Research shows that using social media can lead to feelings of depression, which are most likely spurred by envy. When those we follow post fabulous pictures of their lives, their bodies, or their work, it’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up by comparison.
I don’t get that sense for myself on Facebook. After all, I purposely keep my “friends” list short, and almost exclusively people I know in real life. And they are really ordinary, ordinarily wonderful people, just like me!
But I’ll admit to some Instagram envy. I don’t know most of the people I follow there, and some of them are stars! They are creative and productive and seem soooo nice!
In Facebook, I scoff at those with large friends lists. After all, who could really have 400+ friends they feel connected to? On Instagram, I yearn for a large following!
In the New York Times, Alex Williams wrote about Instagram envy: Instagram
is about unadulterated voyeurism. It is almost entirely a photo site, with a built-in ability (through the site’s retro-style filters) to idealize every moment, encouraging users to create art-directed magazine layouts of their lives, as if everyone is suddenly Diana Vreeland. …
Viewers, meanwhile, are expected to let the sumptuous photos wash over them and chip in with comments (“Gorgeous sunset!”) and heart-shape “likes,” which function as a form of social currency, reinforcing the idea that every shot is a performance worthy of applause. The result is an online culture where the ethic is impress, rather than confess …
Envy, of course, doesn’t operate in a social vacuum. It needs an object of desire. And everyone, it seems, has that friend on Instagram: the one with the perfect clothes and the perfect hair and seemingly perfect life — which seem all the more perfect when rendered in the rich teals and vivid ambers of Instagram’s filters.
Some of the quilters I follow post tens of photos a week, of works in progress, finished quilts, or even just cute sayings with the background of a cutting mat. They’re all perfectly framed and lit. How do they have time to do that, AND to get so much work done?
And in terms of envy, the important question is, how am I failing in comparison? After all, this is my last post in Instagram:
My big left toe, protruding through my holy sock.
And goodness, that was two weeks ago!
So what’s a person to do? Should we opt out of Facebook and Instagram and the other media that feed us idealized images? For some people, that might be the right answer.
For me, it helps to remember that I follow some people because they are so creative and productive! They see the world, or at least their realm in it, in new ways, and that is why they are interesting. I don’t need to envy them, any more than I envy Michelangelo or Picasso or Joan Didion or Shonda Rhimes. I can take inspiration, instead.
And here is the important part: rather than sink into envy, we can just keep making. We can compare our skills and what we make to ourselves at earlier dates. And in that comparison, we can take pride in how much we’ve progressed.
The other day in comments, a quilter asked me, “I’m almost afraid to start! What advice have you for a novice quilter like me? The second thing is how do you manage the time to make a dozen or more quilts per year ?”
I told her:
I can make so many quilts partly because I’ve made so many quilts. 🙂 When I started, I had to think thru every step of the process, which makes it quite slow. The other part is that I’m retired and don’t have a lot of other obligations. My closest family members live more than an hour away, so we don’t spend time with them every few days. How I use my time is for me to choose, and I regularly choose quilting.
Please don’t every doubt your ability to create a good enough quilt! Quilts are beautiful, regardless of how technically perfect they are or even how aesthetically well-designed they are. They are beautiful because they are unique creations. And if you wish to compare, only compare to your own work from previous times. Are you getting better at it? AWESOME! That’s the measure you should use.
If you find the process intimidating at first, go ahead and imitate other people’s work. Use patterns. Learn the process. Spend time looking carefully at color combinations, to see what you like and don’t like. Take a few classes. But most of all, make. Just keep making. Make small pieces, if that helps you get from start to finish. Placemats and table runners are a good way to learn some techniques. Wall hangings are good for learning some design. Baby quilts are always needed by someone, and are a manageable size for most. Be gentle on yourself. Just keep making!
My life and experience are not the same as her life, and also not the same as some of those stars I follow on Instagram. Some of them are making their living at quilting, teaching, and designing. They have to treat it as a full-time job to succeed in that world. I don’t want to work that hard! So I shouldn’t expect my output (or apparent evidence of it) will match theirs.
Envy like this isn’t very useful. Next time I feel envious of my Instagram stars, I need to remind myself how much their lives must suck. 😉 Their travel time is reserved for work, while mine is for fun; their making time is to develop and test patterns, while mine is for fun; their promotional activities are driven by their income needs, while I can just have fun. THEY should envy ME!! 😀