“I’ve had friends call me and say, ‘Your life looks so amazing.’ And I tell them: ‘I’m a marketer; I’m only posting the moments that are amazing.’” –Randi Zuckerberg
One of my greatest temptations is envying the images of other people’s lives. It makes me feel like the cool and fun life is eluding me, no matter how cool and fun my life is, stirring within me hopeless discontent. By images, I don’t mean people’s real lives, but the narrow parts of their lives that I see, or the narrow, glossy parts I am allowed to see.
Glimpses of my friends’ cool and fun lives on Facebook especially distress me. Facebook lends itself to momentary, fabricated projections of one’s life into the ether. The mundane and the unpleasant are deliberately skipped over. Any given day an engagement, a new home purchase, a promotion, or pregnancy are announced in my newsfeed. My average day is going to work and watching the Spurs game on TV.
As life accelerates with new technology and facial human interaction declines, superficial impressions are all we’ll have of the lives of most of the people in our outer circles. Digital media allow us tight control over how our lives are perceived by others. That power, like that of the advertising executive and the television producer, is easily corrupted by personal bias and vanity. People’s individual brands, marketed for consumption, self-serving, skew perceptions of reality, embedding unrealistic expectations in our subconscious.
For example, the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother couldn’t be further from the reality of being single and living in New York. If it were real, I’d be single and living in New York.
Mystery would be preferable to the fake images that taunt and tantalize us. If there was a way to scientifically measure how much hurt failing to live up to unrealistic expectations causes us, I am sure it would be high.
For more observations on images and envy, read “Things we want.”