Are you perhaps one of Facebook’s 1,49 billion active users? Do you upload pictures on Instagram every day? Maybe you cannot help checking Twitter every five minutes just in case you missed something? But what is it really that we miss and what we share? Experts talk about a new phenomena about us tending to live two lives: one online, one offline. On social media we want to show our “perfect life” with everything that goes with it: a perfect body, perfect kids, perfect house, perfect friends, perfect food and perfect vacations… Everything goes, as long it makes you shine. Why else would we share with everyone that we check in into the gym, break our running records, have dinner by the fireplace or play with our children? We grown-ups warn our children not to share everything on social media. But what do we do ourselves? And what consequences does it have?
Recent studies show that these “perfect life” posts can make us vulnerable to depression, loneliness and low self-worth. But it all comes down to our own self-esteem. The lower our self-esteem, the more negative we react on such posts. Exotic vacation pictures might cause envy for someone that cannot afford to go on vacation, a friend’s change in the relationship status from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’ might cause emotional chaos for someone that just split up and a friend’s change of employer might trigger depression for someone that has been unemployed for a long time. But according to this study, it can also be about simple things like the amount of received birthday wishes on the Facebook wall. It is easy to compare oneself with other friends. Are you being less loved because you get less happy birthday wishes on your Facebook wall? If you suffer from low self-esteem the answer to that question might feel like yes.
But the sharing of “my perfect life” does not necessarily have to trigger envy and depression. Instead it can actually motivate and inspire friends in your network to share their success stories – at least according to another study where researchers studied the emotional responses of browsing Facebook. The study shows that the positive effects on browsing Facebook actually outweigh the negative ones. As many as 43,8% of the respondents reported at least one positive emotional outcome such as feeling joy/fun, satisfied and excited whereas only 36,8% of the respondents reported at least one negative emotional outcome such as feeling envy, angry, frustrated, sad, lonely, and envious.
So what do we learn from this? It is not what we post on social media, but how we react upon what other people write that is vital for our well being on social media. Same goes for our children. We all have our web of lies and that is fine – as long as we don’t hurt someone else!