Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother

Feb
24
2014

When Good Things Happen to Facebook Friends

DO WE FEEL HAPPY FOR THEM OR TURN GREEN WITH ENVY?

The question is this: Is Facebook the life we wish we had — complete with photographs perfected in Photoshop, carefully edited status updates and absent of blisters and blunders — or the life we really have?

Well, that all depends on what you read. According to some, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is responsible for everything from making us depressed and stirring feelings of disconnect to instilling within us deep pressure to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’

Some studies have shown that social media connections ultimately make us feel less connected. Apparently our friends are fake and the intimacy we’re engaging in is a ruse.   

Meanwhile a study released last year by the University of Michigan testing the happiness and life satisfaction levels of 82 participants during a two-week span found that the more a person used Facebook, the more their feelings of happiness declined.

Facilitators of the study suggested that our newsfeeds might be partly to blame, what with a daily stream of blissful updates, cheery snapshots and happy-face emoticons coming at us. God, would you look at those beaming people ruining everyone else’s day by flaunting big toothy smiles! Selfish, selfish, Selfish.

Perhaps I am alone on this one, but if hearing about the celebrations and success stories of others bums us out, doesn’t that say more about us than it does the offender?

Shouldn’t we want our friends to be happy? And if not, shouldn’t we be asking why not?

I began thinking about Facebook recently after two occurrences: the first being an article I came across that suggested our lives, as revealed on Facebook, along with our virtual friends, are not an accurate reflection of reality, and the second being a Facebook friend I haven’t seen in real life since Grade 6.

This girl was once my best friend. She is now just a mere Facebook friend, but as she posted heartbreaking updates about her younger sister who was diagnosed with cancer and chronicled her brave and inspiring fight against it, I couldn’t help but feel connected.

I remember her little sister well. She used to tag along pestering us to play with her. She was an incredibly cute kid, with high cheekbones, a big, bright smile and she often had her thick, dark hair tied up in two high ponytails — one poking out of each side of her head — that bounced along as she walked.

But back then my friend and I had much bigger fish to fry. We certainly couldn’t waste our time playing with a little kid!

Not only did we have to breakdown the merits of each of the scrawny boys we had crushes on, but we also had to figure out which one of them we’d eventually marry.

This was important stuff, as you can very well imagine.

My friend’s sister was five years younger. In grade school, that may as well have been a 100 years, for the generation gap was that great.

Recently my friend shared a crushing update. Her sister had died. Soon after, she posted her obituary.

I tear up just writing those words: the empathy is palpable.

It’s that real.

This for a woman I haven’t seen in years, a woman whose life I’ve only seen unfold through glimpses on a Facebook feed. Yet, here we are — connected.

We’ve messaged one another several times, with me always trying to find the words — the right words — to tell her how sorry I am. It is futile, for if you’ve ever suffered great loss, you understand how words fail.

The point really, of all of this, is this: Facebook isn’t always sunshine and roses. At least I’ve never experienced it that way.

I’ve seen the rust and the ups and downs, the scratches on this so-called perfect veneer. It is not one-dimensional, this online world of ours.

I shared with you the story of my friend and her sister because it moved me, as many people have as they’ve shared the images and words that narrate their lives.

In all of its grit and the glory, perspective and inspiration can be found. There can be meaning. It is all there; but it is up to you to seek it out.

On Facebook, as in real life, the onus lies on us to choose our friends wisely. We must understand that Facebook uses the term friends loosely, covering the gamut of family and acquaintances, work colleagues, superficial encounters, and pals from long-ago chapters of our lives.

Among the latter I’ve found some of the most interesting people. Some of them have surprised and delighted me, and many have inspired me. It is simple: If you and I are friends, I wish the best for you. 

It is unlikely that every one of our Facebook friends is someone we’d call up for a chat (seriously, I’ve seen folks with 700-plus connections), but with that in mind, ideally we’re curious about them and take a genuine interest in hearing about their lives and the paths they are choosing. If not, then perhaps it’s time to edit down those lists.

True friends, well they’re the ones that pick you up when you’re down and celebrate with you when you’re up, and, above all else, they want good things for you and to feel the joy that comes from your happiness.

Tell me, do you know who your friends are?

Want to read more about relationships? Check out these two posts: We Could Learn A lot from Our Children and Everyone is Entitled to an Opinion — but not Everyone Wants to Hear it