The reference is to Instagram envy. The woman described in the Style section is happy with her life, yet images in her feed recreate a world she perceives as more glamorous than her own (and thus desirable), and her remarks suggest that her world suddenly feels not good enough.
This is more than the appreciation of the staged lifestyle once seen in movies or magazines; this is social media at its aspirational finest and emotion-provoking worst. This is us, insecure, comparing our lives to the prettied pictures presented by others, the imagined indulgences of the few as if a certain lifestyle were an absolute necessity, and the damaging sense that there is always something better.
Invariably, we feel second best, or worse. The grass is always greener, right?
Social Media Distorts Reality
We all know that social media distorts reality, with the capacity to invoke echoes of high school popularity contests, and feelings of inferiority.
You may have more “likes” than I do; my neighbor may have more Facebook “friends.” I may have more Twitter followers or, as in the subject of this Times article, you may be more concerned with your followers on Instagram – Instagram, the reigning visual platform that promotes dreaming… and jealousy.
Agony? I Thought This Was Supposed to be Fun!
In “The Agony of Instagram,” we are reminded that envy is ever present and more so when we imagine lifestyles of the rich and famous – or the talented stylist.
Might we also remind ourselves that there is no perfect, no guarantee that life’s obstacles won’t drop in on any household, that we ought to feel fortunate in the good people in our lives and other gifts of the season?
Agony? Seriously? Shouldn’t aspirational images be motivating and even… fun?
This is keeping up with the Joneses on steroids, alive and well on our hand-held devices.
I love beautiful images as much as the next person. I adore my magazines (print, especially), and I sigh over the impeccably staged designer kitchen, the elegant soirée, and a fetching tablescape is a work of art – and even more so (in my opinion), fabulous cuisine.
But I make no assumptions about the personal lives behind the pictures. I am not in an “acquisitional” stage, much less one that bears envy as part of its burdensome baggage. If I envy anyone, it is he or she with money in the bank, and the mortgage paid off.
Beyond that, I’m grateful for healthy children (knock on wood), and still hanging in… to be able to be part of their lives.
Jealousy? Envy? Of What?
Common sense, anyone?
Do we really think that a picture on Facebook or Instagram tells the whole story? Isn’t it as likely to be carefully selected (or posed) as our traditional holiday cards?
Recently, a childhood friend saw a photo of me on Facebook and said “I’m jealous.” She didn’t qualify, so I have no idea what she’s jealous of. That I have dark hair, still, courtesy of a lovely woman who paints the gray strands I’ll admit to on occasion? That I picked a corner of my little home that is clean and with a backdrop of colorful books and a painting by a friend?
As far as I know, she has a husband, a home, healthy adult children and even grandchildren. She sounds happy. She posts often on Facebook (I don’t). She isn’t someone who reads me online. So what exactly does she imagine my life to be?
Need for Social Media Approval
Sure, I’ll cop to some envy-worthy footwear, occasionally illustrated here or elsewhere. And naturally, I’m happy when my online numbers look good, and something I’ve written touches my audience.
But I don’t live for social media approval, which isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy it.
While I love love love pouring over gorgeous style spreads on the sites I visit, I have no illusions that those who post their pretty pics and jaw dropping tablescapes live in a world with no troubles, like the rest of us. We all present pieces of ourselves, chapters edited for the narrative we’re relating, the public face as we see fit – even if we’re engaged in revealing it.
Pleasure can coexist with perspective. Even on social media. Few of us are truly an open book. So why should anyone – looking at staged scenes – feel second best?
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