Jealousy, Social Media, and Normal Human Emotions, God Damnit!
When envy is the trending emotion on social media
My “Goodbye Influencing” workshop is almost sold out. I am thrilled with the turnout and conversations already happening, and it goes without saying that I’m so excited for the community and conversations we’re gonna have. But, ya’ll, the irony of posting this workshop on social media platforms is not lost on me, and every mean comment someone wrote in the comments section of my IG post is something I've already thought about myself. Reason #9,912,842 to leave influencing. The trolls just build my case for why everyone on the internet is not okay. LOL. IMAGINE HAVING THAT BE YOUR JOB TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH THAT EVERY DAY! More topics for the workshop. Get tickets here.
Next book club meets 3/26. We are reading The Overstory—get reading, as it’s a long one!
It often feels like envy is the overarching emotional theme or “trend” on social media. Just like America runs on Dunkin’, social media runs on envy.
“Because the internet's central platforms are built around personal profiles, it can seem—first at a mechanical level, and later on as an encoded instinct—like the main purpose of this communication is to make yourself look good,” writes Jia Tolentino, in her book Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion.
By proxy, it’s normal for us to share things that are good and that we feel good about. Celebrating with others is a core pillar of connection. But even when we are driven to share the not-so-beautiful parts of our life in an effort to be “authentic”, that can still feel contrived and inauthentic.
I know you’ve seen a selfie of someone with no makeup on and a messy bun (#nofilter), or someone’s messy kitchen, or someone candidly talking to camera about their job loss/failure. And though these posts can change our culture for the better, they, too, can feel part of the performance of looking a certain way, whether that is a desire to appear authentic, courageous, or relatable. We cannot forget that the internet is a show of ourselves. A show of humanity.
Oftentimes, our attempt to seem authentic, to push back against social media’s performative nature, doesn’t translate. Even this display of “realness” can still spark a tinge of envy. I often find that I can be envious of someone’s “authentic” post, like, Wow, they are still really pretty without makeup, or Wow, that messy house is much bigger than my small apartment, or Wow that girl who got turned down from that grad program still has a lot going for her and will probably get into another one.
My mind can find anything to be envious about. I have to be really careful and use a lot of awareness when going online. I can be going about my day, having a great day, getting my work done, loving on my dog, and then suddenly, BAM.
Someone, somewhere, has something—and I suddenly want it.
I feel heat rising to my head, my mouth goes dry, and I feel something like prickly cacti needles all over my face. I become red with anger. Sometimes it takes me a full day to calm down.
Funny enough, if I hear some good news in person from a friend, family member, or even a stranger, I feel genuinely happy for them. I don’t compare my life to theirs. I see we are different; their gain is not my loss.
It’s only on the internet that I feel heat, anger. It’s only on the internet that I feel like if someone gets something I want, that means I can’t get it. It's only on the internet that I feel threatened by someone else’s treasures. But why?
Perhaps it’s the lack of human contact. These strong, uncomfortable emotions grow unchecked because I am scrolling alone. Human context and nuance is lost, and competition feels “fierce”. It’s in this space where I feel lack, pangs, wants. Human stuff.
The irony here is that social media apps, which attempt to connect us to each other, end up heightening my human emotions, whether it be joy, excitement, sadness, fear, envy. These emotions are heightened almost to the point of exploitation, and yet I am left feeling more disconnected and drained. It is not lost on me that social media apps make money through these heightened emotions; there is a saying in advertising: “Make Them Cry (and Buy)...”. Every moment we spend on the apps increases our chances of seeing ads, and if people are feeling emotional and want to connect and repeatedly turn to the apps to fulfill their want for connection in such an emotional state, more money is made.