Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Facebook: Rehearsal or Showtime?

Facebook has been accused of many things, but of late I’ve been hearing more and more about how unhappy reading other people’s timelines makes some folks. Apparently their own lives, or at least how they view their lives, seems to pale in comparison to what is being posted on someone else’s FB page. I actually used this to poke fun at a professional friend. I accused him of purposefully trying to make my life seem lame by posting pictures of himself at the NCAA Final Four and the Masters.

We can use CrossFit as a useful analogy with which to understand this phenomenon. Real life in many ways is more like the CrossFit Games than it is like CrossFit training. In the Games we have winners and non-winners; in the Box we have you vs. you. We are trained it seems from early in life to not only compare ourselves with others, but to allow ourselves to be compared BY others. In this we somehow allow the creation of a zero-sum game of our own sense of self, and we allow the scores to be kept by others as well as ourselves.

Kinda like all those singing contests now on TV; the judges are supposed to be judging only the contestant singing at the moment, the contestant to be focused only on herself and the judges. Invariably though, both judges and judged compare the contestant with others, for this is an openly zero-sum game. Someone will only win because everyone else lost. There is a subset of Facebook users for whom posting and viewing is a win-lose thing.

I’m more than OK with this for the CrossFit Games, and I’m quite fine with this for all of those silly contests (which I admit are a guilty pleasure in the White house). There is a real problem, however, if we allow this kind of process, this kind of judging, to be a metric for how we view ourselves. We have an unavoidable frame of reference bias that threatens even the healthiest among us when we use external controls like Facebook to judge our internal view of our own outcomes.

Why? Well, we tend to compare our “behind the scenes” moments, our rehearsals and our trial runs, with everyone else’s “highlight reels.” We are not usually privy to someone else’s dry runs, the failed efforts that eventually culminate in the masterpiece before us. We cannot forget our own struggles, the efforts we ourselves have made out of the limelight, and we all too often use these memories as the “compare to” when we evaluate ourselves against others.

I’m reminded of a story that my Mom ┬átells often and well. I am one of 4. We were pretty successful youngsters, at least in the eyes of the community and ┬áby the standards then in place by which we (and by extension my Mom and Dad) were measured. My Mom would listen as fellow parents bemoaned this or that child-rearing difficulty, often followed by “oh Anne Lee, you wouldn’t know anything about this; your kids are all [whatever].” Mom would politely nod and smile, all the while thinking “oh boy…if you only knew!”

You see, my Mother remembered all of the hard work, the heartaches when her kids disappointed and the battles fought so that they, the kids, might succeed. The other parents were comparing their “behind the scenes” experiences with my Mom’s “highlight reel”, but she knew better. She couldn’t help but remember her own “work in the gym” so to speak.

What’s the ultimate lesson here? We all compare, and we are all compared. It would be simply lovely if life were a non-zero sum game but alas, ’tis not. The lesson is as simple as making sure that you are always comparing things that are alike. Your rehearsals with someone else’s rehearsal. Their highlight reel, perhaps shared on Facebook, with yours.

When you are comparing apples to apples you must be sure that you are either looking at the fruit itself, or recalling the labor required to fill the basket.

 

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