I’m going to make another word to describe a certain phenomenon on Facebook: reverse-schadenfreude.
Reverse-schadenfreude: self-loathing obtained from the success of others.
A bit about me first: I’m a white male in my 30s who lives in Rockford, Illinois. I have a single part-time job that nets me about $20,000 in a year. I’ve been there for 12 years. Everytime I try to work a second job and do the full-time job thing, I end up quitting. I sleep really late and my BMI is 28.6 meaning I’m officially overweight. I like to play video games and I write two shitty blogs. I have a family and some kids but that doesn’t redeem my view of myself: I’m by most measurements a loser.
You might be a loser too.
Think about your Facebook friends. I bet some aren’t as big of a loser as you are. And I bet some are downright successful. That’s my experience at least, and seeing as I’m as average as can be I assume everyone has Facebook friends that are successful. I have a few friends who are doctors. We went to high school together so it’s not like they’ve had a different life situation than I’ve had. They just went to school and are now doctors. I went to school and got an associate degree and work a job that doesn’t require a degree. Wow. I have some friends who live in warm climates. They somehow made enough money and had enough motivation to move where you’re not in danger of dying if the furnace goes out. Hell, I’m too insecure to feel comfortable shopping by myself. Some friends run faster than I do and some seem much more happy on the surface. They’re always smiling and posting pictures on Facebook! Some have bands and play music for real and some are paid photographers with their own businesses. Some couples I know actually get to go out on the weekends and enjoy themselves instead of being stuck at home with kids nonstop. So, naturally, I think of me sitting here at a dirty table typing on some shitty low-end laptop a blog post that about 5 people (maybe) will read I can’t help to think what did I do wrong? Did I really piss away 30 years of life and do nothing?
What’s stupid is this also works in reverse: by seeing other people with shitty lives you feel better about yourself. This is called schadenfreude and is only a cheap sort of goodness. You might feel better seeing that Cindy from High School is living in poverty because you sure aren’t and, wow, she must’ve really fucked up her life somehow! Or you see people dating total douchebags and realize (and laugh about) how stupid they must be. At least I’m happily married! Like I said, you feel better about yourself but it’s at someone else’s expense. It also takes a total narcissist to not be able to pivot this into how others see you, and then you end up thinking like the paragraph up above and loathing for your own life. Even if you do feel better and other people’s misfortunes, it probably isn’t healthy at all.
If you’re smart you’re probably seeing where I’m going with all of that and how we shouldn’t ever measure our worth based on others. I just think this is how people just are though. You might think you can hop on Facebook and not compare yourself to others but we’re social creatures that have a social hierarchy and I tend to think it’s instinctual to compare yourself to others. If you hop on Facebook and see others doing shitty, you’ll feel better about yourself. If you hop on Facebook and see others doing better than you, you’ll feel shitty. Since everyone is basically average, this will most likely cause you to be rather conflicted and moody because you don’t appear to be a clear winner or loser. Do you suck at life or are you awesome? Where are you on this social spectrum of failures and winners?
I think Facebook forces you into this mode of thinking and it’s bad from the start. You can’t see other people and not compare yourself to them. It’s just impossible or at the very least really hard to do. By not partaking in Facebook you skip over this problem all together. By not seeing people living their everyday lives and comparing yourself to them you save yourself the struggle of knowing if you’re better or worse than everyone else. If this information is gone, surprisingly, you just live your own life and do what you want to do. You stop trying to have a bigger social penis than everyone else and just live life.
I really think this is the worst aspect of Facebook by far. Sure you get an overdose of news and sure you spend time browsing and doing nothing, but the real harm comes from measuring yourself against everyone else. Your happiness is your own and no one else has any say in it. By comparing yourself to others they magically become part of how you measure your self-worth and usually ends up tearing it down: happiness, self-confidence, motivation, everything. You alone know who you are and what you like to do in life, so do it. Some jackass fucker on Facebook that you know from work has no bearing on this despite how “successful” you think he is. Facebook Sucks.