I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what my life so far. I’ve been in love a few times, which was nice. Had my heart broken a few times, which was tough but kinda nice too, in its own way. I own a car, a pair of Nikon cameras and an old acoustic guitar I don’t use as often as I should. I also have a college degree and 16 years of education I don’t use as often as I should, either.
I log onto Facebook 1, 3, 7 times a day, and I see the lives of my peers, friends and enemies displayed across the screen. Someone’s in Venice, exploring abroad. Another person just got their dream job for this or that big name company. Another just published an article in a big name magazine, got engaged, won the lottery and apparently discovered a new breed of dog all in one average day, it seems. On my end, I’m watching through a computer screen, drinking a beer or coffee and wondering when my time will come that I too can show off my success via hundreds of iPhone pictures posted on Instagram, cross posted to Facebook and Twitter and hash tagged to hell and back to guarantee maximum social exposure.
It depresses me. And I’d make a comfortable guesstimate that it depresses you sometimes too. Because even if we too have those days, once a year maybe, it’s the constant barrage of social information that makes us look at the mundanity of our daily lives and think “why not me?”
It seems that, in the 21st century and maybe forever (I have no idea, I’m only 24; the 1800s could have had their own horse-drawn social comparison tool that I don’t know about), we tend to value our lives and happiness on a culmination of perceived successes compared to the similar successes of our peers. And it gets us down, at least, I know it does for me. The problem with it is, we don’t see the real, little successes for what they are. We all have the occasional big day, but not everyday is a big “must post to Facebook” day. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth something.
I don’t know the meaning of life, or the path to happiness or success, and never will say that I do (and if I do, throw something at me). Hell, if I was 100% happy I wouldn’t be a writer. What I do know is, some of the most impressive successes never make it onto social media or even into the conscious minds of those that make them.
I’m talking about the little things, the tiny change of events that may inspire the next big stage in our lives: choosing a salad over a cheeseburger; hitting the the gym instead of a six pack of beer; passing on encouraging words told to someone who truly needs them; tearing yourself away from a video game binge and actually talking to a human being for a bit, even if it feels physically painful to leave the comfort of our virtual universe.
No one really talks about these much, but they might mean more than the stint at a company your Facebook friend is raving about that he probably wont keep or the rushed engagement of a couple of twenty somethings that have known each other for two months. They also might not. They can be life changing, or they can be menial, but we rarely see those as something to be proud or thankful for, because in comparison they seem meaningless.
Sometimes it’s not actions, but just noticing the little things. Today instead of sitting around the house, I got into my car, bought a coffee and drove down by the river. I watched the steam and fog over the river rise through the trees like smoke from a cold forest fire, and sipped my coffee as a melting piece of ice lazily crossed down river. I almost took a picture, thinking of how many likes it could get on Facebook and the instant gratification it would supply me with; #photo #nofilter #newengland #artsy #wickedfog #wickedpissa (just for good measure).
But I didn’t. I didn’t need to share this onto Instagram and cross post to Facebook and Twitter and hashtag the hell out of it. Because this little success of stopping to smell the roses, this one was mine, and some successes you don’t need to share for likes.