Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Mallory O’Meara’s Tumblr, and is reposted here with permission.
It’s difficult to navigate social media when you are unhappy.
Consciously, you understand that most people put their best foot forward online, only showing the good things. They Instagram a cute picture with their significant other, tweet the success of their latest creative project, or post a video on Facebook of them in a bikini to show their weight loss. Sure, you know that other things in their lives might be awful, or those pictures might not tell the full story. But man, at least they’ve got something, right?
Maybe you’re unwillingly single, or struggling with your body image, or fighting for success in your field. Seeing these happy posts feels like daggers flung into your raw, lonely heart. You want to block these people, or comment with some passive aggressive snark. The raging, jealous part of you wants to kick over their sandcastle. Unfortunately, there’s no button for TOO HAPPY – SCREW YOU. There isn’t a separate internet for miserable fucks. We’ve all got to share the pool.
I’m estranged from my father. With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, my social media feeds are drenched in ads for Great Gifts For Dads and Cool Places To Take Your Awesome Father. I’m actually estranged from both of my parents, which brings an inevitable sting to most holidays, but the specific ones really twist the knife. This coming Sunday, my Instagram will be flooded with pictures of people with their loving fathers. My Facebook feed will be covered with tributes to supportive dads.
A part of me will wince at every post. A part of me will want to tweet something snarky and bitter about Father’s Day. It’s the same part of me that, when friends complain about their dads being too corny or overbearing or clingy, wants to scream AT LEAST YOU HAVE ONE and throw them into an erupting volcano. This part of me is valid. It’s also a tiny garbage person.
No one should ever, ever be made to feel bad for being happy. If I am bitchy to a friend complaining about their father, I am not going to be magically assigned a new dad. If you take happiness away from someone, you don’t get that happiness. Joy and success are not footballs. If someone fumbles with their joy, you can’t grab it and sprint away. It’s unique to them and dissipates as soon as it leaves their grasp.
Your pain and frustration is valid. It’s also like a fart. It’s okay that it’s there, but it’s not acceptable to aim it at someone.
Bitterness and resentment accomplish nothing. The pain and frustration in your life might not be any fault of your own. But it probably isn’t any fault of your friend’s, either. No matter what has happened to you, even beyond your control, the onus is on you to do something about it. The only thing that’ll truly help is doing the work. That could take the form of self care, working out, or putting more effort into your career. Whatever it is, it’s your job to do it. Instead of spewing anger at people with great families, I go to therapy every week and learn how to manage and move forward.
Thwart that tiny garbage person and use social media to be genuine and honest about your problems. Being open online about my own issues and receiving support from people going through the same things has been one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. To do that, you’ve got to accept that happiness and success are not zero sum games. You don’t get to where you want to go on the highway by asking everyone else to slow down.
The only real option is to deal with your shit. Spend the time and effort you’d put into a bitchy subtweet and do something for yourself instead. If you need to, take a social media break. Sunday, I’ll be spending the day power-reading and eating sandwiches, which is how I handle almost everything.
Once you start to climb on top of that mountain of pain instead of languishing underneath it, you’ll be able to see past it. You’ll be able to see your friends’ successes and joys as inspiration, or as something to learn from. Or, just something that is fucking great. If you honestly care about someone, their happiness should make you happy, too.
We’ve all got that tiny garbage person inside of us. Don’t let them out. Dimming someone else’s shine won’t make you glow brighter.
(images: Sesame Street)
Mallory O’Meara is an author, screenwriter and producer for Dark Dunes Productions. She also co-hosts the podcast Reading Glasses, a weekly show hosted by Maximum Fun that focuses on book culture and reader life. She lives in Los Angeles. Her first book, The Lady From The Black Lagoon, is being published by Hanover Square Press. @malloryomeara
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