People are naturally curious, especially about each other. Maybe that’s one reason why social media often feels so hard to put down.
We are inundated with these little snippets of other people’s lives, some more curated than others. But they all tend to evoke some sort of emotion from ourselves.
Last night, I started working on a story about difficult mothers-in-law (and narrowly-avoided ones) when I wound up giving in to a certain impulse you probably know all too well.
I decided to check up on some folks from my past… on Facebook. Namely, my ex-husband’s friends who were, for a brief moment, my circle of friends.
I’d ask why we do these things to ourselves, but I already know the reasons. There are so many, after all.
Sometimes, we want to know if we’re doing better or worse than so-and-so. And of course, we’re nostalgic. Maybe we want to reflect upon missed opportunities, different lives, and all the misfires in our previous relationships.
It doesn’t really matter because, at the end of the day, humans are simply curious creatures. And social media oh-so-naturally eggs us on.
Curiosity Killed the Cat, Didn’t It?
This curiosity can be to our detriment or benefit. As someone who has long battled depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder, I understand the downsides of social media firsthand.
I’ve been that person who winds up feeling significantly more depressed by looking up old friends and flames on Facebook.
In years past, I was also a pretty active Negative Nancy and extreme “vaguebooker.” I was unhappy with my life and everybody within my social media radius knew it.
And of course, no matter how much I believed I was merely venting and avoiding suppressed emotions, my overarching mindset only made me feel worse.
Things have been changing, however, since I began my personal writing career. I can’t ignore the sheer power of positivity. Nor the awesome power of acceptance to more or less survive the pitfalls of social media.
I am no longer the negative girl I used to be. Instead, I am a firm advocate for enormous dreams. Can you really speak your future into existence?
Probably not. But you can certainly do the work and get further than you ever even dreamed.
And when it comes to things like social media, I am convinced that acceptance is the key we all need to grow up unscathed in an omnipresent tech world.
Digital Life is Stressful
There’s no doubt about that in my mind. And yet, it’s not all bad either. For writers like myself, it’s a blessing and a necessary tool.
When I graduated from high school at age seventeen, I dreamed of a world with ubiquitous internet. I wanted email in the palm of my hand.
Little did I know that it would happen sooner rather than later. And certainly, I was too naive to be careful what I wished for.
Let’s be honest. Few of us ever even considered the consequences of plunging into everything the internet of things might offer. Most of us hopped right in without looking back.
The internet allows me to support my daughter from the comfort of my home. I get to live this exciting journey where I basically give all my naysayers the bird on a daily basis because I’m doing what they told me I couldn’t do. And yes, that’s thanks to the internet.
In fact, connecting with an old classmate online is what got me writing for myself at all. He had been sharing his experiences with addiction and depression online and I admired him for that.
It’s Not All Bad
So, I am not oblivious to the role of technology in my life. I am, after all, writing this story on my phone in the palm of my hand.
Even so? I know that digital life can still be a bitch. I can’t help but worry about what other people from my past would think about my being fat. Or what they’d think if they realized I’m now a single mom.
I am fully human and have the same impulse as virtually anyone to want to look good in front of my peers. To feel valued, somehow important, and relevant.
Personally, I am no good at curating an Instagram- or Pinterest-worthy image of my life. Just getting the snapshots out there is tough enough.
Thankfully, what I’m learning is that those things don’t matter. What my former classmates, colleagues, and old friends think of what I’ve done with my life really doesn’t matter.
I don’t wake up every day for them. I do not work for them, either.
They are, for the most part, not the folks who are now cheering me on.
And do you know what? That’s okay.
We Don’t Like to See Connections End
It takes a healthy amount of acceptance to let things be over these days. When I got married at age 20, Facebook was still quite new. And it offered a whole new level of FOMO.
When my marriage crumbled because I had vaginismus, my husband hooked up with his ex who found him on Facebook.
I spent a lot of nights alone while he made excuses to cover up his affair until he finally garnered the nerve to scribble a note on a paper plate, crumple it into our mailbox, all to tell me it was over.
There are moments like that in my life which have been so painful, and social media has helped them all live on.
And with virtually every heartbreak, betrayal, FOMO, or bit of bad blood, there’s that option to relive it with the help of the internet.
We all struggle in one way or another over keeping connected. Partly because we’re such curious creatures, but partly because we haven’t learned how to accept an ending.
These days, we can all too often leave the possibility of reconnecting open.
Who Even Wants To Let Go?
I am now 37 and my generation hasn’t learned how to let go, not really. I’d go so far as to say we struggle to accept the reality of endings whether they’ve faded, failed, or fizzled. Sometimes, even when they’ve been fatal.
We can’t easily let go when the internet tells us that so many connections get to live on. That those people of our past are only a platform away.
Some of those potential reconnections tempt us. Others? They torture us.
But I doubt we will ever really feel free until we can finally accept them for whatever they honestly are.
We’re All Characters In Somebody Else’s Play
My college years were tarnished by my undiagnosed autism and one year in a cult.
I was painfully awkward and confused about my regressing social skills. And I was quickly heartbroken over a sexless and ultimately loveless marriage.
It would be so easy to paint certain characters from my past as villains. Like the men who cheated on me and the friends who looked the other way.
The truth is harder.
Just like in Vanity Fair, everyone’s an antihero. We can’t help but think we’re the hero most, if not all of the time. Which means that even our villains or antagonists are regular people just trying to get by.
I look back at my life nearly 20 years ago and realize I was just trying to get by. I didn’t know myself half as well as I do now.
And I didn’t know how to navigate my broken pieces.
If I’m ready to accept some personal grace for myself now, I’ve got to do the same thing for others as well.
Acceptance Crowds Out Your Regrets
Yesterday, I browsed Facebook and checked up on a few old souls. What really struck me was how much acceptance I now carry for my past.
An old friend seems very happy, like he finally found his path. And he’s helping other folks find their way too.
His best friend, my ex-husband, has a much smaller social media presence, but he seems happy too.
I recognize him just enough to know it’s still him. Somebody I used to know with extra crinkles around his eyes and some grey in his beard. A stranger.
And I realize that I’m happy for him to be happy, but also happy that we aren’t together.
In the past, his happiness, or the happiness of another ex might have seemed to be a direct challenge to my own. But today, I can accept that our struggles were and remain to be our own. The same thing goes for our happiness.
Who Doesn’t Want To Be Happy?
Acceptance is weirdly simple but I think most of us tend to complicate it every day.
It’s basically finding peace with what has been and what will be. We agree to live and let live, basically.
This is the same thing that must happen when I discover that a friend is somehow doing “better” than me. Rather than seeing it as some sort of personal affront to my own success, I accept that we’re simply on two different paths.
Somebody else’s success is not contingent upon my failure. That’s an important truth to accept every time I go online.
And even though I’ve lived a difficult life with maybe more sadness than most, it’s brought me to this place. I have a daughter and a writing career — both which I would never trade for anything.
But it all starts with being open to positive possibilities. Maybe that terrible betrayal or horrible heartbreak really isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Maybe it’s just a stop along your path that will eventually help you to grow.
And maybe you can’t get to that big goal down the road without hitting a few shitty snags along the way.
The Fear Of Missing Out is So Obvious
It’s easy to get wrapped up in FOMO. Easy to obsess over where everybody else is going when it’s all just a newsfeed away.
But easy isn’t usually worth it.
Easy is typically just a diversion. Don’t let yourself get distracted from accepting a better life. One where you aren’t haunted by ghosts of the past.
We all know what it’s like to live with the FOMO ghosts. Maybe it’s an ex you lightly “stalk” on Facebook or Instagram. Or maybe it’s a song that reminds us of the old days, a missed connection, or what we hoped to have been.
Ultimately, our failure to accept life’s curveballs has left most of us with a terrible fear of missing out that we don’t realize we’re carrying burdens that aren’t even ours.
That’s why so many of us can get caught up in whatever strangers on social media are doing and what they’d think about our lives.
It’s not until we adopt an attitude of acceptance that we can even begin to let go of our past, and start focusing on the here and now. Our reality.
Acceptance of our past and present will help propel us into the future in a healthy way. Despite whatever Facebook memories or moments of ennui may come to call.
Remember, acceptance is a soothing salve for our weary souls.