I was a reasonably late adopter to Facebook but, like however many billions of people there are on it these days, it quickly became a part of my daily life, joining me for a morning coffee, keeping me company in dull moments and helping me stay in touch with my grandbabies all the way across the country.
One of the best things about the social platform is the ability to reconnect with old friends, to rekindle those relationships that you had to let slide as life and distance got in the way.
It’s also been a great way to maintain new friendships. I have friends on Facebook that I met on holidays, through other friends, through my community groups and even some strangers who I happen to admire.
Most of the time, having a quick trawl through my newsfeed is fun, informative and takes me places I might not have discovered otherwise. But sometimes, I have to confess, seeing all the fun things my friends are doing and, in particular, pictures of them with their grandkids hits a nerve.
Like the time a fractured wrist meant my holiday had to be cancelled, and I sulked at home for a week, self-pityingly following the adventures of a group of intrepid divers I’d met the year before.
And I have to confess, there is one friend, whom I love dearly most of the time, but whose Facebook posts make me quite sick with jealousy. How can her home be so perfect? And what’s with all the lavish holidays and spa sessions? I always thought we were on an even keel.
Turns out that Facebook life-envy is a documented phenomenon. A group of researchers from Berlin has suggested that the more time people spend browsing on Facebook – as opposed to actually posting their thoughts and pictures – the more of the deadly sin they felt.
It’s something to do with the very humanistic trait of social comparison. In other words, we simply can’t help ourselves from pitting our own lives against our peers.
And, apparently, the effect is exacerbated by the fact that the people we follow on Facebook and other social networks, tend to be people who are similar to ourselves – therefore witnessing the joys and achievements of our peers hits even harder.
The things I share are: the view from my morning walk, precious moments with my precious people, particularly excellent meals (before I’ve tasted them, I admit!), funny jokes, inspiring articles and possibly a few too many holiday snaps.
There are plenty of boring and non-picturesque things I don’t share from my life – after all, who wants to see those?
Whenever I get an attack of the green-eyed monster, I have to remind myself that, for most people – myself included – real life generally isn’t as good as life on Facebook.
I happen to know that my friend with all the spa sessions and holidays has an unhappy marriage, who cares if she has a few extra luxuries in her life?
It’s not easy, but whenever I find myself on Facebook and feel the envy bubble up inside, I remind myself of the words of a wise person: “comparison is the thief of joy”.
And then I remember what my mother always used to tell me: “you never know what goes on behind closed doors” – or beyond the computer screen, in this case.
Does anyone else ever feel a pinch of jealousy when they look at their friends’ lives through the lens of Facebook? Tell me I’m not alone!