When Facebook Fails to Reflect Reality

Ethan Parry is an aspiring public relations practitioner. Tweet him at @EthanParry3.

Photo of person with head between hands.

When you log into Facebook, what kind of content populates your wall?

If your wall is anything like mine, it is filled with dream vacations, weddings, and other exciting events that everyone else seems to be participating in, except for me.

I often ask myself, “What can I put on my wall?”

I concluded that social media creates a false sense of reality. On Facebook, and other social media sites, individuals tend to only post the most exciting aspects of their lives; and keep their heartaches, pains, and disappointments to themselves.

As individuals are only consuming the “everyday” European vacation highlights, they often leave social media sites feeling depressed.

A recent study conducted by Humboldt University and Darmstadt’s Technical University, explored how individuals respond to viewing different content on Facebook. The results found that one in three individuals felt worse and dissatisfied with their lives after visiting the site.

“We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry,” researcher Hanna Krasnova from the Institute of Information Systems at Berlin’s Humboldt University told Reuters.

In the words of blogger Victoria Smith:

…life is not as perfect as it may appear in social media — on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook. We are our own worst editors. Social media is very often creating a faux reality that makes people feel really left out.

What the research does not take into consideration is the amount of time spent on any given social media site. Depending on the content in their stream, as well as a wide variety of other factors, I assume as time spent on a social media website increases, the more depressed an individual may become.

My recommendations:

  1. Begin by understanding that everyone’s lives aren’t picture perfect 24/7, although they may make it seem that way. The exotic vacations will come to an end. The fact that your wall is filled with all of this content at the same time may require adjusting.
  2. If you find yourself angry, depressed or lonely, as a result of using social media, try establishing a limit of how much time you are going to spend on social media sites. Finding a balance between your offline and online life is key. Unplug yourself from the digital world and see if it makes any difference in the way that you interact with others and yourself.
  3. While your best friend is talking about meeting the President of the United States, find joy in the small things of life. It can be that someone smiled to you on the metro, that the sun is out, or that you were very productive at work. Remember, something simple.

Social media, despite that it can create a false sense of reality, can actually build our online reputation, open doors for our careers, and connect us in ways that we would have never imagined were possible 20 years ago.

Do you feel that the content that tends to dominate social media sites creates a false reality? If so, how do you respond to it?