Make It Stop: “My Friends’ Social Media Updates Are Making Me Depressed”

I feel like a bad friend. My friends seem so successful and I feel like I’m stalling. All I see are updates about marriages, babies, pregnancies, I feel like I can’t keep up. How do I not feel so terrible about it?

Social media is a tool, not a reflection of real life. Like airbrushed models on the cover of “Vogue,” the images and status updates you see posted from friends, family, frenemies and exes are carefully edited to convey a particular narrative. They can be things like, “I’m so in love with my husband!” or “I’m so happy in my new graduate program!” or ““I’m so #blessed!”

But the truth to what they’re actually feeling about these scenarios might be intentionally masked. No one’s going to post a status update like, “I’m not sure if I married the right guy!” or “I’m terrified that going back to school is a poor investment!” or “I’m not over my ex. Is it super obvious?”

Just as we encourage people to become media literate so you can evaluate the messages you see in TV shows, movies, and magazines, we should turn the same critical eye to the things we see on social media. Because a lot of it—hell, most of it!—is bullshit.

If you’re having trouble separating fact from fiction, maybe it’s time you had a social media vacation until you’re in a better place.

Or, if the idea of pulling yourself away from your feeds isn’t practical, think of social media like a party you’re hosting. Would you tolerate anyone bumming you out at your own party? Hell no! Monitor your feeds, hiding, muting, and un-friending as you see fit. Tailor the stream of content to include only items that inform you or make you happy, like news organizations, cat pics, and your favorite blogs like The Frisky.

The other thing you need is a strategy for when these feelings of inadequacy take hold. What can make you feel better quickly? It can be as small or silly as you like:

  • Playing a YouTube video clip of your favorite comedian doing your favorite routine
  • Getting extra whip and caramel drizzle on your latte
  • Sending a care package to a loved one down on their luck
  • Giving to your favorite charity or volunteering somewhere in your community

When I need to turn my frown upside down:

  • I text a friend I haven’t talked to in a while to them them know that they’re in my thoughts
  • I take a nap with my cat, Danny
  • I watch old “Kenny vs. Spenny” episodes (http://kennyvsspenny.com) because this show cracks me up
  • I watch space documentaries because it reminds me that the universe is vast and it makes my problems seem minuscule in the scheme of things

Unhappiness, like happiness, can be created. Be proactive and take control over your emotions to make a kinder, gentler world for yourself.

My roommate always has her boyfriend over. It’s like I have a third roommate and I hate it. He’s nice enough, I guess, but I certainly don’t want to live with the fella. That’s extra water, extra electricity, extra everything. He’s here five days a week. I can’t afford to live on my own, which just makes me resent this even more because I feel like it’s all happening against my wishes. She’s rarely alone so I feel like I can’t even approach her to talk about it on the sly. They hog the living room and watch TV all the time. There’s no peace and quiet and it’s taking a toll on my mental health. What can I do?

Well, this sounds hellish. First, you have to get her alone. Second, you have to tactfully bring up your concerns and feel it out her willingness to work out a compromise. Third, you have to figure out if you want to preserve a friendship with her if she moves out because that will let you know how much energy to invest working this out or not.

Make a date with her out of the apartment. Say, “Let’s grab drinks, just us!”

Then once you guys have a glass of merlot in hand, say, “Your boyfriend seems like a great guy. I’m happy you found someone compatible, but it’s beginning to make me feel like I have a third roommate since he’s around so much. I don’t want to police how much time he spends here or how much extra the utilities are because of his constant presence. What do you think would be a reasonable compromise so you feel like you can see your dude and I don’t feel like I have a third roommate?”

See what she says! Maybe she’ll suggest he only stay over three days a week. Maybe she’ll end up staying at his place more. Maybe she’ll offer to toss in a few hundred more a month to compensate for his utilities usage.

If she offers any resistance or doesn’t seem interested in finding a solution, add, “My concern is that I don’t think this arrangement can go on much longer without one of us having to move out. You need to spend time with him; I need some peace and quiet. My hope is that we find a happy medium otherwise we’ll have to look at our other options.”

Roommates are temporary by nature. They have a built-in time limit that isn’t always under your control. Sometimes significant others enter into the picture, sometimes people switch or lose their jobs, sometimes people have to pivot as life throws them curveballs; these are all reasons why roommate situations might shift. And sometimes roommates work out great for years, sometime it’s a failed experiment that lasts two months. That’s part of the stress, but that’s also why you need such flexibility to have one.

Good luck!

Make It Stop is a new weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and Shlooby Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.