When novelist Gore Vidal passed away recently he was more in the news for his acerbic quote, “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little,” than his contribution to the literary world for over six decades.
Ahh…envy. Envy is an emotion people are normally wary of admitting. But people have always envied other members of their tribe: as more famous, more paid, more successful, more intelligent and more endowed. Like competition... as long as envy inspires, I don’t mind it at all. But add extra dollops and the risk is entirely yours.
I wasn’t surprised when a newspaper reported that “Facebook is gradually emerging as a platform that is stoking the fire of envy in adolescents.” A friend recently confessed that her daughter was troubled after pressing the ‘like’ button on all the pictures of her friend vacationing in Mauritius. The girl felt she was missing out on opportunities. I know of boys who resent their single status, more so because their friends are regularly uploading cozy pictures with girlfriends. The thought, “Why should friends have all the fun?”, can be distressing, especially if one has kept up with friends from school. Viewing happy, boasting status updates, and photos of peers having a gala time, holds the possibility of making one feel worse about one’s own life.
The phenomenon is not restricted to impressionable teens. From what I hear from my son, the bonhomie between batch-mates was under duress when companies started visiting his college for placements. Who got what, and how much, was playing on the status bar. And on most minds!
Psychologists say that “Boasting on social media triggers the same sensation of pleasure as food, money, or even sex.” Since self-disclosure is extra rewarding, what better place to exult than your own page – your personal billboard? Correct me if I am wrong, but apart from being pleasurable, boasting is infectious too. It can spur some kind of competition to highlight fun moments and achievements. This is not to say that all Facebook users intentionally indulge in a boasting spree. It is the nature of the medium. And also a matter of personal choice!
Some do it inadvertently, some subtly, and some blatantly. Bragging may or may not be playing on the mind of a friend who decides to post, “Gosh…There is a long queue for the I Phone 5;” or, when a friend innocuously enquires “Anyone in Switzerland this weekend?”
The question that begs to be asked is: How real is the virtual world? Peel the layers, and most are going through some sort of challenging life experience - stressful job, strained relationship, financial crisis, failed marriage, family feud, exam phobia, or health scare. Yet, how many wish to admit and discuss their personal challenges on a public platform? Have you come across a status message which reads, “Fired, Divorced, Abused, Failed
Perhaps one needs to keep in mind that the challenging personal experiences of most friends are behind the veil of feel good updates, vacation pictures, marriage videos and cozy captures.
For those who are moping and yet pressing ‘likes’ on the achievements of their peers, the story of two tear drops can act as a mild balm on the gnashes of envy. “Once, two tear drops were floating down the river of life. One teardrop asked, ‘Who are you?’ The first one replied, ‘I was shed by a girl who loved a man but lost him. And who are you?’ The other tear drop replied, ‘I was shed by the girl who got him’.”