Nestled in my Facebook feed the other day was an article called “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook”.
“Oh, this will be good”, I thought as I clicked the clicky, “I’ll get to feel smug as I read about all the ways people annoy me doing all the stupid things that I hate on Facebook.” Feeling smug is, of course, a childish and completely self-indulgent activity, but being human I do binge on occasion. A quick glance at the sharing toolbox seemed to confirm the goodness to come: 40,000+ shares on Facebook and 199,000+ likes. Now that is some social approval!
It starts out by introducing a supposably “heinous” Facebook status that will set up the rest of the article.
“2012 was a biggg year for me. I left my amazing job at NBC to move back to Chicago. I started dating my angel, Jaime Holland. I started yoga (thanks Jake Fisher & Jonah Perlstein!). I wrote an album with Matthew Johannson. Wrote another album I’m proud of. I got to hang with Owen Wilson, and worked with Will Ferrell on an amazing project. Had a conversation about Barack Obama with David Gregory. Danced. Joined a kickball team. Won a couple awards. Helped my sister plan her summer trip. Swam a lot. Golfed a little. Cried more than you would think. Read The World According to Garp. Saw Apocolypse Now. Went to Miami for the NBA Finals. Drank the best orange juice I’ve ever had with Davey Welch. Tweeted. Went to amazing weddings in Upstate New York. Drank a ridiculous amount of milk.” [the actual status continues, but you get the idea.]
At this point, my smug smile was now a quizzical frown as I got the distinct feeling I was being had, but I continued on to read the author describe his reaction to the admittedly very obvious flaw in the first sentence of the status.
“By the time I finished reading, I realized that my non-phone hand was clutching tightly to my forehead, forcefully scrunching my forehead skin together. I had the same facial expression I’d have on if someone made me watch a live event where people had their skin slowly peeled off.”
Well, yes, I had the same reaction. It completely drives me crazy when people try to emphasize a word by adding extra letters, but add the extra letters onto a consonant or other unpronounceable letter. Obviously the correct way of emphasizing that you had a big year would be to say biiig rather than biggg, because if you said it you would elongate the vowel, not say big-g-g-g. And yes, both versions look stupid when you spell them out, but there is still a right way to do things, people.
But the author completely ignores this one specific reason to rightfully mock this status, and instead is complaining about the content. Wait, what? I was baffled. Perplexed. Was I in crazytown? This momentarily caused me some angst and confusion, because it meant either I myself was Insufferable, or that the author was a douche. Since I had a vested interest in learning more about myself, I kept reading the article to find out which one of us had the problem.
The author goes on to lay out his premise of what is annoying and what is not annoying, and uses a scale to score all the different ways people are motivated to leave annoying statuses. I have to admit, I actually like the writing style of the article, it is a good set up. And, in that way that being smug and putting other people down paradoxically makes us feel momentarily good about ourselves, I can see why people enjoy reading it and have spread it so far and wide via sharing and liking.
But, wowza, I disagree! Like, with gusto! Especially-Mostly-Specifically on point #1.
His #1 example for terrible Facebook behavior is “The Brag”. Because sharing the awesome details of your life is, apparently, bragging, which is, apparently, bad. Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first), but these are some of my favorite statuses to read. In fact this is exactly what I want to hear on Facebook. Most of my friends on Facebook are people I no longer interact with otherwise. People I knew from high school or college, or friends that now live on the other side of the country, or people I used to work with, or cousins and second cousins that I know and love but don’t see regularly (I have a ridiculously large family). I want to know what they are up to! I want to know when they get that new job, or when they go on a cool vacation, or when they get engaged, or get to meet a celebrity, or have a spectacular night out with the old gang. To me, that is sort of The Whole Point of Facebook.
I Flames-On-The-Side-Of-My-Face-Hate-It that when people acknowledge the good things in their lives, others try to tear them down by dismissing their good fortune with accusations of “bragging”. Even worse, the author here makes the accusation that they are knowingly and deliberately trying to induce jealousy amongst their circle of friends, family and peers. Give me a break. No, figuratively, please do, because a broken bone would take my mind off of the truly horrible things being said and perpetuated here.
The example status above? I loved reading it, and I don’t even know that guy. When I feel jealous about something someone has done, that doesn’t make them bad. It certainly doesn’t make what they did bad. It means, to me, they are an inspiration, because anything someone else can do, I can do too. If I want it bad enough. If I’m willing to make that my goal. Sometimes I am, and sometimes I’m not, but that choice is up to me, not them.
Friend: Hawaii is beautiful!!
The reaction of a good person: “Wow, that’s awesome, please upload more pics! Boy this makes me wish I could go on vacation to Hawaii right now too. Even though I’m jealous of this person for doing it, I can’t do it myself right now as I’m focused on paying off my student loans, but I’m so glad my friend got to go. She totally deserves it.” Yes, I may be jealous, but I’m happy for my friend, because going is terrific! I have competing goals so I can’t do it myself, but I still want my friends to accomplish great and fun things.
The reaction of an insufferable person: “What a jerk for not keeping his fun experiences to himself to save me from feeling bad about my sorry, sorry life.” Me, me, me.
Friend: Having fun working on a project with Will Farrell!
The reaction of a good person: “Wow, this friend got to hang out with a celebrity. I like this or that celebrity, but I don’t really want to change careers to go into that field so I could do the same thing myself.” I’m jealous, sure, but my friend is just doing their job, and if they get a fun perk like that, good for them! Or they made the choice to go to an event to see them, where I made the choice to not go. Either way, thanks for telling me so I can daydream about it! Now I’m just two degrees separated from that celebrity! (And I am no celebrity chaser, they are just normal people underneath the fame, but I don’t begrudge their success…with a few bottom-feeder exceptions that I’m not a jerk enough to call out here.)
The reaction of an Insufferable person: “What a braggart. Celebrities are stupid, I can’t believe how shallow he is to think I would care. As if he were as cool as that celebrity anyway, he should just shut up about it already. I can’t believe he is such a jerk.”
What the article infers without quite having the balls to come right out and say is simple. If it makes me jealous, then you shouldn’t do it. Or at least never, ever mention it in my presence. No one should be able to do anything cool that I can’t do simultaneously and preferably better. I can’t excel in this area, so no one else should either. Rather than being a grown-up and being happy for the successes of others, I want to tear everyone else down to my level in a misguided and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to make me feel better about myself.
But here is the thing. A) This won’t work, because if your happiness is reliant on the actions (or non-actions) of others, you will never be happy anyway and B) This makes you a douche.
(Whew! Glad it wasn’t me!)
I wish we would all brag more. I wish we could relish all the wonderful things we do. Not in an effort to induce jealously (exaggerated eye roll), but in an effort to celebrate and, potentially, inspire. The success of others does not imply any failure in you. In fact your success makes me consider it as an option to try for myself. I love that! Going back to the original post, yes, I am probably never going to “write an album” or work with Will Ferrell. I’m certainly never going to join a kickball team, because OMG. But I’m glad someone is doing those things. If the world was full of people who were all exactly like me, or all exactly like you, it would be a boring place. I mean, I’ve got a pretty healthy self-esteem, but still, I’m glad there are people who make different choices than I have and study physics and make music and, yes, who make movies with celebrities, because I also enjoy the products of those things.
Look, can people be arrogant and brag in the classic definition of the word? Yes. It is true, and that is annoying. But of the nine examples the author uses to illustrate this point, eight of them I find not only acceptable, but actually are the exact kinds of things I enjoy reading in my feed. I may not know what your true motivations are for posting them, but really, what we are talking about here isn’t so much your post, but my reaction to your post. Let that sink in for a moment.
This article says a lot more about the author than it does about any of the examples he provides. We aren’t in the heads of the people we friend on Facebook. (Whom, remember, aren’t random strangers, but are people we supposedly know enough to have friended in the first place.) But when you read a post that says “I’m going to Hawaii!” and your reaction is “What a jerk for going to Hawaii just so I will have to feel jealous”, who exactly has the problem? If other people being happy or successful or even just lucky makes you feel bad, I’d recommend taking a long, hard look at your perspective on the world. And remember, you are choosing that. No one can make you feel anything. If you feel bad, it is because you want to, or you have internalized some pretty poor coping strategies. Rethink them!
My last complaint is the final example, where the author complains that if anyone tries to post quotes or anything that dares to attempt to be inspirational, they are just being narcissistic. Though rather than riling me up, this one just kind of makes me shrug my shoulders. I get it, I’m not always in the mood to be inspired, and sometimes I just skim or skip those posts myself. Often they are in girly fonts with pictures of flowers or cats and the presentation colors the message in a way I find off-putting, since I’m not the target audience for flowers or cats. What inspires one person may seem silly or trivial to another.
But, sometimes, they do spark something. An idea, a feeling, a memory. Whether they do or not still has nothing to do with the poster, and everything to do with me. It is always easy to make fun of people trying to make the world a better place, or people who are sharing something that for whatever reason made them feel a little bit better during the day they were having. It is much more comfortable to embrace cynicism and sarcasm and just make fun of people that encourage you to leave your comfort zone and to try to do a little bit more than you are doing. But once again, your reaction to this says a lot more about you than about the person posting it.
Chill out, peoples. The Facebook isn’t as bad as we made it out to be.
Well, except for the people who commit #2, #3, #4 and/or #5. Those people suck.
Assuming the author isn’t too busy enjoying his wild success to even notice me and this post, I hope he doesn’t mind me having some fun with him. I stand behind my points, but I don’t actually infer that the funny post he wrote in any way reflects on who he really is as a person. Sometimes funny wins just by virtue of being funny.