In the Social Media age, are we just...Keeping up with the Ghosts?
I’ll be upfront. Though my online persona is one of a foodie, this piece is not about food. It’s about my foray into LinkedIn, as a business-minded platform to advance my food-based, online endeavors.
At my age, I’m at a point in my life where I look back at things not done, as much as things I have done and would like to do. Everyone has a different wish list, so my specifics aren’t relevant, except to say it seems like it would take two lifetimes complete it. It’s the “when” we get to each item that seems an odd mix of personal priority, social circumstances and finances.
I’ve been thinking more about my list lately. It’s not even written down, but the bigger ones are always on my mind, and lay in wait until opportunity strikes. In my case opportunity mostly equates to finances and my ability to obtain more funds. My list's status has gotten me to this mental place because it's relative dormancy also makes me feel…less happy.
I mentioned my foray into LinkedIn – let me explain.
Facebook has always been my primary social network and way I keep-in-touch via social media. I am exposed to a never-ending stream of successes, failures, inanities, photos, videos, advice, humor, information, inspirations, gloats and humility from friends, not to mention group specific information and advertising from Liked pages. Sometimes I find myself wondering how “so-and-so” was able to accomplish “this-or-that” amazing thing: a luxury vacation, a grand purchase – and that my situation isn’t quite there…yet. Don’t get me wrong, I do buy and do things, but they seem somehow lower-end, and many times pale in comparison to so many. I’m also sure what I do seems higher-end to others. Perspective and perception is everything.
So now I’m on LinkedIn for my business endeavors and I’m again barraged, not by the expected and wanted food related updates, but by amazing places, vacations, purchases, ideals, inspirational memes. Truth be told, way more successes than failures. This makes sense since LinkedIn is a professional/success-based network. In this realm, we see more idealism, striving and achievement than on Facebook (which is a mixed bag of everyone’s current “state-of-being”). On LinkedIn I’m exposed to the grander destinations and accumulations of the successful, purposeful and go-getter’s. From this more focused lens of success is where I write from.
It makes me wonder if I can ever get a place, where I can vacation in Fiji, take a world cruise, have a decadent kitchen (I cook a lot!) and so many other truly worthwhile pursuits of relaxation and materialism. The non-materialists reading this can cover your eyes and ears because I’m going to say it. Money is good, doing stuff is good, having stuff is good, freedom to indulge is good, engaging in gregariousness by having money is good. There. Sorry. I’m not a Saint. I’m as prone to envy as anyone, even though my wish list is not that long. In fact, I’m probably more envious because my list is not that long, and I still can’t seem to achieve but a few of the items, at least in a fiscally responsible way.
In the past we use to “Keep up with the Joneses”. The Joneses represented your neighbors or some slightly more distant folk you knew or heard about. When exposed to the idleness and frivolities of others close to you, it could create envy, even anger. These emotions spurred an attitude to not be left behind, to extend themselves socially and financially to, keep up with…the Joneses. This wasn’t very responsible behavior, but no-one wants to perceive themselves as lesser in their own social circles.
But how do we relate this idea, even ideal of keeping up with the Joneses to the modern age of internet and social media? where the Joneses are EVERYONE we are in contact with across the world, all promoting, exclaiming and romanticizing their latest indulgences. The Joneses, which were once a targeted few, have become more diffuse, amorphous, omnipresent…ghost-like. We are now, in a sense, “Keeping up with The Ghosts”. We don’t know, or ever will meet 99.9% the people are, or can be envious of, or whose situations we’re striving to emulate. I know I should feel inspired and motivated - I do, for the most part - but the pettier side of me wonders how, despite plenty of personal effort, I can move my situation forward. I still seem far behind.
Now I ask, what is real? To me, I “seem” behind, but am I? My envy is not rooted to a single ghost’s doings, but more to the entirety of the ghostly haze I immerse in every day. However, I don’t believe it’s fair to myself to fall victim to this all-encompassing ether. Like a vast sea, you can sail across it, find land and plant a flag, float aimlessly, or sink. The irony is that we must see successful endeavors to realize what’s out there to be had, so the sea of ghosts should be a good thing.
In my family we joke about the good and bad of Facebook, being exposed to too much of other’s lives. It was easier when we could more easily live a social vacuum, defining our own happiness, and not letting it be defined for us. LinkedIn is no different than Facebook in that regard. People love to show what is possible, what they have, what they want. It’s not just all about resumes and job opportunities. I have no problem with that. Perhaps LinkedIn would be too boring without it, and I am truly awed by the beauty of so many posted regal resorts, isolated islands, kingly kitchens and booming boot-strap businesses. I just need to better filter out the noise of pettiness and competitiveness and enjoy the ether for what it is, other people’s happiness, not mine displaced.
As I attempt to let no stone go unturned to define and achieve my own happiness, I head back to the grindstone of my endeavors, attempting to be part of that ghostly haze that creates either envy or inspiration for others.
So Don’t Worry, Be Happy!