“Facebook is so toxic, it is like a happiness competition,” was the remark my coworker made during one of many casual conversations in which we discuss a wide array of topics that seem to have nothing to do with our work. I find these conversations so valuable that I make it a goal every single day to talk to my coworkers and learn about how other engineers see the world. Engineering at its core is about shaping the world to make it better, so our most important task, more so than our technical growth, is to continue to aim to understand more about society. On this particular day, this statement struck a chord with me.
It is interesting that social media has become a place where we show off how great our lives are, yet research shows that usage of such platforms seem to be negatively affecting our self-esteem.
Any happy person knows that happiness comes from the little things that happen daily. It’s not at all about some grand accomplishment that earns many “likes” on social media.
Yet so many people believe that life is about these accomplishments. I realized that a few years ago when I quit my job. People were sorry for me even though I felt that I had just made a wonderful decision that allowed me time to grow more as a musician. Then when I went back to an office job, so many people congratulated me. Why is it so deeply ingrained in our minds that life is suddenly great if a person gets a a new job, a new degree, a new house, a new car, or a new spouse? Sure these may be good things, but not because of the end result. A college degree is hopefully a sign that you have the diligence to learn something difficult, and you will continue to use that skill to develop yourself. A new job hopefully means that you worked hard at your passion and equipped yourself with a talent that an employer sees as valuable, and now you will continue to grow as a person on the job. Or a new spouse hopefully means that you have a person in your life that you really enjoy spending time with, and you will continue to support each other as you build a life together. Those are things worth celebrating every single day. But it is problematic when we idolize just the end goals and start pursuing them as if the final result are what matters. Life has so much more to offer you along the way regardless of the destination.
Although I am concerned about the harm that come from our attachment to social media, I remain optimistic and believe that a proper use of it can also be a force for good. It can unite people for a good cause, or inform people of important issues in the world. But let’s take a step back and take some time to consider what it may be doing to us, particularly our mental health. Let’s appreciate all the little moments of joy in our lives, even if they are not grand and worthy of making it to our social media feeds.