The start of this week was brutal. Most of us here in North America suffered through the wrath of the polar vortex, which slowly started with the deep freeze last weekend, and then gave us its worst on Monday, the 6th. But now it's officially over and things are starting to warm up a bit again most everywhere.
And I'm glad.
Very glad and relieved, as a matter of fact. Not because I'm sick of the cold. And not because I'm sick of being afraid our pipes would burst, as they did for a number of households in our neighborhood these past two days. Sure, I'm relieved for all the above reasons but truthfully, here's the main thing.
I'm sick of the competition on social media.
Image: Ivan via Flickr
I don't know about you, but I've observed that the weather seems to have this magical (yet admittedly diabolical) power of triggering a heightened sense of competition among people on social media, particularly on Facebook, to which I've been glued. It's competition on steroids, really. How else can one explain people trying to one-up each other over their respective weather temperature readings?
One posts, "Brrrr... Our high today is 20 deg!"
And another immediately responds with "Bah... We have -15 here!!"
Then the competition goes on and on as other people post what they have, trying to top and invalidate the other. The funny thing is that the first person posting was probably not even trying to compete but simply stating what is. It's sad, and frankly, pathetic. Have we become this bored and more alarmingly, insecure, that one-upping has become second nature?
Social media has truly expanded our worlds. If you are active in it, you become inevitably exposed to a larger number of people. Furthermore, the pool of people against which you compare your life has now become infinitely larger. You show them (snapshots of) your life as they show you theirs. That said, it becomes a natural consequence that it becomes tempting to compare what you have or what you are to how others are doing.
But comparing does not necessarily lead to insecurity and one-upping behavior. You can compare yourself to others and still be gracious about it.
And don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it's social media's sole fault that people have become insecure. I think that anyone who loves to one-up already has some unchecked insecurity to begin with. Why else would anyone find the need to explicitly state what one knows or possesses in the absence of justified necessity? When you one-up, you are saying or doing something that aims to make the other person smaller, or steal the spotlight from another. Whatever it is, the motivation is the same. You want the spotlight on you. You want to feel smarter, better, bigger, tougher... or simply, "more."
The key here is to check your intentions. I am a firm believer in that.
If you respond to someone's Facebook or Twitter status for the sole purpose of elevating yourself, and in the process invalidating the other person to some degree, then you are a one-upper and need to ask yourself what you are so insecure about that you have to resort to such behavior. (And yes, I say this with much love.)
If you insist that you're not insecure about anything in spite of such behavior, then now you're just being a liar and a first-class a**h*le. (And yes, I say this with much pity.)
Responding to a Facebook or Twitter status in order to share knowledge is acceptable, given that you are not being condescending, of course. So is responding in order to empathize. Trust me that the above good intentions can easily be differentiated from intentions to diminish the other or to elevate oneself.
This is why it will do all of us some good to go back to our parents' advice: "If you have nothing good to say, don't say anything at all." And I think the word 'good' in that saying includes intentions. I choose to see it that way. A slight pause will do us all some good, instead of just letting our fingers type away. It gives us the opportunity to check our intentions and perhaps reconsider the manner in which we will phrase our responses. So many times, I've been tempted to respond to someone's status in a way that may be misconstrued as one-upping. But with a long pause I was able to ask myself, "What for? Will this information be of help to her/him? Do I really need to make my input or is this unnecessary?" I believe such pauses have saved me numerous times and I highly recommend it.
I'm not claiming to be perfect and immune to giving in to "a**h*liness." I'm sure I slip too sometimes. But recognizing this helps and makes me take longer pauses. It's refreshing to be reminded that you don't always have to be the best in everything, be the star everywhere, and steal the light from everybody else. You know you're human. I'm pretty sure everybody around you and in your network knows that you are human too, and it's all okay. Unless of course you've managed to cross over to the dark side and have become a god in One-Upper Land. In which case, good luck.
Friends tend to die over there and it becomes just a lonely, lonely world.
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