How Facebook Has Royally Screwed With Our Happiness Meter

I have a bit of an obsession with happiness – what causes it, what makes it stick, what can obliterate it all together. Perhaps this is the reason why I have an urge to ask complete strangers whether or not they are completely and totally happy with their lives. Because let’s face it – most people aren’t, and most have perfected the art of hiding it.

Why hide it? Well because happiness has become a measurement of success of sorts, a real indication of how well you’ve been at living. Hate your job? Can’t stand your spouse? Then by god, what have you been doing with your life? Not being happy is a sure sign that you just don’t have your shit together – or so we have come to believe.

It’s also a pretty damn good way to measure ourselves against those around us. If, for instance, your relationship is bobbing like a half-dead fish in the water when your BFF calls you up to let you know how her new beau bought her a ridiculously disgusting spread of exotic flowers – well, then chances are you’ll be feeling a bit like a failure. And how can you possibly compete with those people who seem to be thrilled with the idea of waking up in the morning, have their calendar filled to the brim with exciting happenings, are enthralled with how perfect their families are, and have prince charming to share their magnificence with?

Those people exist, right? Well, according to Facebook they do.

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a Facebook whore. In fact, I probably spend more time Facebook stalking than attempting to find a decent paying freelance job. However, that simply makes me an expert of sorts (because I like thinking of myself as an expert). Which has led me to notice a few things:

There are two types of Facebook personalities:

  • The type that always has something utterly depressing to say and will passive aggressively attack those who have “wronged” them (the ones you want to block from your news feed or just punch in the face).
  • And the type that always has some exciting weekend to look forward to, the perfect partner to gush about, and the most amazing job they could have ever hoped for – you know, the perpetually happy type.

So one day I, in my unhealthy obsession with dissecting happiness into little manageable bits, discovered that Facebook had given me the sense that a huge portion of my peers (some 400+ of them) were far happier than me (minus the Debbie Downers, of course). It was obvious after browsing through thousands of pictures of smiling faces and sorting through status updates, each with the underlying message of: “Look at me and my fabulous life!”

Funny thing is, I have those pictures too. And I’ll admit to writing one or two status updates that boasted of something I have had to be happy about – because each of us chooses the side of ourselves we wish to show and the parts of our lives we want others to admire.

That is the reason why Facebook has royally screwed us over. All those people whose profiles tell us they have their shit together? They have bad days too – they just don’t take pictures of it and plaster it all over for the world to see.

Facebook is our way of entertaining each other and should be taken as nothing more. That’s just a little hard to remember when you are sleeping on your parents couch and brooding over the fact that your life seems to have veered off into a ditch. I’m just sayin’.

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Dreams? Yeah, I’ll Save Those For Tomorrow.

Before leaving home to bake in the sweltering sandbox that I currently reside in, I had concocted a list of things I would delve into once I got here. You know- those things we believe deep down will make us happier, healthier, more whole versions of ourselves, but are better left for another time or place. Yes. I have lots of those.

I figured that being in a town so far removed from regular Starbuck’s drinking civilization would inspire me in some miraculous way to be…different. And at the end of those six (or five if I have anything to say about it) long months I would have become a yogi, accomplished magazine writer, meditation guru, master chef, brilliant photographer, organization expert, blogger extraordinaire, etc. etc. etc. Seriously – my goals were that lofty.

Three months into my time here and what have I got? Sores on my ass from spending six to eight loooooong hours a day typing diligently on my computer that I can only use on the couch because the wifi refuses to cooperate. And the closest I’ve gotten to being a yogi? Completing a 30 minute candlelit yoga practice from a DVD via the Xbox.

Oh, and did I mention I’ve become an expert complainer and pity party thrower?

So as the boyfriend and I attempted last night to make plans for a life ATM (after the military) I found myself returning to that place of “once I get there things will be better.” I’ll have a group of girlfriends again, a real live place outside of the house to do my writing, my family a quick drive away. Funny thing is, that’s what I was all gung-ho about leaving in the first place.

My twenties thus far seem to have been an exercise in finding a place to be. A place that warrants a sigh of relief, while simultaneously pushing me to be something greater, do something bigger, and step out of the me I thought I was. I’ve been convinced at certain times that it’ll come with settling down – picking paint colors and a bed set to match. Then, I’ll suddenly feel as if I could only feel it somewhere as far removed from my comfort zone (and country of origin) as possible. Now, neither seems to fit just right.

It’s not my environment. I’m convinced (at least in this moment) of that now. It’s a matter of starting today those things I’ve reserved for another place and time.

Anyone else have a storage closet full of things to tackle another day in another city?

I haven’t disappeared, I’ve just been baking in the heat.

Blogging, like most other areas of my life, used to be something I scheduled. (Because even inspiration can be placed on a timeline for someone as by the book as myself.) Then, when things started to get a little crazy, I stopped cold turkey. But what used to be an issue of priorities has now become another bout of perfectionism gone haywire.

Let me just begin by saying this- when I was younger and writing in a diary seemed like something every little girl should do, I used to tear out entries if I didn’t like how they sounded. Granted, I had a placed a massive lock on the outside to prevent anyone from reading my innermost thoughts, but the point was that I wasn’t satisfied with anything short of perfection. Thus, it was only a matter of time before I began judging the writing I was putting up for all of the online world to see (or at least the meager audience that I had acquired).

Inspiration, it turns out, is also a problem when leaving my house has ceased to be an everyday occurrence. No, it’s not depression, it’s an absolute hatred of the god awful heat. Heat meaning 100 degrees IN THE SHADE. Seriously. I’ve never before felt as if my skin was cooking two minutes after stepping outside.

I can blame my writing hiatus partly on the fact that I’m in the midst of a series of processes. Learning to live with my honey, for one, is a PROCESS (capitals seemed necessary for that one). How could it not be when I’m used to being comfortable and he’s used to a lifestyle of survival? My challenge this week: getting him to agree to a rendezvous at the farmers market this weekend. For some reason, he’s completely against fresh produce. Go figure.

Another process: accepting and recognizing the perfection in everyday life. After the homecoming was over, and I settled into a “routine,” I began to forget what both of our lives were like when he was away. I’m reminding myself to feel a little gratitude for the shopping trips, the movie dates, and even the arguments that we couldn’t have had if the deployment would have ended differently.

Most of all, I’m learning to redefine the individual me while still staying connected to this relationship I’ve waited so long to fully experience.

I’ve missed you blogger world. Here’s to checking in more regularly.

Yes, I Eat My Feelings

Lately I’ve been stuffing my feelings down with copious amounts of artery clogging fast food style burgers and early morning milk shakes. I follow this by an alcoholic beverage or two and a desert sweet enough to wash it all down. Needless to say, my lethargic body hates me. With a passion.

Despite my naturally small (and by small I mean short) size, and a metabolism that leaves me starving come 5am, I have always had an up and down relationship with food. It’s not all that strange given the fact that I’m in my early 20’s living in one of the most superficial countries in the world. But I’m smart enough to know that more often than not I treat my body as if it were my worst enemy- one I’m trying to punish with a slow and painful death. Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but you catch my drift.

It took me twenty years to finally warm up to the idea of exercising because I tend to avoid all things that I don’t think I’ll be good at. I was even able to skirt those pesky P.E. requirements in high school by offering to help with the special needs kids. Seriously. Then a few years later and fourteen pounds heavier, I decided that my small stature would inevitably leave me looking like an oompa loompa if I didn’t tweak my habits.

Yoga proved to be my saving grace in the effort to stay zen while kicking my ass in to shape. But despite my dedication for those few months and my success in convincing my body that anything was possible, I stopped. Cold turkey. I could say that I got too busy (lie) or that it became too expensive (truth with a little lie mixed in), but the truth is, like many things, I just stopped caring.

After nursing my post-Sonic stomach ache this morning and brooding over how large I felt, I had a fleeting moment where I realized how counter productive my actions were in creating a healthy, happy existence. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about being in tune with what my body is telling me. And unfortunately, I put a muzzle on it a while back.

My life has changed drastically in the past few weeks, and my celebratory eating (yes, my preferred bonding experience is over hot dogs and chocolate chip cookies), has turned into avoidance eating. I have felt my career begin to lose momentum before fully taking off, and filling in the voids of ending an old routine and beginning a new one has made food look oh so appealing.

I’m excellent at setting intentions. I’ll say, quite matter of factly: “Come Monday I won’t be eating donuts the size of my face or topping a heaping plate of nachos off with a margarita. Nope, I’ll be munching on tofu and snacking on almonds.” In reality, come Monday I’ll be setting a new intention for a later date while ordering some more french fries.

All things in moderation, I know. It’s not about depriving myself of the foods I actually enjoy eating, it’s just depending on food more for sustenance than entertainment. Or comfort. And that is far easier said then done.

I’m Ready

I’ve never really been a procrastinator. Sure, I avoid certain conversations, errands, and menial tasks, but when it comes to the big stuff I never hold off the inevitable. Even in elementary school I would write book reports a month in advance and complete group projects on my own if everyone else seemed to be shuffling their feet. And now that my compensation comes in the form of money and not praise from my teachers, I don’t even recognize procrastination as a viable way of being.

I suppose I could read a million self-help books that would confirm that this behavior is positive, that I am being proactive in getting to where I want to go. But in doing things today so that I can enjoy tomorrow, that illusive day off just gets pushed farther into the future. If running a thousand miles an hour opens up even a small window of time for nothing I will find something to fill that hole.

Rationally I realize that I’m avoiding stepping on the brakes simply because I know that silence will follow. I have been avoiding standing still out of fear that I will have to listen to my fears. How ironic. And in the midst of it all, I’m angry that planning for the future has left me floating above the present moment with no real connection to either.

As uncomfortable as I am with the prospect of moving to a new town that can’t offer me the lifestyle that I’m used to, I’m also relieved by the fact that distractions will be few and far between. There is something refreshing about the idea of stripping down to the bare essentials and allowing life to be simple again.

I could say that I just want to be able to truly live, but in all honesty I’m not even sure what that means. After all, what does living really constitute? Breathing? I’ve got that covered.

No, I want to sit in the middle of life and experience everything exactly how it is- not something that needs to be changed, manipulated, or fixed. I want to see life in tiny moments instead of always taking in the bigger picture. I want to avoid planning and allow everything to unfold exactly how it was intended to. I want to let go of who I think I am and become who I never thought of becoming.

I am ready to just be.

Yeah, I’m Kind of a Big Deal

Inspiration is a fickle thing. I can spend the entire day staring at my computer screen completely unsatisfied with everything and then miraculously, right when I’m on the brink of sleep, ideas seem to sprout from nowhere. And of course instead of sprinting to capture these thoughts down on paper I curse the mind chatter and hope for some much-needed r&r.

In the midst of turning my world as I know it on its ear, I’m also trying to navigate my way through the world of writing. Luckily I have some paying gigs under my belt, but I’m quickly discovering that writing as a business and writing as a form of self-expression are two very separate things. Finding a way to mix the two (at least in the beginning when my name holds no clout), seems to be like finding a football loving jock that doesn’t mind shedding a tear over a chick flick. Not easy to say the least.

So right now, as I churn out blog after blog on topics of other people’s choosing, the self-expression part has been added to that list of things that I would do if I only had the time. And of course after spending hours on end in solitary confinement with only the sound of clicking keys to keep me company, the last thing I really want to do is sit down and write some more. Even if it serves an entirely different purpose.

Just like any other area of life, I need balance. Or just some more gigs that would allow me to mold my writing with inspiration and not from a list of topics and approved resources. Maybe this would create a flow of ideas that wouldn’t interrupt my already fragile sleep pattern. Yes, I know, all in good time.

On a brighter note- after complaining about an upcoming phone conference with a “boss” from one of said writing gigs, my dad informed me that they would actually be considered my client. A simple issue of semantics? Maybe. But it sounds much more liberating, doesn’t it? Yup, I have clients. In some small way it seems like I’ve hit the big time. And that feels fantastic.