This year alone I have known of 6 different suicides of young people in my circle of connections. I keep wondering WHY? WHY does it feel like it’s becoming far too common? Maybe it is because mental illness & suicide is becoming less taboo & it’s being spoken about more, so we hear about it more often but I honestly believe that while it’s definitely not the primary “cause”, I think social media has a huge role to play in the increase of loneliness and depression, particularly amongst young people. Take Facebook for example. Rarely do you see statuses from people talking about the rough day they just had or how they are feeling sad or lonely or how shit scared they are about their future and have absolutely no idea what they want to do with their lives. You rarely hear about the deeper, often darker thoughts or feelings of others. All you hear about are the wonderful things happening in peoples lives: babies and weddings and parties and travels. You see pictures of everyone smiling and happy with their friends and family, seemingly living and loving life but you don’t see what happened before or after that split second the image was taken.
You don’t see what’s behind that smile.
Or that super gorgeous picture one of your girlfriends just posted. You look at it and wonder how it’s even possible for someone to be so flawless and then you compare yourself to her until you feel like a horrible, fat, ugly piece of crap. But you didn’t see how many ‘selfies’ she had to take before she found one she was remotely happy with because her own mind was criticizing her on her own perceived “imperfections”.
As amazing and fun and handy as Facebook can be, it also breeds comparisons and often leaves people feeling bad about themselves for a whole range of reasons.“We compare our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel” and Facebook is the perfect platform for viewing those highlight reels on a daily basis.
Back in the day (lol how old do I think I am?) when there was no Facebook, people had no idea what others were up to so regularly and consistently which would’ve meant there was a lot less pressure to keep up with everyone else; to do more, achieve more, be more.
We are all guilty of it. I’m guilty of it, I’ve always been someone who posts “positive” or “lighthearted” posts on Facebook and keeps the darker stuff offline, partly because I am a private person but also because I feel like I would feel far too vulnerable and open to criticism and judgement if I posted anything less than “cheery”. I didn’t want people to think I was flawed or broken. I’ve come to realise over the years that it’s actually ALL OF IT, the light AND the dark stuff that makes me who I am- I don’t need to be “perfect”. Sharing all parts of myself makes me authentic. I am enough. I have nothing to prove to anybody.
Never fear…this doesn’t mean I’m encouraging you to start sharing all your deep, dark and personal stuff on Facebook…not at all. And I wont be either. Some stuff should remain private or to be spoken about with a privileged few. It also doesn’t mean that the stuff I do post isn’t real, it absolutely is, it’s just not always the FULL picture. Which is my exact point for writing this. What I hope you take from this is that you don’t feel like you always have to act like everything is perfect, that if you need support or want to share something you are struggling with- do it, reach out, ask for help because I can pretty much guarantee you are not alone in your struggle. There are plenty of others who have been or are where you are right now and have incredible wisdom & insight to share with you. I also hope that the next time you catch yourself comparing your beauty, your body, your personality, your achievements, your car, your home, YOUR LIFE to somebody else, you remember that you are only seeing one tiny aspect of their lives, nothing is ever as simple as it appears through Facebook.
Maybe some of you are reading this and thinking I’m taking it all a bit too serious. Maybe with the world full of such dark news we need a place like Facebook that is ‘easy’ and ‘light’ and brain numbing. Maybe we need the babies, the weddings and the overseas travels. The good stuff. Maybe our newspapers and TV screens are so depressing that we need a place to escape to, a place where we can tune out from all the bad stuff going on in the world? But personally, as a whole, I think we’ve taken it too far and we’ve tuned out too much. We are so disconnected from not only the world but from each other and our own selves. We are out of balance. We need to step away from our computers and back into our real lives.
So if you are reading this and you have no problem with social media, if it doesn’t take up too much of your time or have any negative impact on you or your life or your creativity or your mood- good for you! I am going to take a leaf out of your book and limit my daily usage! But for those of you who can relate, when you catch yourself feeling anxious, if you find yourself in the mind frame of either comparing yourself and your life to someone else on Facebook. Stop. Get up, step away from the computer or put down your phone and go outside. Smell the fresh air, notice the sounds, pick some flowers or go for a brisk walk. Bring yourself back to reality, to the present moment, be here, now. Allow your feelings to be there. Express those feelings in some other way.
So much of our lives are caught up online, in presenting ourselves to the world the way we would like to be seen, but that’s not being seen at all…being seen happens with one on one connection with another human being, sharing stories and experiences in real life. Being seen, I mean truly seen happens when you share your full self with another, not only the half you think is “acceptable”. We all know this, we all laugh about how much Facebook has become a huge part of our lives and we even try to pretend that it’s not, “I’m not THAT addicted” we say…but we are and it’s making us miserable and disconnected.
Ironically, I am writing this on a day when we have just learned of the Suicide of beloved actor, Robin Williams. I have never in my lifetime seen so much universal grief over a celebrity. Why? I believe it’s partly because we all grew up with him, he is a part of our childhood. He bought us all so much happiness. But partly because it has been one big reminder to us all that things aren’t always as they seem. It has triggered something within us. Perhaps he reminds us of ourselves in some small way. We are all trying to put on a brave face, we are all walking around with smiles on our faces even on days we don’t feel like smiling. We all answer “good” when someone asks us how we are, even if that’s the biggest lie of the century. We are all pretending we are doing that little bit better than we really are.
You see? It doesn’t matter how “loved” or “popular” or “successful” someone is, you have no idea of the battles they are fighting. Someone may seem to “have it all” but all you really see is what they choose to show you. Please remember that when scrolling through your news feeds.
It’s OKAY if you don’t have it all together. No one does.
The world aches today over the passing of Robin Williams. May his death not be in vain. May it be a reminder to look out for each other, particularly those in your life who may be acting “strong” and putting on a brave face and for those who may seem like “they have it all”.
This is a real life story that shows us it doesn’t matter how loved you are if you don’t feel it or believe it.
It doesn’t matter how ‘popular’ or ‘famous’ or ‘successful’ you are, none of it matters if you are in pain.
It doesn’t matter how brilliant your life looks on the outside, what matters is how you feel on the inside.
It doesn’t matter how funny you are or how much you make people smile if you can’t make yourself smile.
Being the life of the party is nothing when you go home after a day of putting on an act and wearing a mask and you crash onto your bedroom floor in a pile of tears and exhaustion.
Tread gently and be kind. Ask someone if they are okay and really listen to their answer, it may not be in their words but hidden in their smile.
"You’d be surprised what a smile can hide."
RIP Mr Williams."