Here’s an old-fogey revelation for you. Social networking is amazing and it has permanently changed the way we interact as humans. On these platforms, it’s so easy to share information and ideas and stay connected. The way the internet, particularly Facebook, blew up over the Todd Akin thing — with indignant memes flying across the screen faster than you could count ’em — was a testament to the sheer power of groupthink, of a sentiment going viral. Sometimes I wish the things that went viral were a little more … um … substantial. But still.
But there’s a dark side to this little internet party. Social networking causes a massive amount of anxiety because it’s possible to constantly compare yourself to others. Are you unemployed? Well, get a few beers ready, because five of your friends just got jobs. Fertility problems? Maybe these pictures of Jenny’s new baby will help. Unhappily single? It’s wedding [photo] season on your news feed.
Most of my Facebook-related anxiety and depression (FRAD) comes from comparing my ensemble to other ensembles. We have a staff of four musicians who double as administrators. Sometimes things slip through the cracks or don’t work like clockwork. So suddenly I’ll be on a friend’s ensemble’s website and go, oh my god, they have their entire season planned and we don’t and how did they ever get into that venue and how do they keep up with all those grant deadlines and I’ve failed!!!!!!!!!1111111
I read a nice description of this phenomenon somewhere — which was that seeing everyone else’s social media profiles is like watching their highlight reel. You’re not seeing the massive amounts of work that went into securing that venue, the meetings held a year in advance, the personal sacrifices made by the musicians, and their own internal struggles to achieve the success they want. You’re just seeing the success, the result, the shining moment of glory after all the guts have already been spilled. And the time you’re spending on this hand-wringing and comparison could be much better spent.
Last week I saw a great slogan on the t-shirt of my violin student, Nathan. In enormous blue letters, it read: May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook. Nathan is nine years old and I’ve never known him to be a countercultural type. This t-shirt made me wonder if the next generation of kids is going to reject all this internet posturing. When I asked Nathan if he had a facebook profile, he said no. But he’s planning to get one when he’s twelve.