Look, even the best of us have been there. You’re feeling lonely, and your best friend falls head over heels in love and can’t stop talking about it. You suddenly lose your job and your cousin effortlessly receives a raise. You’re chained to your desk and your boyfriend is being wined and dined in Mexico City. In other words? It can be hard to be happy for happy people when you’re struggling; happy people can highlight our own problems and make us even more miserable.
One of the key culprits in that department? According to a recent story by Libby Copeland over at Slate – The Anti-Social Network – Facebook might be making you unhappy simply because it makes everybody else look so happy. According to the new research, we have a tendency to overestimate the happiness of others, which makes us feel less happy about our lot in life. We often operate with the perspective that happiness is a zero-sum game: more happiness for someone else necessarily means less happiness for us.
(And Facebook can distort reality. It’s usually an oversimplification of a life, focusing on the best, most snapshot-worthy moments. Lovers arm-in-arm on vacation! Wedding, graduation and new baby shots! Hungover brunches! Sometimes, it can seem like everyone else is simultaneously giving birth, checking in at a fancy restaurant, being plied with anniversary flowers and getting drunk in fashionable places – all while you’re sitting at home alone on a Friday night, watching a Nanny 9-1-1 marathon.)
There will always be the temptation to compare our fortunes with those who appear to have more. (It’s worth noting, however, that we rarely examine how much we have in comparison to the people who have far less.) But part of being in a happy relationship – whether it’s with a friend or family member or partner – is being able to share each other’s successes. When friends and family members react badly to good news, it’s only because they’re not completely content with their own lives. But that kind of behaviour can create a reluctance to share, a need to guard happiness and downplay achievements so that it doesn’t upset someone you care about. And it goes without saying that this doesn’t foster the most open, honest and satisfying relationships.
So what can you do? You can swallow your own envy and resentment, and take up the belief that high tides raise all ships. Your turn for happiness in love, work and life will come around – and then you’ll want to share your good news, too.