There are many tics of social media behavior that I find almost insufferable,^ but the one that tends to irk me most is a single word, uttered in response to someone else’s good news or good fortune: “Jealous.”^^
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a moot point whether the person writing “Jealous” actually is jealous (though, as my mother would say, “Many a truth are spoken in jest.” In other words, maybe you think you’re using “Jealous” jokingly, but you’re probably not.*).
What bothers me about “Jealous” (or, worse, “Jealous!!!!”) is that the respondent’s initial instinct is not to congratulate his/her friend or celebrate that person’s good news or good fortune. Instead, it’s to give expression to that initial moment of self-referential yearning: I wish I had that.
Here are some of the “thats” I’ve seen friends have which other people have been “Jealous!!!” of: a trip, a book published, an article published, a job promotion, a great meal, a good deal, a celebrity sighting (really?), vacation time, losing 7 pounds, a beautiful afternoon paddling on a river.
And those are just from this week.
I don’t really believe that all of my online friends and acquaintances are seething balls of envy, but from their reactions to others’ good news, it sure seems like it.
Recently, several media outlets have pondered whether social media–specifically, reading our friends’ status updates and maintaining a continuous vicarious glimpse into the carefully curated parts of their lives they share with us on facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.–make us feel “envious and insecure” and “worse about our own lives.” It wasn’t that I found these reports surprising, but I just couldn’t relate. When I log onto facebook, twitter, or instagram, I tend to feel a swell of happiness that so many people I care about are experiencing so much good. And because they are, I also know that when they experience a momentary dip, whether because of misfortune beyond their control or because of their own errors, they’ll more than likely bounce back and continue–as we all do–to experience many more moments of grace and goodness.
My happiness for other people’s good fortune always seems to be dampened, though, when I come across one of those “Jealous!!!” outbursts. I want to write–and so I am now–this: Can’t you step out of yourself for a moment before you put your fingers on the keyboard? Instead of typing “J-e-a-l-o-u-s”–again, whether you actually are or not–how about trying a different line entirely? How about: “Congratulations!” or “I’m so happy for you!” How about you think for a moment about what it took, whether years of hard work or sheer dumb luck (which we all deserve now and then, don’t we?) for your friend to arrive at this moment that she/he is celebrating and wants to share with you? What if you write, instead, “I know what it took for you to have this moment and I’m so proud of you” or “Wow- what amazing luck. You deserve it! Enjoy!”
Imagine for a moment how that might feel for your friend compared to what it might feel to read “Jealous!!!”
And even if you are jealous (and that’s ok, too, because you’re human), sit with that feeling for as long as you need to to let it pass.
Then get to the business of making your own good because your turn is coming.
It always does.
-“LOL” and “OMG”
-any word that’s been cutesified with a “y” or “ie,” such as “selfie”
-the use of “u” and “r” when you really mean “you” and “are”
-the attachment of the word “porn” or “gasm” to anything you like and you want me/your readers/followers to like (ie: “foodporn” “foodgasm”)
-multiple exclamation marks
or, worse, the shortened version: “jeals,” which I have actually seen more than once.
*By the way, my mother has the annoying trait of almost always being right, so she’s probably right about this, too.