Last night my friend and I were having a conversation, as we walked along Oxford Street in London in the freezing cold. My friend is what you might call a Deep Thinker. He was asking me about the writing and photography that I do and the blog that I keep (a blog that I use to house the general blurb that leaks from my overactive imagination) and then he said some words which confused me and made me sad, but which make sense when placed in the context of er, humans getting weird about stuff. He said ‘Sometimes people look at the things you post online and they feel bad because it makes them feel like they should be doing more interesting things and expressing themselves more’. And I looked at him in confused manner and said ‘er….whaaa?’
Because I had spent that morning taking photographs of frost on leaves in my back garden. Whilst wearing my pajamas. Which isn’t exactly rock and roll now, is it?
And I knew he was referring to people who are my good friends, and people who I would never want to make feel small. Like, ever. And it made me sorta angry that posting a link to some photographs I took, or writing a blog about something I did or saw last week would provoke a negative reaction. But then I thought about it some more and I realized that I had to look at it from the point of view of a Human Being (a species we all allegedly belong to most of the time). And you know what? As human beings and as friends, we’ve been making each other feel bad since we learned to speak. Or at least since the dawn of Facebook. Here’s why:
The Science Bit
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away (otherwise known as the 1990’s and everything that came before it), we could go about our lives in relative peace, safe in the knowledge that whatever more interesting things were happening elsewhere, we didn’t have to know about them. Then along came the Internet, and suddenly everyone is pasting their greatest achievements and best adventures on social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram and Flickr and before you know it, a quiet lunch hour at your desk becomes the most soul destroying 60 minutes of your LIFE, and all because someone you vaguely know has just uploaded pictures from their recent six week trek across Peru, and in looking at them, everything else you thought you knew about the world falls away and only two things are certain: 1.) You’d quite like your own Llama and 2.) Your life is absolutely RUBBISH and BORING and PATHETIC because you are at your desk and not in Peru.
And we ALL feel this way. To compare ourselves to others is part of the human condition and it’s just…what we do. I went through a spell not so long ago of having bitter, murderous thoughts every time any of my Photographer friends posted anything to Facebook about having been on a particularly good photo expedition or having their work published. I would sit and feel bad about myself and my abilities and I would feel uninspired and like I wanted to throw my cameras against the wall and just give up and go and live in a hole in the side of a mountain and you know, NOT have broadband access there. I know, extreme, right? (I would definitely have broadband if I lived in a cave. What else is there to do there?)
The Bit Where Everything Gets Better
But then I thought – okay, this isn’t achieving anything. And these photographer friends of mine, they would be sad if they knew that I was feeling this way because of something good that they had done. This wasn’t their intention, they did it because photography makes them happy, and I should be happy for them, and also, I should let them inspire me, not depress me.Because THAT is the reason they wanted to share their achievment- to make people happy and inspire them.
It’s not always easy to turn a negative thought pattern into a positive one when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s much easier to become embittered by all the people you know who are doing things you perceive to be much more interesting than what you are doing. But try to remember two things:
1.) (As my friend from the beginning of this story pointed out to me) We are always inclined to only show the best of ourselves on social networking sites. Noone posts about all the in-between times when they do the laundry and then eat a sandwich whilst watching Jeremy Kyle in their underwear, or a boring day at work. And if they do, noone will pay any attention, because hello? It’s boring! But that’s life and that’s how it is for most of us, most of the time.
2.) If you see something good or fun that someone has done and it makes you feel sad or jealous or embittered about your own life – try and turn that into inspiration and get out there and do something you think is cool. Let yourself be motivated by others. I once saw a poster on the London Underground that said simply ‘if you don’t like your life, you can change it’ and that statement stayed with me, cos it’s you know, true and stuff.
I know this is all easier said than done. And comparisons will still happen, because it’s natural. But try seeing things differently too. And if you really can’t, just picture that person that comes across as sooo much more interesting than you sitting in their PJs eating cornflakes out of the box or taking out the bins, or doing other boring housework. Because most of the time, that’s what they’re doing. Just like you. Now please excuse me, the dishes won’t wash themselves.
(Photographs by Iris Jones Photography)
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