Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas and Facebook depression

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

First, some stray thoughts from me this Christmas season: Do not be despondent, annoyed or envious when people repeatedly and continuously make Facebook posts about their awesome blessings and great fortune that most people in this world can only pine for. Christmas should not be such a cruel season. Search for gems hidden in your own life and be grateful. Look to The Manger.

I say that because there have been a good number of studies linking Facebook to depression. In fact, psychologists have coined a name for a condition or experience that afflicts not a few Facebook users: Facebook depression. Which makes me think that if, once upon a time, Freud had named a kind of envy that women supposedly felt for not having the appendage that men have (something post-Freud women have debunked), now there is a more real kind of envy that many Facebook users from all walks of life may be experiencing: Facebook envy, a condition psychologists have named.

I cannot see or observe what people in the entire Facebook universe post. I only see, read and observe what my Facebook friends and friends of friends (and the public sometimes) — as they are technically called — posts. And that is about themselves, their families, friends and enemies, triumphs and tragedies, blessings, sightings, acquisitions, milestones and events, food and travel, loud thoughts and feelings, unsolicited opinions, wounds and ailments, losses and gains. A whole range of tangibles and intangibles.
Reading and viewing all that, one can sense or guess the reasons behind postings. They also run a whole range. From simple, joyful sharing (“We want you to know how happy we are”), to something like showing off (absentmindedly?) what they have (materially, that is) that many do not have a fraction of. Intentionally or unintentionally, the latter kind could sometimes border on the distasteful and annoying, as in, enough already.

Am not talking here of bashers, trashers, hecklers, cyberbullies and other Facebook pests from hell. I am referring to those in one’s Facebook circles whose repeated posts from Cloud 9 could trigger negative reactions in those not as well situated, in those who are groveling in the dark because of adverse weather conditions in their personal lives.

Why Facebook envy? Because those who have the tendency to compare their situation with others who are richer, happier, healthier, more accomplished, more successful in the many departments of life may develop in themselves a diminished self-worth. Highly-evolved individuals — in the spiritual realm that is — would not get affected by the show-offs except perhaps to be amused, but those of us on hard ground could harbor self-deprecating thoughts. And those who are on rocky ground (may pinagdadaanan) could really feel left out, despondent, depressed. Especially this Christmas season of revelry and sharing in the name of The One who was born in a stable 2,017 years ago.

I do not say that those reveling in triumph and swimming in a surfeit of blessings should calibrate their rejoicing or tame their happy posts on Facebook. But those already in the doldrums should perhaps stay away from aggravating stimuli on Facebook that could trigger comparisons and feelings of being outsiders in life’s celebrations. Not to skulk further away but to find for themselves hidden springs no matter how distant. Pity-me memes on Facebook could be cries for help though. Hearken.

Today, Holy Innocents Day, we remember those who perished in various tragedies within days before and during Christmas Day — the hundreds in two successive typhoons, many of them buried in landslides; the 38 in a Davao City mall blaze; the dozens in road and sea mishaps. Let us embrace the grieving with our prayers and presence. A deathly Christmas season it has been for so many.

“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loudly lamenting: it was Rachel weeping for her children; refusing to be comforted because they were no more” (Jer. 31:15; Mat. 2:18).

For the New Year, one more stray thought from me: May you find what you seek, if not now, sometime soon, if not right here, somewhere beyond. Ora et labora, don’t give up. Let’s go! #