Share the Envy: A New Facebook Meme

by Brian Leaf
Originally Published: 

“Instead of playing Draw Something, fu**king draw something! Take the cleverness you apply to Words with Friends and utilize it to make some kick-ass corn bread. Corn Bread with Friends—try that game.” — Nick Offerman

I’d like to start a new Facebook meme: Tag five people whose posts you’re envious of in today’s newsfeed. For me it would look like this: “Today I am envious of Jennifer Schmidt for her viral Huffington Post article, of Betsy for attending two consecutive yoga classes, and of Ken and Rhonda, who can afford eight days for their family of five at Club Med Aruba.”

After all, the prompt in the status update box asks, “What’s on your mind?” This new meme would go deeper and allow you to get to know me better than do my usual posts about rock climbing and free-range ostrich stew. I’d be vulnerable and we could start to really feel close. In the words of psychologist Brené Brown, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.”

The three friends who I tag then get to tag three of their friends. The meme would go viral in hours.

I love that through Facebook I know exactly when my best friend from high school goes into labor and what second cousin Martha had for dinner. This keeps me feeling connected to their lives. And the 13 Rumi quotes that I can expect each day from yoga friends do sometimes inspire me.

But some of the rest makes me envious. In January, Jimmy from yoga teacher training had a way deeper MLK quote than I did. He got like 250 likes. No wonder he’s so successful. And I saw that Phyllis had her new book reviewed in People magazine. Why can’t I get them to review my book?

My new meme would be therapeutic. How transformational to see that Jennifer, Betsy, Ken, Rhonda, Jimmy, and Phyllis, of whom I am envious, are envious of someone else. How great to know that good ol’ Ken, who can afford a week in Aruba, is drooling over Jeremy’s new car or successful relationship.

Not that I would delight in his suffering. Not at all. But it would remind me that he too wants more. That, ultimately, we all do. And that, right there, would be the key—the thing that drops me back into my center and puts me into alignment.

This works for two reasons. First, seeing that others—even folks who have what I want—are seeking more wakes me from the envy cycle. It reminds me that the key to my happiness is not having more stuff, different experiences, or even succeeding more.

Second, naming a feeling neutralizes it. While I surf Facebook I can be lost in my envy. It defines me; it seems to be who I am. But when I notice it and name it, I am separate from it and therefore free. Rather than identifying with the feeling I am experiencing—envy—I identify with my deeper self that sees the envy as simply an experience, albeit an unpleasant one, but just one of many all the same.

This experience of identifying with my deeper self is when I feel most happy and full of vitality. I know this already. But I forget it. Especially as I surf Facebook. So I think this meme could set me straight.

And I know I’m not alone. A study from Berlin’s Humboldt University found that one in three people felt more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting Facebook. In fact, the most common distressors were photos of holiday vacations and comparing onself to other’s level of social interaction, i.e. pictures of others connecting with friends or their number of birthday wishes or likes their posts receive. Put simply, a study out of Utah Valley University found that the more time a person spent on Facebook, the more likely he or she was to believe that friends lived happier lives.

And here’s why my new meme will be especially healing. The study from Berlin found that users who browsed without contributing were the most affected. So if we just open up, it might make a difference.

I’m pretty sure this would be a complete game changer. Are you with me?

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