The Dark Side of Facebook, Blogs and Twitter

Skim through Facebook and you’ll find tons of perfect classes being taught by fabulous instructors. Online, through e-books, in-person. In just the topic you need a class in.  You’ll also find people doing amazing things: eating only raw food and loving it, painting amazing paintings, sewing breathtaking clothing,  creating work so detailed that it leaves you breathless. And not only that, they are on gorgeous, well-designed blogs with tons of paid advertising.

The quote is Pema Chodron, but the lovely painting? I’ve found 37 “original” sources for it on Google. I don’t know who did it, but it’s lovely. It’s signed, but I can’t read the signature.

How come do those people have so much time to do their work while you are working so hard and not getting enough done? And what do those people know that you don’t, anyway? How come are they getting what you need and aren’t getting? And then you suddenly snap awake and know–you are in the firm grip of social media envy.

It’s a disease you catch from your computer. From spending a lot of your time digging out the perfect technique, the best instructor, the finest. . . of everything. And then mourning that it’s not yours.

You aren’t alone. I fell for it again this morning. And it won’t be the last time. It’s a weird mix of feeling that starts with research and ends up filling you with feelings of “not enough” Suddenly you are hooked on what you can’t do and don’t have. Lack and attack.

When I get that sad, draggy, not-good-enough feeling, I get off the computer. No work is getting done, but I’m allowing myself to wallow in envy. Once the computer is shut down, I remember two things:

1. A perfect blog is not an indication of a perfect life. The blogger could have dust bunnies the size of cats, fight with loved ones, discover a stain on the rug that won’t come out, and have credit card debt that’s too high. I’m just seeing the nice polish on the exterior, and I may not want the whole package that comes with the perfect blog.

2. Marketing is built on a need that’s uncomfortable. “Write to the pain point,” is the marketing mantra. So when I see a perfect class, what I’m really envious about is the video skills or equipment. When I see a huge teaching itinerary, I’m envious of the organization, time and energy an artist took to make classes, take photos, and fill out those applications. And that was why I was on the computer to begin with–I was working on that. Envy isn’t a bad emotion unless it spill over into self-loathing (or loathing strangers.) Envy is an early warning sign of something missing from your to-do list.

I’ll still feel social media envy and I’ll still stumble. But when I can be clear about what I can and can’t accomplish (or didn’t make myself do), it feels cleaner. I know who I am again. I am enough, and armed with a to-do list.

–Quinn McDonald wishes she could be lots of things she isn’t. But she’ll have to make do with what she is, because it’s unlikely there is a fairy godmother and a transformed pumpkin in her future, and she wouldn’t want to wear glass heels anyway.




41 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Facebook, Blogs and Twitter

  1. Thanks for this post. While I don’t generally feel envy from reading others’ posts, every now and then, we all are having an off day where we don’t feel up to par in some area of our own lives and it so helps to remember that indeed, it is a small snapshot of the whole person AND that it can be great personal insight when we consider what we truly want and need to do to make it happen. You offer such terrific spiritual insight.

    • I wanted to be open about feeling thoughts that aren’t qualified as “good.” It’s not the thought, it’s what we do with it. And chasing it out of our brain doesn’t always help the heart. Sitting down that thought and interviewing it, being with it, not pushing it away can be a blessing. And that took some learning.

  2. Absolutely can relate to this post. I quit Facebook for a period of time because it was making me feel bad, not better, after reading through people’s posts. And I definitely get the blog/social media envy~thanks for the great and insightful post. Glad I found your blog today!

    • I just read your blog, and can’t leave a comment. Blogger and WordPress sometimes get jealous of each other and won’t let you post. So I’m sending you a comment via email. But you are an amazing person, so it must be true–we all get jealous!

    • Yep, I might be professional, but I have huge faults, make big pratfalls, and have looney ideas that don’t work out. But you and Traci are right, that’s what makes me who I am–imperfect and still kicking rocks ahead of me on the journey.

  3. So, so SO TRUE!!! We all suffer from this every know and then. Thanks for your wise words and thoughts… good luck today and you know what? Just create something… anything… all by yourself. It will be AMAZING! It will be YOURS!!! Oh, and if you don’t feel like doing that – chocolate helps too sometime 😉

  4. Quinn, I’m so glad to find your blog after one of my own followers on my blog redirected me to you! Just had a guest blogger, Ann Stonebraker, address “practice envy” here .

    You are so right! We all see things that others do that bring out that green-eyed monster! I see colleagues who are teaching and choose to have more time feeding their artistic inclinations than I do . . . and I long for more hours in a day, skills do create beautiful things and beautiful moments, etc.

    The reality is that we only get the same 24 hours as everybody else and where we choose to put our talents, our time, and our resources is what grows . . . whether we intend it to or not.

    Thanks for writing a post that speaks loudly to me and for sharing your creativity with us in your blog! I look forward to following you!

    • What a relief to see there are a whole lot of us out there, green eyes flashing and being OK with it. I love your commentors, too, they are bright, loving people and that always calms me.

  5. I think you are perfect just as you are, Quinn, and I feel honored to be your friend! I have come to realize that a perfect anything is not an indication of a perfect life. Personally, I would rather be REAL than be perfect or even appear to be perfect. You bring so much to so many people Quinn and you touch people on a real and personal level. Thanks for all that you do!

    • Oh, I gave up being perfect years ago. I’m still drawn to it, though. Not that I really want it, but every now and then, it has a nice shiny surface polish. Are you back from the UP yet?

  6. Q, you do SO much great creative work that I sometimes wonder whether or not your day may not have 48 hours – by way of some magic twist. I admire your work tremendously. You ARE among the best!

  7. *Paula brings a chair, coffe and choc chip cookies because we might spend a few hours here talking about this* There are so many sides to this!
    * Of course we show our best side. We were taught to. E.g: I take a pic a day for a creative project. Yesterday I took two. One of my “sick camp” (which I even straighted out, making the bed tidier) another of my son´s new model plane in the works. Guess which one I chose for the blog… And then added the other one “to keep it real”, most probably out of guilt. <– This is to say that we are all wearing our Sunday best on line.
    * I pay attention to what people say and I have a good memory. I´ve discovered some "backstage" stories and things that don´t add up. Oh, well. Not everything that shines and all that. <– This is to say that there is another (darker) side to all stories
    * We don´t notice our own lives, because it´s what we do. For me it´s "normal" and no big deal to plan weekly menues, for others it´s extraordinary. Same goes for the classes, etc that you mention. I consider what you do extraordinary!

    • I think as women, we are harder on ourselves than necessary–comparing, coming up short. It may be specific to American culture, but I’ve talked to enough women to think that envy for what we are not, what we have not achieved can be a good wake up call or as painful as a raccoon drowning a hunting dog. I love when you drag up a chair and chocolate chip cookies, Paula. I know it’s going to be a good discussion then!

      We *do* show our good sides, and that’s fine, that’s how I was brought up. But then, occasionally, on FB, there is a lot of “getting real” which sometimes surprises me.

  8. I am soon to be 70. Although I am having a great retirement period in my life although fraught with a run with breast cancer and other health issues that are there and must be dealt with. I found you
    through a link from Carla Sonheim when Raw Journaling was about to be published. One of those time when that invisible guiding hand directs us to sources that will continue to encourage us through our lives no matter what age we are.. You have been an encouragement and blessing to those of us out here in the imaginary internet world…you have been a magic thread that connects our souls with others who we join on this journey. You are making this journey meaningful and I hope that some of our thoughts and words to you will help you as well. Blessings, Quinn….you are a gift to us. Mary Ann

    • Awww, Mary Ann, what a generous thing to say. Commentors here are smart, articulate and funny. I learn from them every day. It’s the thing that keeps me writing. And not afraid to admit it when I stumble and fall. I always think someone will be helped from my mistakes.

  9. AMEN TO ALL THAT!! I often wonder how these folks product ANy art, or even live a life, the time they must spend facebooking, etc. nd yes, Jane, Quinn gives me AH-HA moments and advice when I most need it..

  10. “Skim through Facebook?” Surely you jest. But really, people do that?

    While every person is unique, only very few combinations of uniqueness, time, and place come together to produce really exceptional results. It’s “being in the right place at the right time” with hundreds of other variables involved as well. Sure, hard work and skill are important. But where and when you were born, the random events around you, and countless things you have no control over are also important.

    I think (this is just a guess) that it’s partly a cultural thing; we’re immersed in proclaiming, boasting, selling, marketing, and eliminating negativity. We’re taught to sell *to ourselves* via “positive self-talk”. I think this is an outgrowth of being marketed to from infancy.

    By the way, speaking of uniqueness, there’s a finite number of possible humans, at least genetically. We have roughly 30,000 genes (active ones), so there’s 2 to the power of 30,000 possible combinations. There’s plenty of variation yet to come; assuming there have been 100 billion humans so far, that means this percentage of the possibilities have occurred so far: 0.0000…(insert about ten thousand zeroes)…0001. Thus everybody who exists has already won a lottery with incredibly long odds.

    • Well, it’s not so much “them” as the way I interpret it. I think everyone is more gifted, faster learning, and more inspired than I am, that’s not on them, that’s me making stuff up. Which is hard to manage, sometimes. But yes, I do troll FB to see what other people are doing, teaching, and posting. I don’t read like I’m grading papers (haven’t done that in years) and I don’t read and believe everything as gospel. A lot of is marketing and posturing, because that IS how our society works.

  11. ESPECIALLY not in heels. I also have teaching envy as I’m not doing much, ( well any right now) but those relentless itineraries of others just give me headaches.

    Susan King

    • There is a certain pride in being super busy. Which, in my opinion, is controllable. But I will admit that finding a balance is not easy. Balance with what others are doing, balance with what you want to get done.

  12. I know just what you mean. I think it’s particularly acute in the art journaling and mixed media world – such beautiful work, such honesty, such wisdom, such earthy acceptance of imperfection! – I retreat back and wonder where it is I could actually even *start* 😉

    Thanks as ever for keeping things real.

  13. You are one of the bloggers I’ve ever read. You constantly give me Ah-ha moments and I want to thank you for that. Your insight into life is awesome!

  14. While you are questioning all this I better point out that you have changed my life,and lots of others also no doubt. The fact you get out of bed everyday and just do so much stuff is inspirational. The links I have found through you have perked me up no end. You are my guilty secret …I check my emails as soon as I wake up every morning. Since subscribing my life has sadly turned upside down,my best friend died of cancer and my husband and I have just split after 15 years,there s a lot of practical and grotty work ahead. BUT..I’m determined to rediscover my arty side which has been repressed for sometime,it could be the thread and focus which will stop me falling apart and springboard me back into the world. We all have bad days,you can to,but I think what you do is amazing. Remember I live in a field in the middle of nowhere,you are my link to the outside world. I have to find a whole new set of hopes and dreams as these ones have passed their sell by date. Hoping that the art journalling will help,that process. With tears rolling down my cheeks….x

    • Other really helpful blogs are the ones at Wisdom Woman and Jessica’s other blogs are fun and informative too. Especially for middle of nowhere people. You will get through the pain and come out on the other side and find who you are again. Been there, heard the same message, doubted it at the time, but now I know it’s true. Blessings.

      • I love Jessica. She taught a wonderful class at Art Unraveled one year, and it was a real privilege to be in her class. I haven’t been to her blog in a while, but I should. Love her to bits!

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