It’s not the first time I have considered coming off Facebook because I feel my self-esteem waning and my confidence at an all-time low. Some months ago I came off for a short time. I set my settings so my author page would stay active and removed myself from Facebook. The truth is, I felt much better. There was no one to compare myself with. I wasn’t looking at photographs and considering my self-image. I wasn’t reading about other people’s lives and how much better they seemed to be faring. I didn’t read about other authors who it seemed were doing infinitely better than me. I spent several weeks feeling, that as a person, I was okay. That my work was good and that I was, to all intents and purposes, successful, at least as successful as I could hope to be. I’ve never been a terribly confident person but I find my confidence drops to an all-time low after being on Facebook. If I had self-doubts, these would be reinforced when reading how well others seem to be doing, reaffirming my belief that I was a failure because I wasn’t reaching their standards. It took me a long time to realise that what I was seeing was very much smoke and mirrors and that most likely the people who seemed to be spectacular successes, were in fact doing no better than me. However, they maybe had a better way of making it seem that they were. And those who seemed to be living amazing lives are, in fact, living a life no better than mine. I would often come away feeling like the world’s worst failure. I don’t recall feeling this way for a long time. It then occurred to me that Facebook made me feel very much like the mousy, plain Jane that I had always dreaded being. It was like being out with a bunch of women who were more successful and prettier than me.
According to psychotherapist Sherrie Campbell, social media gives us a false sense of belonging. This means we give our cyberspace connections more weight than they deserve. We ultimately compare ourselves to others. But only as others portray themselves, not necessarily as they really are. Everyone’s life looks perfect. But in reality it is just a quick snapshot of someone’s life. If we take everything we read literally then it most certainly seems like we are lacking. When I begin feeling negative about myself after looking at my Facebook home page I know it is time for a break. Hence my use has been less over the past few months. I’m sure I’m not alone.
I enjoy my interaction with friends and many of my friends on Facebook are my friends. Like everyone, I have friends on Facebook that I have never met and I also have friends that I have made through Facebook and they have become close friends. I’ve had some unpleasant connections too. But most of the time my interactions on Facebook have been pleasurable. Am I alone in torturing myself? Do others look at their home page and come away feeling dejected? I’d love to know.
Meanwhile, I’m rationing myself to limited time on social networking and putting my self-esteem first. I’m learning not to take things literally and to realise that things aren’t always what they seem. I’m seeing a snapshot of someone’s life. What is really happening behind closed doors I’m sure I’m not privy to. I know I don’t share my personal hell. The truth is we only want people to know the extreme things that are happening to us. One for praise and the other for sympathy and I’m sure I’m as guilty as the next person of this. But if you see me missing for a while, you’ll know why.