Lean In and Post It On Facebook

There’s nothing new in the very sensible advice, “You shouldn’t  compare yourself to others. It’ll only make you unhappy”. (Miserable if you are doing worse, guilty if you are doing better.) There’ll always be someone smarter, richer, more attractive. There’ll also be many, many, more far worse off—fleeing war-torn areas, living in abject poverty, born with life-challenging disfigurements.

The female sex seems to be particularly prone to this sort of self-punishment.  Checking if they’ve got their life right, seeing if they should be doing something completely different. From plailean-inn envy of those who are more successful to the new term  “imposter syndrome” (for those who are successful but don’t feel they should be) women seem to suffer anxiety as a result of trying to match their peers far more than men do.  Am I good enough as I am?  My answer, yes you probably are, maybe more so than you think.

The internet apparently doesn’t help. Concerns over the effect of trying to match up to others on mental health led the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011 to define “Facebook depression”. They reckoned this was something which affected just preteens and teens who were glued to their social media sites.  Now there’s a fresh study come along to firm that up.

David Baker and Dr Guillermo Perez Algorta from Lancaster University have continued the research and found that comparing yourself with others on Facebook is more likely to lead to  feelings of depression than making social comparisons offline.  It’s hardly surprising – FB friends are usually peer group related, particularly young people, and modesty is sooo old-fashioned.

I’m at the Cambridge Union this evening debating the Lean In philosophy which was the subject of a 2013 book written by COO of the very same Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg.  There is no connection with the above.  Maybe only that this best-selling leadership and feminist bible assumes that all women should be super ambitious for corporate stardom above all else and if they can just alter their timid behaviour and give things a bit more welly,  it will be theirs for the taking.

I wonder if, in a very small way, this is not intensifying this modern world angst amongst teenage girls, that we can or should go for it, have it all; if only to boast about it on FB.

In proposition will be Asia Lambert, Adele Barlow and Rt. Hon Nicky Morgan MP; in opposition myself, Dawn Foster and Serena Kutchinsky.

About Louise Burfitt-Dons

Writer and social critic
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