jealous of people with kids, even though I'm not even sure I want to have them, because even if I wanted to it probably won't be financially feasible until my thirties at the earliest because of the career path I've chosen. And I get jealous of people with blogs or other creative gigs, even if they are small things, because I haven't been able to get over the procrastination and perfectionism that have sabotaged my creative endeavors for years, even though I WANT to write so badly.

    But then, I'm two years into a PhD program, doing well, managing to support myself okay, have great friends and an amazing girlfriend--my life is good and I should be proud of it. Hell, there are probably people out there jealous of me!

    Forgive me if this is presumptuous, but I think that you and I are both people with lots of interests and passions, and regardless of how awesome we/our lives are, we'll always be a little wistful about the paths we didn't choose to walk. Not necessarily because we made the 'wrong' choices, but because it is inherently sad that life is short and we only get one and therefore we cannot do ALL THE THINGS! Additionally, we also spent a good chunk of our formative years around brilliant impressive peers and were told repeatedly about our 'potential', and we're terrified of not living up to that.

    But hon, you have nothing to prove, and neither do I. I think the biggest disservice my education/upbringing did me was telling me I could and should do anything and everything I dreamed of, that I should be brilliant and important and change the world. Not because those are bad things, of course. I just wish more people had told me to think deeply about the kind of life I wanted and what it would take to make me feel fulfilled, and encourage me to pursue that regardless of whether that path would be a worthy use of my talents or whatever.

    I sincerely hope that you get all the things that you want that you're currently envying in your facebook news feed. I hope you figure out health stuff and manage to have a baby. I hope this blog becomes everything you want it to be. I hope you are wildly successful and make us all a little jealous. But in the meantime, don't let other people's lives/accomplishments get you down. You are working your ass off to get to the life you want, and that's more than a lot of people can say. As long as you keep doing that, you have NOTHING to feel bad about.

    All this is easier said than done, I'm well aware. But I think you're doing great, and I have no doubts that you'll end up someplace you are happy with in the end, because you won't stop trying.

    1. Thank you so much Keely.

      And I think you were completely on the nose -- I do have a gazillion different interests (which drives Tom nuts sometimes), and I hate that I can't explore all of them. And even before the Academy, it was drilled into me that I needed to be something more important that I am now.

      Ten years ago, I was getting ready to start high school (like you, obviously). I wanted to be a geneticist so I could learn to clone organs for people who needed transplants.

      Today, my biggest ambition in life is to be a SAHM.

      High school Alex would probably be pretty disappointed and maybe a bit ashamed of grownup Alex, and it's kind of hard for me to get over that. Even though I've changed as I've gotten older, and what I want out of life has changed, it still kind of feels like the path I want now is a waste of my potential. When I see everyone else out there doing important things, it makes me wonder if it's worth it to throw it all away (but then again, I'm terrified that I'd fail if I tried anyway, and I'm not sure I could handle it). I don't know -- I'm just a very conflicted person (about a lot of things, not just this).

      And I am jealous of you sometimes, out there living life in LA ;)

    2. I think it doesn't matter if you are "wasting your potential". If you took a different path, would you actually be happier? Would you end up wishing you'd had kids because that's what you really wanted to do, but your career prevented you?

      But then, I'm not a super ambitious person. I think people should set their own goals and do what they want to do (as long as they aren't hurting anyone else), which doesn't always mean getting a PHd or becoming a CEO or having a family.

      And Keely makes a good point about people from the academy - I think people that we see as similar to us have the most impact as far as jealousy.

      I also want to say that you're one of the people who inspired the creation of my blog, and I think you have an awesome one. :)

    3. I think you're right. It's just hard to internalize it sometimes.

      And I'm glad my blog helped inspire you to create your own -- that's a high compliment :)



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