Facebook has a lot to answer for. No, I’m not going to blather on about privacy and all the other bugbears that Facebook users moan about. I’m talking about the snapshots of other people’s lives that Facebook can give us. Little insights into what they’re doing and where they are and how they’re doing. I’m on Facebook, but under an assumed name. I am happy to share what I’m doing, but only with a select few. You can only be my friend on Facebook if I invite you – look for me under my own name and you won’t find me.
The thing about Facebook, however, is that it’s so easy to find people you knew years ago and have lost contact with. Of course, that was part of the raison d’etre for the thing in the first place, but it can be dreadfully envy-inducing; kind of like a school-reunion where you compare and contrast your life with the lives of your peers.
This morning was a classic example. I clicked on my friend’s friends list and found a mutual friend. So I clicked on her. This woman was a woman I knew – and was very friendly with – about 9 years ago. Our eldest daughters were due within a few weeks of each other, we held very similar views on parenting, and generally got along grand. I also really liked her husband, a genuine, warm guy with a fabulous job for a large MNC. We lost touch when I moved back to Europe, though I sometimes heard of her from our mutual friend.
Anyway, this morning, I learnt that she is living my life. That is to say, she has what I always wanted. She is still married to the same wonderful man, she now has not one, not two, but FOUR gorgeous children and she’s living in India.
This information sent me into a comparison overdrive. This woman is just a few months older than I am. Yet there she is, having the life I always wanted: A loving husband, loads of kids, no financial worries and living in my favourite country. And here I am, never having had a loving husband, with just two children, plenty of financial worries and living in my least favourite country. Poor me.
Thankfully, I have a reality stick, and I keep it fairly close to hand. I picked it up and gave myself a little whack over the head with it.
Who says that all is rosy in my old friend’s garden? Don’t I know well that things are rarely what they seem to outsiders? Don’t I know well that people have plenty of troubles that they don’t broadcast? Who am I to decide that her life is ‘better’ than mine? I may not ever have had a loving husband – but I have lots of friends who bring much joy, support and love into my life. I may ‘just’ have two kids; but they are amazing children and I am truly, wonderfully blessed to have them. My children are safe and healthy – not every parent has that luxury. I may have financial worries, but I also have the capability to rid myself of them – and while I may not be the wealthiest woman on my street, what I have is mine and I’m not dependent on any man (or woman!). While I am living in a country where I’d rather not be, it’s where I am and I can choose to be annoyed about that, or I can choose to bloom where I’m planted.
If I am to remind myself of one of my core beliefs – that everything is as it should be – then I have no reason to be upset, envious or worried. I may not have access to the amount of money my friend has, but am I any less happy? I shouldn’t be. I have the life I have. I can choose to moan about it or I can choose to live it.