Lessons in Reality: Facebook Edition

I just recovered from turning 30.

I don’t mean from a month-long bender of non-stop drinking, partying and bad decision making (although, in retrospect that might’ve helped). I mean emotionally.

I realize half of you reading this are thinking “God I WISH I could be 30 again! These are your best years!” And the other half are thinking “Why does everyone freak out about getting older? I just turned 25 and I feel great!”

To clarify, I was not having a meltdown over the fact that I’m getting older and my viable number of eggs are dwindling, or that I’m not engaged, or that I still haven’t gotten around to opening that IRA I told my Dad I would open 9 years ago.

This meltdown was indirectly and also totally directly caused by Facebook.

Originally created to document drunken parties and/or creep on attractive people’s profiles, it has now turned into everyone’s personal online diary with filters seemingly forever set to “humble-brag”. Carefully curated profiles with positively “amazing” (world’s most over-used word) life updates and celebrations of people’s “normal” lives. But it’s not “normal”. It’s “Social Media Normal”. An unrealistic standard for your life that you won’t achieve and therefore will probably always feel a little inadequate about your own.

The weird thing is, we all know, deep down, it’s mostly BS. Those perfect photos or almost nauseatingly sweet and positive status updates are just the classic superficial need for validation that our society seems to be obsessed with. We know those people experience the negative moments, too. Those moments just don’t get as many “Likes”, so they don’t get posted.

Yet I still fell victim. I found myself having actual thoughts like “I really hope someone throws me a surprise party so I can document it and put it on social media so people can see how loved I am and how amazing my life is”. What was happening to me?! Well, since my therapist won’t return my calls, I’ve been forced to figure this one out on my own so I did a little soul searching.

My 20’s took me on a pretty unusual path. I endured a couple of significant personal tragedies that derailed me and took years of therapy to mend my soul. During that time, I learned that my life was probably always going to be considered “unusual”. Meaning, that mental measuring stick I crafted in my teen years of how my adult life should go was completely inaccurate.

I knew my “milestone” moments would be different from most people my age. I didn’t spend my 20’s with a bunch of my closest friends, living in a big city, traveling the world, going to concerts, etc. I spent a good chunk of it in therapy, and getting flat-out rejected from E-harmony.

But I was building adult Megan. I healed my brokenness, accepted my past and walked out of therapy with a metaphorical Black and Decker set of emotional tools to help me along my journey.

Then came the year I would turn 30. I watched my fellow 29-soon-to-be-30 peers on social media experience the big day. I thought I was prepared. But then I realized that when I went through therapy the social media thing didn’t fully exist, so I was not provided with an “ignore the crap on social media because it’s probably bullshit anyway” tool. I had nothing in my arsenal to protect me.

So the 30th birthday “norm” was set: photos of the celebration, usually in collage form, with a long, heartfelt caption giving unspecific shout-outs to all the amazing* friends and family in their lives who made their day the Most.Amazing.Day.Ever.

I found myself growing excited, filled with anticipation. I was pretty sure my friends and family knew that I needed that big celebration/life validation moment. I was imagining the photo album I would upload, the posts from my big party, the “Likes”! Oh God, imagine the amount of “Likes”! I even updated my profile with my accurate birthday, so people would know it was my 30th… I feel disgusted with myself even writing that sentence just now.

Then I found myself doing the charmingly classic passive-aggressive move, where people ask you what you want and you say “nothing”, even though you mean “everything”, but you feel that everyone should just know what you want. This particular tactic works 0% of the time, by the way.

Who the hell was this person? I had become an emotional monster.

Long story short, people didn’t know about the internal war I was waging in my brain leading up to the big day. And instead of verbalizing my thoughts like an adult, I chose to emotionally collapse in on myself for 2 months leading up to the birthday, sending those closest to me into panic so intense that their collective emotional scars may never heal. Battle fatigued heroes who are now bonded for life (you know who you are).

I rebounded nicely, though. There was a party thrown (the birthday version of a Hail Mary pass), Happy Birthday was sung, and I was surrounded by everyone who is truly meaningful in my life.

Most importantly, I finally defeated Facebook. Not in a glorious, gladiator-style battle victory, but my world didn’t end and I was able to celebrate in a way that didn’t involve any social media. I released myself from it’s stronghold and have vowed to never let it make me feel bad about my AMAZING life ever again. I consider that a win.

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Megan Conway

A 30-something Cleveland native who writes better than she speaks.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Well said. I felt the same way facing 40, then, Oh My God! 50:/. Finally some validation to know I am not alone creeping Facebook in the dark and going to bed feeling ‘less than’. How lucky am I to have you in my life? More lucky than 150,000 Likes.

  • Megan – Great article, and totally true ! Wishing you a wonderful year ahead, and a year that is free of Social Media pressures. Be gone !

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