How I made my online diet healthier in July: coping with internet jealousy

02 Aug 2012

Dill Stems

Not to sound like a broken record or anything, but July was also a pretty expensive month in terms of my attention – in that the lion's share of it went to my nephew (and before that, the book). Still, I did pay a little attention here and there to the quality of my online information diet. And here's what I noticed most: jealousy.

Here's what I mean by that: I get jealous of people who, from their online personas, appear to be happier and more successful than I am. I get these bouts of jealousy regularly, and I always beat myself up for having them.

But in July, I began to notice that quite a few of you seem to have them, too.

Image by lukesaagi, via Flickr

Susan sent me a link to this brilliant meditation on internet jealousy by Helen Jane. The words go right to the core of my being. I think she's spot-on in saying that:

"See, over the last five years, the scale and velocity of story sharing, image sharing, and sharing sharing has increased in a way our brains and emotions have not. We humans need to step back and see how fundamentally different human interaction has become since the internet's adaptation by billions. This onslaught of pictures and stories and potential and the fact make visual that we are all connected to every body. It's affecting our brains. We have no choice but to evolve."

Image by SportSuburban, via Flickr

AMEN. We are so constantly exposed to incomplete and curated pictures of the lives of other human beings, it's no wonder we get consumed with jealousy sometimes. It's no wonder we assume that everybody's doing better than we are.

I found Helen Jane's post so healing, I've been sending the link to every online friend who publicly expresses that they're feeling jealous or left out or less-than. And interestingly, each time I've done this, a bunch of other people have popped into the conversation to say, "I feel that way sometimes, too."

The one lesson I'm taking away from July is this: we all need to remember that we're in choppy, unprecedented waters here and it's okay to get emotionally overwhelmed. It's okay to feel jealous, too, as long as we remember to be kind to ourselves, and know that (on the internet at least) jealousy usually has lots of company.


You might like this related post, too, in which Helen Jane delves more deeply into using Julia Cameron's "Jealousy Map" technique to deal with those negative feelings.


Great point and something we need to be reminded of now and then. And also, like you said, please remember that blogs are curated by someone who decides what to write, what images to show, and what feelings to talk about! I sometimes forget this even though I blog "happiness" myself and hide under a blanket when the blue feelings are overwhelming...

Yesterday I turned off my laptop and put it under the bed because the Internet was making me feel bad. Granted, it was going to be a rocky week anyway, but when I'm already feeling low for whatever reason, the Internet just magnifies my feelings of inadequacy, and I want to withdraw from it completely. Sigh. So healthy, no?

I think you just have to sometimes, Amy. Sometimes I have to "block out" people who (for reasons that are more my doing than theirs) bring up jealous feelings in me. It's almost always a temporary thing - after a break, I'll get to missing them and tune back in. But I totally agree with you - sometimes we have to step away for sanity.

I'm SO HAPPY that this resonated with you.

It's fascinating to me, that this way of communicating, so new to us humans, is not being looked at from a mental health perspective (at all).

Thanks for the kind, kind words.


I think it's important to keep in mind that most people only post good things to their Facebook/Twitter/G+/Blogs... like a fabulous day of sales.

Rarely does anyone post, 'gee, I only made $30 today!'

Knowing that everyone has their best foot forward (like at a job interview!) helps me keep jealousy & expectations in check.

That's a great point, Stacey. Every single one of us has ups and downs, but the pictures we share online are generally less balanced.

I too understand this feeling all too well. But I try to remind myself that we choose what we share and to others I could be inspiring the same feelings though my life is far from perfection. We want to share the good times, the great photos, the cute new craft. It's the stuff that makes us happy.

I am happy and kinda sad to know that others often struggle with this issue. We are all fabulous. Let's celebrate all of our awesomeness today! :D


Great post! I think the term "real" when it was first used to describe a genre of television had the same effect on the people watching. Now we all know these shows are produced and shaped to fit into a certain ideal and don't represent true reality anymore than any drama or comedy with a team of writers does. Add to it that blogs, facebook and twitter are unlike any other form of media because you can participate and connect with the author by leaving comments or exchanging tweets and emails. That person can start to seem like a peer or friend and it's easy to forget that all you really see is the edited, polished, image of that person.

A blog I regularly read did a "behind the scenes post" once. An admission of photoshopping out small imperfections, showing readers what the before photos really looked like. Turning the camera to another angle to show the mess that was shoved aside to give the appearance of a tidy house in the background of another picture. It was my favorite post that blogger has ever done.

I think it's important to acknowledge our feelings, whatever they may be. There's a reason we are feeling that way and perhaps we do need some moping around time! But I agree that the the internet and really... lots of life situations... make us believe that the other person is so well put together or doing so much better... but that's just how it looks from the outside. Even though we know magazines are all curated and models are touched up, we still get a little tinge from seeing the "perfection." It's definitely important to remember the context of everything and to remind ourselves that we all have our issues and challenges in life.

Cintia, this is also a great point and an excellent counterpoint to what I said in another comment reply about people sharing a generally unbalanced picture of their lives. Absolutely, you're right - looking at too much "real life" would tend to depress me too! My apartment is messy as I type this, and I'm in my pajamas, and there's a stack of unopened mail next to me. These factors are a part of everyone's life, and I'd hazard a guess that many of us aren't interested in too many more reminders that they exist! :-)

The thing I think we sometimes forget to do is place those idealized images in the proper context. As Helen Jane said so beautifully in her post, we just need to evolve a bit collectively so we can cope better with all this exposure to each other.

A really cool link to Helen's post! I love the suggestion of the map, and want to start using it in a whole bunch of areas in my life. Thank you, D!

As a blogger and prolific instagramer I understand that what most people choose to share on the internet is an idealized snapshot of what they would like their life to be like all the time, but only is occasionally.
I admit I tend to instagram pictures of happy times or uplifting things, so that I'm having a crappy day I can be reminded of some good things.
The reality is if I just posted images of dirty dishes, unwashed clothes and a three year old throwing a tantrum, not many would tune in and it would throw me into a big deep funk :(

I honestly don't think bloggers are trying to make people feel bad, they just want to inspire others and themselves to be happy.

You are in no way alone, Vicki. In a tough economy, so many of us are facing challenges. But we don't post about the months where we aren't sure how we'll make rent, we just share the good news when it happens. Put those job apps away! You are so talented, and there are homes out there for that talent.

Oh Diane,
I don't know how or why I stumbled upon this today except to maybe save me from some heartache.
You know I quit my day job a little over a year ago and while things are going good they aren't going fantastic and I've been feeling down about it all day. I actually have a few windows open on my computer that are half filled out job applications. I know it's because I saw a number of posts recently where people were celebrating their successes and I'm feeling "less". I really can't handle another soul sucking J.O.B.
Must. Push. Through.