Tag Archives: Social Media

Facebook Sucks: “reverse-schadenfreude”

Schadenfreude: enjoyment obtained from the trouble of others.

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.

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Disregarding the fact that this isn’t the real Bill Murray apparently (I researched it because I don’t want to spread bullshit), it’s a pretty accurate statement.

Facebook Sucks: An Introduction

This will be shocking to you, but there was a time when Facebook didn’t exist. I remember this because I’m apparently old. I graduated high school in 2004 and there was no Facebook at the time. (Fun Fact: Apparently Facebook was created in early 2004 so there was a Facebook but it sure as hell wasn’t the massive beast we know currently.) A few years later this thing called MySpace was pretty damn popular and was basically a prehistoric version of Facebook. Eventually that place went the way of dinosaurs and phone books with Facebook becoming the de-facto social media website. Now everyone has a Facebook page. If you don’t you’re seen as a social outcast or something.

Another fun fact: before our hyper-connected world partially enabled by Facebook, life was actually enjoyable. You’d live your life and do the shit you wanted to do and you didn’t think once about “sharing” it with others. You might call your friends and family and let them know what was up but that was the extent of it. Currently, no matter what we do we keep our internet personas in the back of our minds ready to share anything remotely interesting (or not) we happen to do in life. Social media has a way of drilling itself into your subconscious and keeping itself ever present in your mind. It’s like a disgusting virus that wants you to get “likes” and appear cool.

This is obviously bad and I’ve been rebelling against Facebook periodically since I first created my personal page about 10 or 11 years ago. The current iteration has been around for about four or five years. It’s like my social life periodically undergoes mass extinction events where I just give up and disappear. In fact some of my old high school friends thought I had died because I’d just randomly leave the social media universe. What’s stupid is that I keep going back to Facebook and have to rebuild my friends list and that’s a pain. I’m imagining my friends think that I just delete them and re-add them not realizing I had nuked my account. It’s sad and it’s depressing but it’s simply what happens. So why do I periodically delete my Facebook accounts?

Since this occurs over and over I assume it’s a problem with either me or Facebook. I snap and delete my shit every few years and I’ve come to accept it. The last time I tried this was about 6 months ago. I was well into blogging and my “personal business” so I knew I couldn’t delete my personal page because then I’d lose all of my blog pages (including this one) so I just deactivated it. I guess I was realistic with myself and knew I’d be back so why should I cause myself more problems? I had narrowly escaped another social media collapse. I was right because I did eventually come back (and we always do…) and I kept Facebook in check for a few months. I wouldn’t check it as soon as I’d wake up and would stay logged out. I finally became in charge of my Facebook usage. For a bit that is.

So how was it? It was wonderful. I hate being overdramatic but my happiness immediately improved when I quit seeing everything on social media. It was such a tiny and simple change to my life that lead to some immense benefits in terms of well being. Even logging out and checking Facebook only once a day gave huge improvements. I can’t underestimate how much not being on social media has helped me even if I have relapsed in the past month. There seems to be a direct relation with how much time spend on Facebook and how miserable you are and seeing as I’ve “relapsed” I’ve been given a fresh perspective on why Facebook Sucks.

But why specifically does it Suck? I have a few ideas and I don’t think I’ll put them in this post simply because it’d be too long. I suppose that’s a good problem to have if you’re a blogger but no one likes reading a super long post. Think of this as an introduction. So far I’ve identifies three things (but maybe more!) that make Facebook shitty: it’s a time-sink that affects your productivity; overexposure to the news and helplessness to change anything will destroy your mood; and finally and most importantly there’s “reverse-schadenfreude” for lack of a better word. I’ll write and publish those posts and link them here in a day or so. Enjoy!