A few weeks ago, I read a few studies regarding the general happiness of facebook users. These studies indicated that people who are more active on social media felt less satisfied with their lives when they compared themselves to their facebook friends.
The biggest trigger for dissatisfaction? Travel related photos and posts.
It made me stop and wonder for a moment. Do my facebook friends feel sad when they see my posts? I rarely post anything that isn’t travel oriented. I share articles on travel that I think others might find interesting. I share posts by fellow travel bloggers that I think are witty, or timely, or well-written. I share my own witty and well-written blog posts. And the pictures. Don’t even get me started on the pictures. Over 3,000 of my photos lurk with my facebook account, and they’re almost all about travel.
Of course, many people feel badly for many different reasons. Perhaps a woman who wants to be a mother sees all of her friends gleefully announcing their baby bumps with cute and sometimes nauseous facebook posts and photos. Maybe a man who longs for a career change sees his college buddies galloping toward his dream job with an innocuous work update . Photos of a new car, a new house, hell, even a new puppy can make people feel woefully inadequate.
But nothing seems to drive the nail home like posts about travel.
Before Al Gore invented the internet, travel seemed a bit more private. I may have known that someone was taking a trip, and I might receive a postcard, and I might have to reserve an evening to look at the stacks of photos when they returned. But I wasn’t looking at their trip, several times a day, as it happened. There was a mystery to travel that didn’t involve artful Instagrams of prosciutto in Italy and green curry in Thailand.
I’m as guilty as the next travel junkie, and I certainly never want to hurt any feelings, but, correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t the point of social media to share your life with people? And guess what? Travel is my life. Travel encompasses almost every moment of my waking hours, and some of my sleeping ones. I am passionate about it. I count down days to trips, much like some of my facebook friends count down days to the birth of a child. And both are important. In different ways, obviously, but we are, after all, different people.
I watch from afar as my facebook friends live a “normal” life. They talk about their children, beers while mowing the lawn, camping and family gatherings. I look at the pictures that you post of these events, and I “like” and comment. I enjoy seeing your life unfold in real time, even if it is very unlike mine. And when my non-traveling friends begin to post vacation photos and updates? I’m cheering you on, with glee.
Prior to reading about the possible effects my stories and photos are having on other people, I shared my life because I am happy, and I want the people that I care about to know that. Can it really be true that one’s happiness wreaks havoc on the lives of others? Can that be what social media is really all about? A place of jealousy and hurt feelings?
I really hope not. Al Gore will be so disappointed.