Celebrate the highlight reel even if it’s not your own
on Apr 02, 2016, Updated Apr 12, 2023
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“Facebook is just a highlight reel.”
Maybe you’ve heard this phrase or even said it to make yourself or someone else feel better when a mad case of FOMO (fear of missing out) crept in. To a degree, it’s true that our online personas aren’t the 100% total picture of who we are as people. But when you think about it, nothing online or offline can give anyone 100% of who you really are. Are you your full self at work? Would anyone expect you to be? No. We compartmentalize. It’s what we do and its perfectly natural.
So what’s the deal with all this online angst?
The first time I heard the highlight reel line, it really spoke to me. I thought wow, that is so true! It’s ok that I am not perfect! No one is perfect! It was comforting and helpful and I filed it away in that part of my brain that stores little pick-me-up-quotes like that for the next time I feel like a particular sack of potatoes.
But somewhere along the way, this highlight reel quote took a more sinister turn. There was major pushback against so-called positive people posting beautiful photos and happy-go-lucky updates. I’ve seen friends called fake, delusional or downright liars time and time again. I realized that for all the inspirational quotes with beautiful fonts, it seems like what the internet really craves is failure.
The problem is less about online angst and more about the human condition in general.
We love to watch people fail because we feel better about our own place in the world if someone else is worse off. It’s something no one wants to admit, but y’all it’s the dirty truth. Jon Ronson even talked about it in the book I recently mentioned, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Bringing people down or merely witnessing it gives us a false sense of affirmation. So if you’re on board with that idea, I think it makes sense to assume that when we see others succeed it does the opposite.
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
- Wow, she lost a lot of weight! (I am so sick of people who won’t stop talking about the gym/diet/fad)
- What an amazing gig for that blogger! (What does she have that I don’t?)
- She has HOW many Instagram followers? (She probably bought them)
- She’s going to (wonderful destination) AGAIN?! (She is so spoiled)
- Another sunset photo? (Must be nice to have so much time on your hands)
Before you think, what kind of horrible person would EVER think those things? I’m here to tell you that I am that person. I’ve had every single one of these thoughts at one time or another because of one simple fact; I am a human being. And humanity is a funny thing because even if one of these thoughts might pop into my head from time to time as a knee-jerk reaction, I still try my very hardest to capture that bad juju and send it away. It’s like the old Buddha quote;
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Fact: My inner anger affects me and me alone. It’s insane to think that it would do anything other than eat me alive from the inside out.
You might say, but I don’t want anyone to DIE! And of course you don’t. You just don’t want to be at the bottom. You want to feel like you’re ok and this is why it’s easier to read and share stories of hardship or shame and disgrace when you aren’t feeling your best. It’s a subconscious way of saying, look I know I don’t have it all together but I am nowhere near as bad as that guy!
It’s why we post more selfies when we feel good about our bodies and take more photos of our kids when we don’t. It’s why we wait until the storm has passed before we write about it. It’s why we congratulate others to their faces and lie awake at night wondering where we went wrong. We want to be the bigger person, but sometimes it’s just so damn hard.
But here’s the thing about that highlight reel; those happy posts and photos just might be a lifeline for the person who hits publish. That sunset may be the one bright spot in her day and she thought, finally, I have something to share! Lynne Meredith Golodner recently wrote, “I don’t tell the world every dirty little detail of my life. And I’m not going to apologize for it.”
It’s true that we have the freedom to be real online in theory. But we don’t know the ins and outs of another person’s struggle. She may be having major problems at work and writing about it would be a nail in her career coffin. Her child may be facing issues that are crushing her but to preserve the child’s online personality, she carries the burden offline and maybe alone. Marriage issues could be consuming her entire being so another trip might be the one thing she needs to repair her relationship.
You get what you give
Whether we face this reality or not, we are all making hundreds of judgements about ourselves and others daily. And the beautiful thing is, we don’t have to feel guilty about the jealous or envious thoughts that pop into our minds. The thought itself is not the problem, it’s what we do with it that can make or break us.
Do we open the door to jealousy and comparison or do we immediately slam it shut and say, no trespassing!?
One day you will be the one posting a beautiful photo. It might be shopping on your day off or a much-needed cup of coffee. It might be a sunrise after your baby woke up before dawn. Again. It might be a gorgeous destination that you want to remember forever. It might be a pair of jeans you finally fit into after all these years.
Whatever your moment is, you’re going to want the people you love to be in your court. You’ll want them to celebrate with you and share in your joy because joy is always better with friends. You have no way of knowing what is truly behind everyone else’s highlight reel, but if you can unlock the ability to truly celebrate others and let go of the envy, we all win. Because when it’s your turn to celebrate, you’ll want the likes and the congrats to be truly sincere.
And they will be if yours are.
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