Social Media is a Thief of Joy

“Comparison is a thief of joy.” So said Teddy Roosevelt. The man was always good for a quick, incisive quote. In this case he could have been referring to social media. The purpose of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and other platforms have become much different from what was originally promised.

When social media appeared it was expected to deliver two different things. The first was to create democratic vehicles for the sharing of original, entertaining and valuable content. Sharing is definitely going on but most agree that the content is largely vacuous and self-serving and the few good bits are spread to the point of saturation and irritation.

The second promise was that social media would prompt earnest and real dialogue. That it would be a true exchange. That too has fallen short. It has become a broadcast tool where simplistic buttons are now the avatars for real conversation. A happy or sad icon is not a discussion or an accurate reflection of what we really feel and think. We are ‘clicking’ our way out of the work of communications and relationships.

Where social media has ended up should come as no surprise. After all, it leverages human behaviors that have existed for centuries. Yet, it makes worse our worse behaviors. Pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, sloth and greed show up when we post, share, comment and click. They are certainly in evidence when we compare our life to another.

The fact is, we all wear masks. No one can be their truest self all the time or even in short doses. This begins every morning when we look in the mirror. Our image gets a little distorted and by the time we face the public, a mask or two has been affixed in place. We do the same thing on social media. Our profiles and posts are a deliberate and calculated curation of an idealized image we wish others to see and believe (and what we wish we could actually be).

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