Social media connects us to more people than ever. Unfortunately, it connects us to a super-happy, sepia-toned, brunch-ridden view of each other's best sides that leaves us quivering piles of jealous sweat.
It does for me at least. These days, I can't log on to the internet without wincing in fear of what terrible way I'm about to compare myself to everyone I know.
Facebook in particular has changed from a place where I once checked to see if my crushes from high school were still attractive into a devastating achievement parade of weddings, babies, beautiful vacation photos and righteous political quotes.
Full disclosure: I am particularly prone to jealousy. I once got envious of the attention a friend of mine paid to the South Dakota state quarter. Still, even an emotionally rational person must get irritated by the just-below-bragging line level of celebrating that happens on Facebook.
My gut instinct is to fight back and devote my life to destroying the internet. But that is a) emotionally counterproductive, and b) hard.
Instead I would like all of us to agree to simple policy for social media: For every four flattering things you post on Facebook, you must also post one unflattering thing.
By "flattering things" I mean to keep doing what you're already doing:
- the famous person you saw walk by you on your trip to Los Angeles,
- the arm-in-arm photo with your significant other,
- the photo of your baby, which will be your profile photo until you die,
- the friends at brunch, brandishing Bloody Marys
- the half-marathon time,
- the Spotify playlist with Katy Perry removed and Nick Drake added
Keep 'em coming. But after four of those you have to put one unflattering thing.
But by "unflattering thing" I mean one honest detail of your life that you're not proud of. Limited to but not including:
- photo of you hauling a recycling bag of wine bottles out to the curb
- video of you eating no less than three Krispy Kreme donuts while watching DVR of American Idol after midnight
- mp3 of you drunk dialing your ex
- photo of any body hair
- tumblr post admitting you got bored while masturbating
- Instagram photo of yourself in fluorescent lighting, no filter, shot from below so you have like five chins.
- list of the last three books you read, but really. Must include one paperback bought at an airport and/or Us Magazine.
What does NOT count as unflattering is anything you'd call a "guilty pleasure." When people confess to a guilty pleasure, they generally mean that they watch The Bachelor or listen to Katy Perry. Those are not guilty pleasures. Those are pleasures. Because you don't feel guilty.
A truly guilty pleasure would be hearing that someone you didn't like in high school just got divorced, and smiling. You'd be happy, but you'd feel guilty about that happiness. By the way, I would count that as an unflattering thing. "Just smiled when I heard that Danny Sprock got divorced."
Here's the thing about putting unflattering things on Facebook: one, I would feel better.
But two, putting negative things about yourself will make people like you more. We like what we understand. And you don't really understand someone until you know their (inevitable) bad side.
I learned this at an extremely unlikely time: the memorial service for my uncle. Even for a memorial service, this was sad as my uncle had been young (50s) before dying from cancer. My aunt, genuinely grief stricken, stepped to the front of the service and delivered a moving eulogy. In it, she listed the many great qualities of my uncle: his generosity, his intellectual curiosity
Then she took a breath and said, "Now in the interest of fair reporting I would like to list his faults." And she did: his tardiness, his easy-going nature that sometimes devolved into laziness, his weakness for weed (is it a fault? certainly in a eulogy it sounds like one). The rest of us were shocked, then smiling, then laughing. What my aunt was saying was true. And familiar. And warm.
My aunt is a uniquely insightful and, honestly, bizarre person. I'm not advocating that we go onto Facebook and list the faults of our deceased loved ones (though I don't doubt that has happened and been then put on Reddit). But she demonstrated that the best way to really let others know someone is to let them see the unflattering side.
So after your hike up Bear Mountain, your photo of your engagement ring, your mp3 of an obscure Arcade Fire track, and your status of seeing Ryan Gosling at a farmer's market: upload the shot of your earwax. It would be good for the world.