Comparison really is the enemy of joy. If we don’t guard against it, the easy access to the lives of others supplied by the internet can make us doubt and judge ourselves. Such doubts are unnecessary, even destructive.
I’m thinking of a blog written by a woman who has, not an urban farm, but a big farm complete with many of the animals one expects. I admire what she does, yet when I start to wonder whether what I do is enough because of the contrast, I am turning admiration–a good thing–into comparison and judgment–something damaging to me and of no use to her. My urban farm IS enough because it is the most we are physically able to manage, it’s what we have room for, and it supplies enough food for us and to sell a little to pay its expenses. To denigrate that, even in my own mind, because we don’t produce EVERYTHING we consume is to insult the honest work we do here.
The same thing happens when we compare our relationships to those that other people present online. These are edited lives. They are also someone else’s. When they begin to make us doubt whether we SHOULD be happy and fulfilled in our own relationships, we need to back away and return to the joys of our own real lives. I’ve said it before: we are ALL real, and we are ALL good enough.
We all exist on a continuum, and not just in a straight line left to right or up to down. We exist on many, many continua, choosing how much of each feature of life we are willing to accept, to work for, to take pleasure in. In this way, we are all living at the center of our spheres, formed by the unique places we choose on a thousand thousand continua, and all connected to everyone else living at the center of her or his own similarly constructed sphere. Judging the space we’ve chosen for ourselves to be happy based on someone else’s space could do nothing but unbalance our own spinning lives.
I don’t suggest that our choices should remain static across our lives. I visualize a stunning, shimmering vibration of the interconnected spheres of life we create for ourselves as we each grow and change over time. But those changes, to be authentic, must come from real internal growth, not comparison to what someone else chooses.
And that’s the danger of thoughtless consumption of what we see online. It’s persuasive because it’s in print and underscored by images much of the time. But when we allow what we see and read to take the place of any portion of who we are, or even to distract us from our obligation to think for ourselves, we suffer an imbalance that can take us away from who we really are and can become.