Bill Dodds

It can be easy to trigger Facebook envy. Just go online and check the latest updates from seemingly countless “friends.” Each and every one is having a great time while you … you stare at that screen, sitting on the outside looking in.

It can seem like a never-ending barrage of excerpts from those old cliche family Christmas letters. If you base reality on Facebook, every family has had the most marvelous year. Their children, while not perfect, are oh so close to it. Yes, it’s good to hear from them but, come on.

Recently I’ve noticed that one of the advantages of not being young is having a clearer perspective on life and the lives of others. I have no doubt that when it comes to Facebook, just as when it comes to those family Christmas letters, the view from the outside looking in is different from the one from the inside looking out.

With that in mind, it may help to point out to your teen (or younger child) that envy tends to fade once you consider the whole picture. Not everyone has a perfect life. A teen may have a tougher time, not just realizing that but appreciating it. We need to teach them to recognize that everyone has tough times, challenges, hardships and heartaches. Those Facebook photos, videos and messages may present the truth, but it’s not the whole truth.

A stunning photo and brief and seemingly breathless message using a lot of exclamation points can lead a viewer to believe that person’s entire day was outstanding. You know this isn’t true even though you may slide into that misconception from time to time. A picture of a big box of fancy schmancy cupcakes in an office break room has to mean the entire day there was perfect, right?

Ordinary events, daily duties and even obligations can take on a certain glow when they’re made public in a dramatic way. “I had to go buy shoes today” vs. “Look at the new [insert name brand here ] shoes I bought today.”

High drama is a Facebook staple. Even regular obligations can seem extraordinary and interesting. None of this is to say Facebook doesn’t have many advantages when it comes to keeping in touch with family and friends. Be mindful that it presents a slice of life, but it will never be a substitute for life beyond the computer or phone.