This should really be called Facebook Like And Compare Identity Dysmorphia – or F.L.A.C.I.D. Yes, I think that works. It certainly sums up the miserable impotence of this phenomenon!
The problem is, just as alcoholism, violence or drugs in a parent often generates similarly damaged children, with the FLACID syndrome we find we are both impacted by others’ behaviour and succumb to it ourselves. And I have discovered that it can be most dangerous amongst new mums, though I think it works on everyone.
What am I talking about?… the smug-posts. The stunning pictures of people having an amazing happy time in their perfect lives. Lives that simply aren’t like mine! Lives that make me feel I must be getting it all wrong.
“Hooray little Joey slept through the night!” Whaaaat? How? Why? Why not me?
Scroll down to sunny shot of family with new baby on the beach – really? They survived the flight with a 3 month old? How did they afford that? Did she have a personal trainer to get her figure back that fast?!
Scroll down to people in bar clinking glasses and smiling in a selfie. Everyone else is out having fun and partying while I’m home being puked on! Great.
You get the idea. I’m not a jealous kind of person but you sure start to sound kinda green eyed. This doesn’t bring out the best in you, particularly when you’re sleep deprived and it’s 3am and you’re scrolling through Facebook as you feed your baby.
But… those Joneses must be kept up with it seems because what did I do when baby was born? Er announced it on Facebook with a super cute pic – obv! And could I resist posting a little shot of baby K on a plane to Rome? Nope!
The fact is, having lived all over the place it’s hard to keep up with all the people I’d like to and this provides a convenient catch-all, so news of the engagement, wedding, baby etc did sort of need to be shared. But I do admit I like the ‘likes’ and I love the comments and who doesn’t want everyone else’s approval? I used to love posting news of my latest safari adventures or updates on which article had just been published. These days I try a little harder to curb my content though.
The thing I’ve realised recently is that there is Facebook and then there is reality. No one is actually living the perfect existence they present on Facebook. I mean obviously I knew that, it’s just that it’s easy to buy into it all in moments of weakness. It was a friend’s little tale of strawberry picking mayhem that really brought it home to me though… She had posted a stunning sunny shot of her blonde boy reaching for a giant ripe ruby red strawberry and it honestly looked idyllic. But the truth behind the image? Well that same little angel got bored in ten minutes, had a tantrum whilst his baby sister pooed all over herself. Mummy marched them all back to the car only to realise she had dropped her keys somewhere in the enormous field of strawberries and also that she’d left her wallet at home and couldn’t pay for the few strawberries they had collected anyway! Now that sounds more like it!
Not too long ago I posted more of a ‘reality’ post that mentioned the misery of a walk I’d taken. While everyone else had been enjoying the sunshine, I had attempted to get my screaming baby and two wayward dogs out of the house. I had ended up with the aforementioned screaming baby mounted on my chest; dogs dragging me across a field; enormous stinky poos in mandatory poo bags (a metaphor for life in some sense – carrying ‘shit’ around with you really stinks up your day …or something!?); and to top it all off copious amounts of vomit down my front. I posted about my misery… and the response was overwhelming. 20 comments and countless likes! I rarely get that many responses to my entire blog write up! Perhaps everyone else is feeling the same, I realised. Not necessarily specifically about walking with dogs and a baby, but about the need to share some of life’s crap! I don’t mean ‘I baked a cake’ sort of crap, I mean the shared experiences or the gone-wrongs – the kind of stuff that provides material for the observational comics. Let’s face it human nature isn’t that nice – we can all get on board and be supportive when something is truly rubbish, but sharing in other people’s happiness is a whole heap more difficult.
On the other hand, writers [are supposed to] have a philosophy about this (I think partly because they’re known for suffering a spot of envy at others’ success!). The fact is that since no one else can write the way you can, have the ideas you have, combine words and sentences the way you would, you are completely unique. There are as many slots for success as there are great writers theoretically. Or at the very least one writer being published doesn’t make it one person less likely that you will be published. With this in mind it’s far better to be pleased for others, build networks of contacts and enjoy learning for each other. For some reason I have found this really easy to adopt and have enjoyed helping others and feeling ok about asking for help myself – spread the positivity. Right?
And there’s a second writing theory that applies here – or will once I’ve explained my thinking. You see a writer is generally attempting to reach a mass audience and in doing so automatically fails since no two people think or feel or experience the same things. The audience is made up of individuals each having their own day, week, life. So what can we do to draw them together? Find the commonalities. We all know what it’s like to have a terrible day, or to struggle with a new role, many of us know what it is to want to put our children on ebay (just momentarily of course!) – and strangely we remember the sting of these difficult moments far longer than the glow of the parts that are closer to the perfection we think we seek. These are the threads that hold us all together.
Yup. So now I think it’s time to apply these two theories to our Facebook lives… First to be more positive about celebrating others’ successes and second to throw in some reality checks! So this is my appeal – people post your happiness as much as you like, let’s spread it far and wide and share in each other’s fabulousness, but let’s include some reality posts too and have a good laugh sharing some of the really crappy things in life. Examples from the past week of my life would include having to leave a christening early because I was covered in milk; a bottle of fake tan exploding all over my [rented] bathroom – I mean ceiling to floor; and finally fitting into a pair of old favourite skinny jeans only to find I had a builders bum exposed for the entire day! Hope you’re all feeling better 🙂