Envy is one of the most promoted intangible commodities of modern social media. Designed perhaps to connect people, Facebook has made it possible for those we don’t even know or like to find and judge us, and immerse us in the occasionally unsavory broth of heavily advertised, media-designed electronic soup. Always simmering, awake, growing, penetrating even when attention is supposed to be elsewhere, excavating new ground. Mining the human psyche. Mine. Mine. Mine!
Has the concept of ownership replaced that of accountability? Think about it.
We all feel envious sometimes. It’s human to feel want for things ‘the cool kids’ have; to feel entitled to take and have all that which others take and have. It’s everywhere: Google ‘envy pictures.’ Social media plays on this ‘you deserve more’ concept, like it’s a mark of evolution, strength and discipline to take more and more, just like ‘these successful, wealthy people did!’ Left unmarked, envy has become a rather nasty, infectious social disease.
Combining the universal human need to connect with others – to share everything from excruciating personal minutia to ubiquitous angry-faced cats pictures – with the human tendency to want and have all that has not been had, is as foolish as giving ‘person hood’ status to corporations. Or is it?
I suppose it depends on the person you ask. Those getting wealthy from merging insecure millions with the Hades grapes of everything everyone else is and has are probably fine with it. They might even quote Eddie Murphy’s dad: If you don’t like, get the fuck out!
But what about the millions of ‘heavy users’ who are addicted to the possibility that someone cares about their contributions? Clinging like ancient apes to the branches of hope, where somewhere in the giant web of existence, there are strong branches to cling and swing to, allowing the feeling of security, acceptance and real connection to grow even more branches. There is a measured and immediate natural high when someone ‘likes’ something we said, compliments our pictures, or even posts something on our walls. This is why Facebook is addictive: Being noticed is the best feeling in the world.
The hook of Facebook is that it promises something that is possible, but not probable. It’s like a virtual pimp or a spin doctor politician: It promises things it is designed to deny.
Every time we present ourselves online, there is a hope that someone will not only notice but approve. Why else would we make our presence known to the online world? But in the heavily monitored social medium of Facebook, ‘likability’ often entails playing by the rules of what’s considered socially acceptable, thus presenting a superficial version of reality, and further, takes more than it gives.
The merging of the human need to connect with the ability to do so, but in a vacuous way, has spawned another need in humans – in fact, the original need that drives people to join in the first place: Depth. In the context of social media, depth and spirituality are, one might say, lacking. According to a recent German study, Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?, “Men were shown to post more self-promotional content on Facebook to let people know about their accomplishments while women stressed their good looks and social lives.”
This is not to say that people aren’t deep or looking for deeper connections. In fact, that need to show off ones ‘best attributes’ is a characteristic of human evolution; it is our biological desire to show ourselves as ‘fittest’, and thus more desirable for connection, acceptance and approval. It comes from the depths of our being, from the cells of ancestry. But it would be fair to say that the idea of what’s ‘best’ about us has become misguided and even disturbing. In this day and age, having a good body or lots of money or nice jeans, although advantageous in some ways, does not necessarily demonstrate good genes. And although it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘new normal’, especially if everyone else does, this does not make it any less creepy that so many do.
I think Facebook could be something far better than it is. Riding the shallow wave is played out. Insecurity about one’s body, social status, lack of money and exciting times, not to mention the ironic loneliness that one in three people feel on Facebook, are not what one hopes for or expects when one creates a profile.
I see two options for the insecure masses who get depressed by their Facebook unpopularity (bearing in mind that being unpopular on Facebook is sometimes indicative of independent thinking and deeper existence). One: Eddie Murphy’s dad’s declaration. If you don’t roll with shameless self-promotion or want to surf deeper waves, get the fuck out. Two: Be the bigger picture. Be the change you want to see. Change the face of Facebook. Delete the shallow, the greedy, the seedy bottom feeding needy. That’s it.
Delete everything that feeds the bad wolf. Keep what serves the good. There is no need to envy the hungry ghost; the wolf that seeks to feed on insecurity.