The Highlight Reel

Yesterday, my wise friend Shelli posted this on Facebook:

[My Facebook] life is my highlight reel. It shows my amazing life. It doesn’t show much of my boring life because, really, who’d want to see that? It shows vacation pics, not because I take grand vacations, but because that’s a highlight. It shows pics when I look good…because who wants to share their awful pics? It tells of successes, but I don’t tend to share my failures with 500 people….The same is true for just about everyone else you follow. Don’t compare your day to day with others’ highlights. They aren’t comparable.

This is true of everyone’s “life” on social media: it’s not their life; it’s what they choose to share of their life. It’s why I wrote a post calling Facebook Maskbook.

Robinson Meyer wrote a piece in The Atlantic last year called The Seven Deadly Social Networks, based on an earlier likening of social media to the Seven Deadly Sins by Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn (Greed). Facebook was Pride in Hoffman’s list, while Pinterest was Envy, but Instagram and Facebook do a pretty good job of fostering envy as well.

That old saying “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides” predates social media, but it’s particularly apt now.

In Psychology Today, Jesse Fox wrote:

We also have a terrible habit of believing that we apply the right filters to our Facebook use when we really don’t. If you ask a Facebook user directly, “Do you believe that everything you see on someone’s page is accurate?” he or she will inevitably say no. Most users are aware that people’s presentations on Facebook are selectively censored and even inflated. When users actually view and process that content, though, they forget that part of the equation, and tend to react more viscerally and emotionally to content. In that way, we are almost always making upward social comparisons that make us feel badly about ourselves.

Thank you, Shelli, for reminding your Facebook friends of what we know in theory but forget in practice.


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