A huge online discussion shows why you should never be envious of other people’s glamorous online lives.

By Jessica Stillman

Of all the ways social media can be bad for you, one of the worst, according to science, is the ability of Facebook and the like to induce envy. You see your friends posting smiling selfies at exotic destinations and humblebragging about their professional and personal accomplishments, and you end up thinking your own life doesn’t measure up.

Of course, intellectually we all know that our real life selves and our highly curated online selves differ hugely, but it’s still easy to fall into the trap of letting other people’s perfect social-media profiles convince you that you’re somehow falling short. An emotional and revealing new Twitter thread should explode that worry for good.

The grass really, really isn’t greener.

The deeply revealing discussion was kicked off by this tweet from Tracy Clayton, host of the BuzzFeed podcast Another Round. (Hat tip Quartz.)

Apparently, she hit a nerve, as responses poured in. People shared a torrent of posts about the reality behind seemingly cheerful vacation snaps, glamorous selfies, smiling family portraits, and sports triumphs. Happy-looking couples confessed to fighting moments before the photo, while others bravely told of the mental health issues they were hiding in their smiling posts. Here’s a sampling:

These posts obviously testify to the courage of those who shared them. They also speak volumes about our yearning for genuine human connection and authenticity, even at the cost of potential embarrassment. But on a less personal level, the sheer scale of the response to Clayton’s tweet is a useful reminder that what you see on social media bears basically no resemblance to people’s actual lives.

Remember that next time you’re feeling bad after comparing yourself to something you’ve seen online. Or even let this torrent of truth motivate you to consider scaling back your social media for good. Science suggests you’ll be happier for ditching a habit proven to induce envy, disconnection, and loneliness.

Have you ever posted a happy pic online to mask your real-life suffering?

 

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in Cyprus with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

 

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