I had an unusual thought last night, and I’m going to attribute it entirely to a book I’ve been reading by Alain de Botton called Status Anxiety.
Suffice to say, the book is a relaxing explanation as to the causes of status anxiety (defined as being anxious because of the concern that you are not where you should be in life, socially or economically; that you should be somewhere higher, irrelevant of where you actually are).
Facebook has always been a source of status anxiety for me (and I imagine it has been for a whole lot of other people, too). Who doesn’t log into Facebook and immediately peruse the pictures of his or her friends, only to discover that Alice has recently climbed the tallest mountain on Earth? That Jim over here has actually added an additional seventh ab to his already intimidating six-pack? Frank just published a national best seller (and his friend count has skyrocketed), Janet just had a twelve minute make out session with Taylor Swift, and Gary is so photogenic that I could rip my own eyeballs out and nail them to the wall every time I see he’s updated his profile picture.
(And Stephanie’s dog…dammit, Stephanie’s dog is just so cute).
So usually, Facebook is kind of like tying yourself to the back of a motor boat, and then setting it off over a particularly shallow patch of water infested with sharp coral reef. It’s masochistic; navigating a field of particularly photogenic land mines you can’t help but throw yourself on top of.
That is, until last night.
Last night, I had the most lovely thought I’ve ever had, and it ushered me right to sleep (that and a couple of pills of melatonin).
The thought was this: I am so stupidly lucky to know so many people doing such interesting things. Because when they share the things they are doing, I get to witness and vicariously live out moments I would never otherwise get to experience.
I am not going to climb the tallest mountain on the Earth, and I shouldn’t be jealous of Alice because she did. It’s pretty cool that she did, and cooler still that I get to experience an ounce of that joy with her.
My paltry four pack isn’t going to touch Jim’s six pack, because I usually don’t care enough to try and add more muscles. The fact that he keeps discovering new abs is kind of cool; the ecstasy of his accomplishment is actually something I get to share with him, because he bothered sharing it with me.
Janet made out with Taylor Swift? I mean, I’d rather know that than not know that, and because I’ve talked to Janet with my mouth, it’s almost…almost…not really, but almost like I kissed Taylor Swift, too!
Okay, so that last one is a stretch, but you get my point: other peoples’ accomplishments can actually be a source of satisfaction, believe it or not, especially when other people accomplished things you were never going to accomplish in your life, because you never cared enough to even try in the first place!
Okay, so maybe that’s not the right lesson.
You’re giving me that look, like you already knew all this, like you aren’t jealous of at least a handful of your friends when you log onto Facebook, to which I concede that, fine, you just might be a better person than I am. But at least I’m sharing my vulnerabilities with you! Doesn’t that give you some new thing you didn’t have when you woke up? An understanding (or at least a grand tour) of the emotional insecurities of people who live in the world with you? People like ME?
Because that’s the final point: not only are other people sharing their unique and exciting lives with you, but you are sharing with them. We’re each fulfilling our part of the puzzle: this life quilt, where whatever odd thing I’ve been up to, that seems perfectly mundane to me, might seem exciting to you. And I can guarantee you that whatever you’re doing is exciting to me, by virtue of it being something that I am not doing.
I’m not saying the grass is greener…
I’m saying it’s pretty cool how many different kinds of grass there are! Who knew?
Give me about an hour before the dopamine levels in my brain start to taper off, and I get all jealous and awful again.
For now, I’m just glad we know each other.