Liv­ing on­line un­real

Herald on Sunday - - EDITORIAL -

Ev­ery­body is the star of their own movie on so­cial me­dia. Their life is shared in glossy im­ages of fun, food, friends and fam­ily.

On the whole, that is a good thing. It would be a worry if the bulk of im­ages peo­ple wanted to share were of dark mo­ments and peo­ple they did not like.

Those are best left to the skill of pro­fes­sional film-mak­ers.

It is good that we am­a­teurs with a smart­phone over­whelm­ingly pre­fer to cat­a­logue the joys of life — but our Re­view fea­ture to­day sug­gests we can have too much of a good thing.

Brad Smeele, aged 30, a quad­ri­plegic af­ter a wake­board­ing ac­ci­dent, has made an ef­fort to re­duce his on­line ac­tiv­ity to ex­pe­ri­ence more of the beauty and hap­pi­ness of the real world around him.

Some­one con­fined to a wheel­chair, with a smart­phone mounted for him to use with a mouth sty­lus, is per­haps the last per­son who would be thought likely to ques­tion the value of so­cial me­dia, and Smeele ac­knowl­edges the con­tact it gives him with mates he can­not as eas­ily meet now.

But the last time he was in hos­pi­tal for spinal treat­ment he de­cided to do with­out so­cial me­dia for a while and see what hap­pened.

He re­alised the “high­light reels of other peo­ple’s lives” were mak­ing it harder to en­joy the life he had.

He did not leave the phone off but he con­sciously re­duced his use and no­ticed the good things around him.

That is some­thing many of us could do.

So­cial me­dia is a not a movie we are mak­ing. It’s a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with peo­ple we know or share our in­ter­ests. It is good to send and re­ceive happy snap­shots and witty com­ments but it should not be mis­taken for a doc­u­men­tary of real life.

It is cer­tainly not a re­flec­tion on your own life if it does not seem as joy­ful and event­ful as the posts by your Face­book friends.

Life coach and Her­ald colum­nist Louise Thomp­son calls this “com­par­isoni­tis”.

In her prac­tice she sees it a lot. It can be un­healthy for the sender as well as the re­ceiver, she says.

“It’s dan­ger­ous if you put your self­es­teem in how many likes you get on Face­book and In­sta­gram . . . you can’t con­trol that.”

Cut it down if you can.

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