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The Write or Die Chick: The Curse of Facebook Envy

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Woman on a Computer
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Rosalyn just had another beautiful bundle of joy.
Tomika has traveled the world and posted pics of her exotic adventures.
Tiffanie got engaged and is flashing the rock of life in ring form.
Emily bought a palatial new house with her husband.
Maurice has an adorable toddler who’s learning how to walk. 
Sheedah just finished her master’s degree. 
Cheresa is a newlywed after eloping to Vegas with her boo thang.
And Janelle? Janelle got Verizon to knock $20 off my cell phone bill for the month of June. Hot sizzle damn.

I don’t know about your Facebook friends, but mine are consistently doing the darn thing. There’s always some amazing life event unfolding, some tremendous accomplishment to post about, some heartwarming feat of personal triumph to share with the world greeting me at the top of my newsfeed. I click like, like, like. Sometimes I say, “awww” or “yay!” Then I click like.

And I do like it. I don’t begrudge anybody their milestones, successes and headline-making joys. I get excited when folks are living out their desires for their lives, especially people I know well enough to have witnessed the journey and the sacrifices, patience and energy it took to get to it. But I’d be lying to myself and to y’all—and I don’t want to be dishonest with either one of us—if I didn’t admit that I have to have a sense of humor when I log onto Facebook sometimes. A lot of times. Because boy, that timeline can make me feel just an itty bitty eensy weensy bit like a loser.

It’s a good thing my life isn’t tangible because I’d nudge it with my foot and ask it if plans on ever doing anything impressive. Like, ever? Last night, my status update was this: “Janelle Harris is waiting somewhat patiently for something amazing to happen.” Sixteen hours later and no sign of amazing yet. But my email is open, my phone bill is paid up and my text messages are poppin’. I’m a-waitin’. Any minute now.

Pre-social media, if you stretch your memory back to a world before we knew the minute details of everybody’s daily existences, you had to wonder what someone was up to if you’d lost touch with them. And if you didn’t have a friend in common or arbitrarily bump into them at Target (after you tried to dodge them down the light bulb and battery aisle), you didn’t know that the ex who demolished your heart is getting ready to jump the broom or the girl who was a total blockhead back in high school is now a jetsetting socialite.

You were happy to create your own little fantasies about what happened to them and in those mental movies, the open palm of karma had dealt a swift and hefty backslap. (That might be petty. It probably is.)

You may not yet be where you want to be in life, but in your version of the story, they weren’t either and that was OK with you. Facebook and Instagram and whatever else is coming down the pike have shrunken the world down to three degrees of separation. And that reduces the air of mystery about everyone, including the people who don’t seem like they deserve to be living any part of the high life. But I digress.

Facebook envy is a real thing. For a while, I thought it was just me and my crazy self feeling like a whole lot of do-nothing after I logged off, but a study conducted by two German universities at the turn of the year claimed that one in three people felt worse about and more dissatisfied with their lives after a stroll through the FB fairyland. I know social media is all smoke and mirrors, all what you want people to see and know and none of that nasty real-life sludge that gets churned out in the process.

But I struggle with comparing myself to other folks or, at the very least, operating by this internal timeline that reminds me, in a whispery voice, that I’m not anywhere close to the place I thought I’d be at this age. Facebook isn’t really softening that realization. I don’t expect my friends to stop splashing their praise reports and lofty achievements across their pages. I’m just chomping at the bit to start having some of my own.

Until then, I guess I’ll just live vicariously through y’all. I have too much fun on The Book to shut my account down. That’s like, not even an option. So let the baby shower invites, housewarming details and engagement party reminders fill my inbox. Let the precious baby pics, wedding day photo shoots and graduation announcements populate my timeline. I’m ready, finger on the trigger to click like, like, like.

Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor, and the owner of The Write or Die Chick , a boutique editorial services agency. She’s also a single mother, a proud Washington, DC girl and a longsuffering Kanye West fan. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.

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