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Holidays in my family have always been a stressful time, even before social media existed. Christmas is usually the worst. As a child, the holidays were always a trigger and opportunity for drama and arguments to break out.
This past Christmas was no different. As a 30-year-old gay man, it wasn’t the first time I went home for the holidays with apprehension, but the reasoning was new. Since my older sister has gotten married, bought a home in the suburbs and had a baby, I’ve started to feel like the black sheep of my family.
At 30, I’m nowhere near settling down, still chasing dreams and chasing men in a city my parents can’t understand how I afford to live in. I feel misunderstood by my family — mostly by my mother.
My mother and I got into a spat over the phone a few weeks prior, and at Christmas I was still anxious and annoyed. Still, I felt pressured to show up. It wasn’t great.
My mom — my hero — is a complicated woman making her way through a world that didn’t deal her the easiest hand in life. I wish she was able to hear how I talk about her behind her back, because she would know I’m her biggest fan. She’s had a lot of obstacles to overcome, and at times she takes those out on me despite me not being the reason for her struggles. Recently, an argument over family issues exploded and harsh words were said by both of us.
At 30 years old, I’m trying to say enough is enough. So this Mother’s Day, I won’t be making the trip down to Philadelphia to see her, and I won’t be inviting her to New York City. This pains me but it’s for the best.
One thing I’m not looking forward to this Mother’s Day is the barrage of posts and tributes in which people celebrate their mother. I also worry that I won’t have a picture of us at brunch together, enjoying bagels and lox, to post on social media. As shallow as that sounds, the ideal life I try to project will be impossible this Mother’s Day, because in reality, things actually aren’t that great right now with my family.
Numerous studies have been conducted linking social networking to depression and social isolation, and the elicitation of feelings of envy, insecurity and poor self-esteem.
In 2015, one study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology conducted by researchers at the University of Houston found that an increase in Facebook usage has a correlation with depressive symptoms, leading to a psychological phenomenon known as “social comparison.”
“You should feel good after using Facebook,” said study author Mai-Ly Steers. “However… the unintended consequence is that if you compare yourself to your Facebook friends’ ‘highlight reels,’ you may have a distorted view of their lives and feel that you don’t measure up to them, which can result in depressive symptoms. If you’re feeling bad rather than good after using Facebook excessively, it might be time to reevaluate and possibly step away from the keyboard.”
Because of the comparison game we play, we try to turn failures into wins. But sometimes you just lose. We rarely see that online. While scrolling through a feed of wins, these personal moments of loss can be depressing and greatly affect a person. The social pressure to always be happy and look great in the process takes a toll on the spirit, and one consequence of that can be depression and even suicide.
“It doesn’t mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand,” says Steers.
This Mother’s Day, I’d like to say I’ll have the ability to sign off for the day, so I won’t be bombarded by the outpouring of love that people post about their mothers. But I know that’s probably not true.
All I can do is scroll through the photos of happy families — some fake, some real — and hope that next year my family is at a different place; that we will honestly be able to share the love for each other I know we are capable of — on social media, but more importantly, in real life.