Dawn News

March, 28 2015
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The accessibility of envy on social media

—Photo Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/Dawn.com

We have all found ourselves to some degree comparing and judging our life experiences, appearances, relationships, and professional and academic successes to those attained by others. There are two logical errors that lead to envy and covetousness which poison the soul:

a) you can never know the totality of a person’s life and

b) my happiness is not conditional upon your successes or failures.   Recently, a friend and I flew to Madrid from Cairo, exploring Seville, Cordoba, Granada, and Ronda, savouring the joys of Moorish architecture, Andalusian food and flamenco shows in the most authentic tablaos. We then moved to Tangier, Morocco, via the port of Tarifa, after a delightful afternoon spent gazing at the beautiful views of the Strait of Gibraltar from atop one of the “Pillars of Hercules” that once bore the warning for sailors “nothing further beyond" in Latin.

Our travels continued as we treasured the Atlas Mountains, picturesque blue-washed villages, narrow alleys of Morocco, where we seized every opportunity to take delight in eating the Moroccan food. A month later, at the train station of Casablanca, my friend and I parted ways with tons of pictures and beautiful memories, some of which were shared on social media.

Some amongst my friends and acquaintances blatantly said they were envious of my (so to speak) trouble-free life. Those who could afford such a trip didn’t have the time to spare; others didn’t have the means to go; while some others couldn’t go because their kids are too young to track the narrow alleys of Fez’s Old Medina which become even tighter when donkeys laden with supplies walk by. 

I reminded an acquaintance that he has the comfort of family, job security, and most importantly, daughters that he adores, so there is no need to marvel at a younger single man who invested most of his earnings this year in a pedantically planned, epic trip.

With the advancement of technology, the models on the cover-pages of magazines, who are de facto role models for teenagers and adults across the globe, are ever more perfect than the idealised beauty depicted in the Florentine Renaissance paintings and sculptures. The tweaked waistlines and thighs, exaggerated bosoms and skin devoid of blemishes, pigmentation, and scars, all acquired through Photoshop are all too unreal, but have given a new point of comparison that is hard, if not impossible, to top. If you’re healthy and fit, another person’s “beauty,” whether natural or technology-enhanced, should not deter you from being happy. But I can understand the need to be accepted and loved.

Being consumed in constant judging leaves us with the feeling of being mediocre or, alternately, with narcissistic pride. Both antithetical perceptions absorb us in the vicious cycle of comparison with friends, family and unknown others. What’s most important — which I wish had realised in my teens — is to learn to be comfortable in our own skin.

Comparing how you look, the model of your cell phone and car, clothes and handbags, and summer travel plans with others develops a rat race mentality. Our lives are then consumed in trivial competitions: how much you can bench press, how fast you can drive in traffic or perform various car/bike stunts, how up-to-date with fashion you are, and so on.

That is, perhaps, why I see young boys and girls going out of their way to categorise classmates based on their perceptions of haves and have-nots and go on forming superficial friendships.

Even the very devout are not free from the curse of comparison. How long a person stays in prostration during a prayer is just another example. Those who know the pitfalls of judging and comparing stay mindful of their thoughts and intentions. As Lee Weissman noted in less than 141 characters on Twitter: "In my brain: ‘Wow, he is so knowledgeable’ ‘That guy can really pray.’ Enough! Comparing yourself to other people is such a dead end."

In many ways, social media has given access to envy and increased our tendency to judge and compare our lives with others by giving us a constant feed of the new relationship statuses, jobs, children, travels and successes that our friends and acquaintances are encountering.

The very fact that someone has married before you, had more children, gotten promoted, toned their body or travelled to exotic getaways may appear immensely important to us now, but such perceptions are short-sighted and shouldn’t drive us into the pit of envy.

Facebook offers relationship statuses raging from “It’s complicated” to “In a relationship” to “Divorced” among many others. In either of the relationships, you can be miserable judging and comparing yourself with others, or you can be in a state of utter bliss if you’re in harmony with yourself.

I, like many others, don’t post my worries, illnesses, loss of love and troubles on social media. If I were to give you an honest blow by blow account of my life, you may not want to be in my shoes. If you have to, mimic those with strong leadership qualities, compare yourself to those who epitomise the best of manners, follow the footsteps of those wise men and women who posses a strong sense of ethics, morals and fight for human rights and justice.

In crux, heed the wisdom of an age-old proverb, “be careful what you wish for; your wish may come true” and find happiness in what you have.

The writer is a graduate of Columbia University; he is a journalist and an educator. Feel free to connect with him on twitter here.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Comments (16) Closed




Nisma
Sep 24, 2011 07:20pm
Most needed advise...!!The social media creates a sense of competition which is strong enough to ruin personal lives and mental health!
Meha Mathur
Sep 24, 2011 08:10pm
Thanks for putting things in perspective. A few weeks ago I saw a Hindi movie, Zindagi na Milegi Dobara, which depicts the exploits of three bachelors in Spain, and those were the things that any travel-lover like me would like to do;only,we don't have the means. Unlike most of my family members and friends, the film left me sadder.One because I can't do what those guys have been able to do, and two (more importantly), it ends on a strange note - that it's not worth living if you are not always in a state of flux, always aspiring and desiring for outlandish dreams. My question was, what about inner satisfaction, inner peace and introspection, virtues which were much cherished in individuals as we grew up? Yes, there's a decisive way in the way we perceive relationships now. It's a quest for instant gratification (to the extent of comparing how many comments did one receive,vis-a-vis friends). In this mad-mad world, I remember the popular lines: Dil dhoondta hai, fir wohi, fursat ke raat din.
zulfiqar khaki of Da
Sep 24, 2011 10:48pm
fahad faruqui came to me as face of love in his wonderfull articale fahad faruqui rightly said in his articale"The accessibility of envy on social media" that find happiness in what you have!
zulfiqar khaki of Da
Sep 24, 2011 11:02pm
dear fahad! yes i can say dear, because i m also journalist and working with Daily kawish(sindhi) Hyderabad sindh pakistan. your article"The accessibility of envy on social media" provide me an idea for TV Play in sindhi which will be aimed at performance, hard work and love of nature, you can guide me inthis regard happily. my cell number is 0342-3537951.
Amina
Sep 24, 2011 11:09pm
I just read this and can not agree with you more. I am amongst those who do get effected by what the others state on their status, their family pics and their vacation plans. There is a part of me that knows this is not the way one should live. Everyone has their own set of worries and happiness, and one should be content in what one has. Funny though, that even this firm belief i still get moved. Thank you for writing this and making the picture clearer to me:)
Azeem Haqqani
Sep 25, 2011 10:53am
Excellent
Iftikhar
Sep 25, 2011 10:59am
Well written article. I can personally trace your adventure to most of the places mentioned therein. However, I do believe that the social-media phenomena is just another fad, and it too will fade away with time. Why on earth someone wants to share the boring, mundane details of their otherwise 'ordinary' existance, with the multitudes of strangers far and wide, is beyond me. I'm therefore, perhaps amongst a handful of my collegues who has neither a facebook or twitter accounts. I also belive that comparing yourself to others or enviousness is futile, for we don't know what their journey has been, yet we fail to count our own blessings. To each his own I say.
abubakar
Sep 25, 2011 11:02am
too good...spot on...loved it...keep it coming :-)
Tahir
Sep 25, 2011 02:39pm
Get your article right, please.
natasha
Sep 25, 2011 04:12pm
Excellent read in a really long time ...
Chaigram
Sep 25, 2011 05:29pm
Envy, my friend is product of small mind and a heavy purse (rich). A poor readily shares his dry bread with his neighbor, but a rich will never share his Mercedes!!
Sumaira
Sep 25, 2011 11:10pm
So true and very well written
goat
Sep 26, 2011 01:45am
what you have to say about personal contentment and being thankful for whatever one has is golden advice. although i would like to add that blaming social media for instilling insecurity into people is misplacing the blame. it is the insecure, attention seeking masses that have driven the social media explosion. think about it. if everyone were content with their family and close friends that they have personal contact with, the likes of facebook and twitter wouldn't have taken hold of their lives like they have. social media feeds on masses composed of pointless individuals. its a case of exploiting a market that's already there more than creating one.
Imran A.
Sep 26, 2011 06:08am
I will store this article because reading it once is not enough to digest the wisdom put forth. You know, it makes sense to write articles like this one that our youth can relate to, in today's world. Our religious scholars have no clue what problems exist forh our young youth and keep repeating the same concepts like a broken record... Kudos to you Mr. Fahad.
Faizan
Sep 26, 2011 03:49pm
Excellent article. Regardless of the fact that I too never felt comfortable sharing my every-minute routine on social media, I never really understood why social media was forcing people to step into others' lives rather than just bringing them close. Being close to your friends and relatives is different from living in every minute details of their lives. I call this hyper-interaction. Thank you Fahad for giving me some answers.
Hussain Zaidi
Sep 27, 2011 12:29pm
I have my facebook id and am an avid user, though I never ever shared my personal thing to people i dont know. For this I have to manage my friends lists, you know the restrited and close friends and family and that takes a lot of my time. I agree to what u have written.