A moral quandary in the age of social media

I wake up. I stumble into my clothes, snarf some breakfast, and hop on the bus. I open up facebook, and have to take a breath and gird my social media loins (that sounds really dirty, but I’m keeping it!). It’s Valentine’s Day, and I have to prepare myself. My feed is going to be full of pictures of flowers, chocolates, happy couples, “I married my best friend” testimonials, and I need to be ready. Because each of them, despite my best efforts, stings a little. After all, they are what I don’t have. And envy…well, there’s a reason it’s one of the seven deadly sins.

So that was a few months ago, and I got through it with, if I do say so myself, remarkable aplomb. How’s that for a stenographer’s word, Nigel Hayes? Through disciplined self-policing, I managed to not a) dissolve into a pile of self-pity and b) not let my jealousy convert to anger. And I even, honestly, clicked liked a bunch of times, because I was happy for those in my life who have found love.

Fast forward to today, which someone out there (probably at Facebook or Buzzfeed) has declared to be National Sibling Day. I have thoroughly enjoyed this day, seeing old photos of my friends’ siblings, shouting out to my own.

And then, suddenly, I saw a post from an only child facebook page. And, well, yeah, I think the word is gobsmacked, because I started to think of a family member who has lost a sibling, and, well…yeah. I remember my friends who have lost mothers and fathers, for whom those holidays are excruciating..and well, you know. Then I started to think about those for whom major holidays conjure up sad memories. I thought about how hard Valentine’s Day, a Hallmark holiday, is for me, who doesn’t have any real, honest-to-goodness reason to be sad or jealous about anything, and to think of those who do…well, yeah.

So now, I am literally in dither about this whole thing. I don’t know what to think about this.

Should we stop celebrating such days? Part of me thinks yes. I mean, do we really need a day to commemorate every member of our family? (Although, for the record, I don’t know of a National Aunt Day.) I can pretty much guarantee that every single one of these days hurts someone, somehow, and probably more than a few someones. I saw a poster in a high school the other reminding kids that those who are homeless often don’t celebrate birthdays like the rest of us. Gawd. Dagger to my heart.

But then I wonder how far we can take it. For example, and this is full confession time here – I feel that same little sting whenever someone posts about getting engaged or getting married or celebrates an anniversary. I get a little sad when someone posts about their grandparents – mine are long gone, and I miss them and wish I could post photos of them. If we’re being brutally honest, when I see photos of one of my gorgeous, skinny friends looking awesome in a new dress or shoes, I get a little pang of envy. It’s what happens. National Pie Day is probably cruel to those who are dieting. Social media, at it’s worst, is all about comparing ourselves, seeing the things that we don’t have and envying them.

So then what do we do? Every single thing we share on the socials has the potential to hurt someone else if you really think of it. So should we all abandon these platforms, and if we did, would we feel better? Perhaps. But I don’t think so. At it’s best, social media is a place to share stories, find community, and to be grateful for what we have, and despite the fact that I have to work to shut those pangs of sadness, envy, and jealousy away, and work to be truly, authentically happy for the good fortune of others, I have found the effort to be worth it. Especially when I get to see photos of my friends siblings in 70’s swim trucks.

What about you? What do you think?

2 thoughts on “A moral quandary in the age of social media

  1. I can see your point but I also think that we can’t let constantly worrying about what other people might be thinking or feeling rule how we feel, believe or even act. Being sensitive, yes. But there is such a thing as overly sensitive and reactive. Why should people not be able to celebrate their own joys just because someone else might not have that same joy? I can’t walk and have such messed up joints that I can’t even stand anymore. Should I feel bad every time I see someone talk about taking their dog for a walk or every time they post their Fitbit stats? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. Although I admit when I see people really using the heck out of their knees I feel an almost panic and sense of loss, I would never even think to ask someone to stop talking about walking or running. I can celebrate other people’s joys and successes while quietly mourning my own frustrations.

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