Okay, so here’s the deal. Thanksgiving is over and you feel like you’ve already gained five pounds. Christmas is here and you feel like you’re possibly going to up the ante to ten. You’re already kicking yourself for eating too much and you’re dreading what bae is going to think when you take off your clothes in January. You’re in a relative’s house, opening cheap gift after cheap gift, wondering how many Bath and Body Works handcreams you are going to have to pretend you love and you’ve bickered with your boo the night before because you didn’t want to have sex with him under Aunt Irma’s roof. You’re down on yourself and feel like your holidays should be infinitely better. Then what do you do? You go on Facebook.
There are fifty status updates from friends, acquaintances and even the odd frenemy. “Chilling in Ibiza,” says your new homegirl from work, with the requisite pictures of her dancing on tables with her boo. “Welcoming the New Year with my New Ring,” gloats your junior year roommate with the cloying engagement photoshoot, picture after picture filled with the up-close zoom-in on the ring, the bride-to-be looking effortlessly, heartbreakingly beautiful and the guy clasping her to his chest like she is what he found after a journey to the centre of the earth. “Winter Wonderland in Aspen,” smirks the ex who you know you should have blocked, the picture of him and his new fiance chilling next to a fire with white mugs of hot cocoa that say “I’m his” and “I’m hers” in some black curly font making you want to hurl your laptop across the room.
Like an idiot you switch to Instagram. There they are, image after image of other people’s happiness, evidence of their perfect relationships, their taut and toned bodies, their amazing winter wardrobes. Everyone seems to be having a better time than you and your boo. Everybody’s boo looks more romantic, more thoughtful and more in love with their girl than yours.
So what do you do? You say a terse “We need to talk.” You drag the man into the other room and tell him how much you don’t appreciate being bugged for a blowjob when you’re sleeping on a double bed in your cousin’s childhood bedroom and the room where your parents are sleeping is right down the hall. You glare at him and mutter under your breath that you guys should have been in Miami in the sun instead of wearing three pairs of socks in an old house in Detroit. The poor man doesn’t know what he did. He mutters he never knows what your problem is and you reply that he never knows anything, period, and before you know it you guys are at each other’s throats.
Now let’s say you’re single. It’s even worse. Every image feels like a scythe in your heart, reminding you of how alone and unlovable you are. You don’t have anyone to pull into the hallway and berate but you’ve probably blinked away tears and muttered the affirmation “I am happy. I am whole” “I am happy. I am whole” ten times in a row without feeling any better. You spend the rest of the day in a slump, promising yourself you’re going to save enough money to go on a Christmas trip with your girls next year and then biting your lip when you remember they’ll all be busy with their boos.
Social media can be great. It can be a great way to reconnect with friends, form new relationships, keep yourself in the loop about which one of your teenage cousins is being inappropriate and needs a talking to. But it can also be a source of great pain when not used correctly. It can bring up every feeling of inadequacy and regret and loneliness and make you feel like you’re in the third grade standing by yourself in the middle of the playground because no one picked you to be on their softball team. It can make you feel like shit, make every accomplishment you have celebrated and been proud of yourself for seem meaningless in the face of someone’s bigger, better life and it can make you look at the garden of awesomeness that is your life and see only a patch of weeds.
But you have to remember this: Everyone’s life on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat,Vine and whatever new-fangled platform the kids are using now is a simulation of their real life. It is a series of carefully curated things that people put up to show them in their best light. Putting your real life — and in most cases when we’re down the worst of your life — up against an animation of the best little portraits of someone else’s life isn’t logical. It isn’t fair. It isn’t smart.
So here’s my advice this holiday season. Remember everything you said you were grateful for at Thanksgiving? Write it down. Paste it somewhere you can see it when you wake up in the morning. If you have a boo write down everything about him that makes you feel loved and safe and beautiful and add it to the list. Then go and find him and wrap him in your arms and tell him how much you love him. If you are fabulously single write down everything that brings you joy and makes you realize what a badass you are. Look at it as often as you can. Wink at it every time you leave the room.
Go on social media if you have to but connect with people, don’t lurk just looking at pictures and reading updates. Go on people’s pages, say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and wish them heartfelt, kind things, paste pictures of yourself and the good moments of your holiday season. Limit yourself to thirty minutes, no more. Don’t go on there more than twice a day. Take some time to look around you, at the people who love you and at the gifts the universe has blessed you with for one more year and bask in all that goodwill. If you have a man go to bed that night and put it on the dude like you got tired of carrying it. If you are single lie in a bath, light some candles, play some good music then curl up in bed with your vibe and rock your own world like the apocalypse is coming.
F.N. is a thirty something free-lance writer from Ghana. Currently, she is trying out a new life in Washington, DC