The Narcissism Diet—my resolution not to internalize others’ resolutions. Kinda.

You know that feeling you have, that feeling you might be too embarrassed to admit, that other people’s facebook lives are just there to taunt you?

You don’t?

OK. Maybe it’s just me.

But I don’t believe you. 🙂

Sometimes I am absolutely delighted at those adorable pictures of your picture perfect family (especially at Halloween—nothing is cuter than the kids in costume!). Sometimes I love to see that sweet couple that you now find yourself so enthusiastically a part of that your love requires you to have BOTH of you smooshed into your individual profile pic.

I sometimes laugh at your humble brag status updates about how you can’t understand why people begged you come speak at their 4,000 person conference in Barbados but you’re honored to go there and will let God use you as an instrument on the dias and presumably at the afterparty by the pool. (I know; I resemble that remark.)

I am very often inspired by how you model healthy living and encourage others to do the same. “It’s not hard: fewer calories in, more calories out!” you cheer and I nod in enthusiastic agreement as I have just one more (okay, three more) of those leftover Christmas cookies. Yeah, they’re stale. That’s why God invented tea.

But sometimes, in my head, I see those status updates and profile pics and think, “Wow. That’s not my life. I thought that was going to be my life. And instead my life is a lot harder than that, and I think it may be my fault.”

Or, if I don’t have the emotional bandwidth for that response, I think, “what a self-righteous prick.” I don’t say it out loud—I’m a pastor—but it’s what I think.

 

And it is a distinct possibility that I could feel even more that way as the New Year’s Warriors let me know on a daily basis all of the ways they’re winning. Facebook can be a weirdly Charlie Sheen world, in between the upworthy posts, George Takei memes and pictures of adorable animals.

 

Yeah. I know. All of my reactions are screaming my insecurity rather than my friends’ prickinshness.

 

Which is why I’m working on the narcissism diet for 2014.

Whenever I see a profile pic or a “I’m the luckiest gal in the world because my husband brought me flowers and made me a four-course meal and carried me to a bearskin rug in front of the fireplace for a night of…oh that’s all you get to hear!” or something else, I’m going to fight the Freudenschade impulse. (I know the German word is schadenfreude, taking pleasure in others’ suffering, but what I experience is more a twinge of bittersweet loss when others seem to have what I think I want but can’t have. There’s no word for that, although Morrisey’s “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” is an embarrassing reminder of why there’s no word for that: it’s because no one should ever admit to feeling that way. Well, I’m a rule breaker.)

I’m going to look at that picture or post and think one of two things:

  • “I am glad that person is experiencing fulfilment in this moment. I hope that one day all of us will be able to experience regular moments of fulfilment.” And maybe I’ll add “long live the revolution” so I don’t feel quite so bourgeois about the sentiment.
  • “That person might actually be going through some hard stuff. I understand the need to put up a brave face. I will definitely affirm them, and I will also carry them in prayer, because we are never encouraged to be vulnerable in public spaces, and that takes a toll.”

I’m going to work hard at not making them about me.

I’m also going to try to avoid posting things that aren’t really honest about who I am and what I’m feeling, be it celebratory, conflicted or (the most frequent) grumpy. I’ll try not to be too self-righteous (although when it comes to justice issues, that’s what you’ve come to expect from me, and I’d hate to disappoint my audience). And I will DEFINITELY cheer on my friends who are participating in the Keep It Real Post of the Day where they say something really authentic and hard instead of putting up a façade.

But I don’t get to decide whether your posts are a façade or a genuinely joy-filled life. And I want to honor that it’s hard enough dealing with baby spit up and feeling unsexy and not getting the love you need and struggling to (or not being able to) make the car payment; you don’t owe it to anyone to put that out there for them to schadenfreud all over. That’s my bag. It doesn’t have to be yours.

 

But seriously, while I’m embracing the narcissism diet for my new year’s resolution, seriously consider letting me see just your face on your profile pic, no matter how hot that love of your life is. I can friend her myself if we get in that deep.

Comments (8)

  1. heidi

    Delightfully honest and just a touch snarky. Yes! I generally put up food for my status. And I’m just looking for a picture that doesn’t show both of my chins – Facebook is a strange place- personal media- and I am plagued by Christian’s insistence that I make THEIR issues my status or I’m not really in love with Jesus.
    Mainly, I’m just looking for pictures of my grandchildren of of those I love but don’t see frequently- although I do enjoy George Takei’s photos so very much.
    Anyway, Sandhya, don’t let the humble braggers get you down- their lives stink – just in different ways.

  2. Sandhya (Post author)

    And that sometimes distracts us from the blessings in our own lives–like having decades-long friends who won’t judge us (too much) for being snarky…and might even be a little bit snarky, too. 😉

  3. Erica B

    This is wonderful, and explains so perfectly my love/hate relationship with Facebook. Perhaps I will also aspire to your gracious intention… might be a bit much to commit to.

    Keep your posts coming!

  4. michelle puckett

    Hi sandhya,

    I love this post, you brave woman! You are *definitely* doing some good GRPOD# (get real post of the day) with this one!

    Xo:m

  5. J

    >we are never encouraged to be vulnerable in public spaces, and that takes a toll.

    i feel like my fb pic is a lie. i look happy and healthy. but my ill/disabled life is complicated to explain to ppl IRL, much less online. so i’m quiet.

    on fb, i try for what the buddhists call “sympathetic joy”. not always successful. 🙂

  6. Carol Bono

    I am relatively new to the Facebook world and spent some time trying to get a grasp of what people are generally trying to convey in their posts so I could be socially appropriate. I didn’t realize for a long time that ‘liking’ was often more of an indication of having read a post than actually ‘liking’ it. My intention in using Facebook was to develop new relationships with other people by sharing something about our lives and interests. What has been amazing to me is how many cousins I have not seen since childhood and friends who were lost in time that have reappeared in my life. Yes, some of them post a truly shocking number of pie pictures, children in strange costumes, and political cartoons antithetical to my point of view. But I feel enriched. I am practicing greater vulnerability and less social appropriateness as I strive to be in more authentic relationships. But yes, Sandhya, it is, ultimately, all about me that’s for sure!

  7. Riana

    Sometimes it’s easy to post, “I have a cold” or “Left my lunch at home”, but I want to share the real stuff for the in person conversations. Like “I feel like I’m sucking at all aspects of my life” or “my kids are driving me crazy, so I’m hiding in the bathroom, but feel guilty because my partner has been with them all day.”
    Facebook “sympathy” makes me feel gross, and I might (usually do) judge the folks the over share with the sadness. Also, what happens when we’re so quick to post the awesome thing our kid did or meal we ate, but forget to enjoy it because we’re constantly checking back for how many likes it got?

  8. Sandhya (Post author)

    It seriously is such a balance of being authentic without bleeding all over the place…and you raise a really interesting point: do we sometimes get so caught up in broadcasting the moment that social media unwittingly plays a role in us being less present? Thanks, Riana!

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