real life

The unbearable truth about the 'Sunday night Facebook blues'.

How many casual, not-so-casual and serious talks have I given to my daughters about being wary of social media?

I know Facebook is often full of the best 20 seconds of people’s lives. I know, often, what you see bears little resemblance to the real story. Person A has a decade-long history of issues with Person B, yet here they sit laughing in a group photo at a restaurant overlooking a winery. I know there are photo filters and life filters and emotional filters used before anyone presses share.

I know the easiest way to create a myth is to post on social media. I know living on a screen doesn’t compare to the glorious mess of living off one.

Worse still, I repeat these “life lessons” to my kids. I don’t want them to be dragged along behind Facebook and Instagram et al by their scrolling fingers and take on some self-loathing, hyper-critical, let’s-compare-our-lives-with-this-“perfect person” ride.

I have rules about their social media consumption because I know it is a world that requires rules and boundaries and a little bit of distance.

Listen: The story of Essena O’Neill, the model who quit social media. (Post continues after audio.)

Yet here I sit — often on the end of my bed, because I like to Facebook in private. Taking a break from the Sunday night dinner, clean-up, what’s next ritual to just have a ‘quick’ scroll through Facebook (and while I’m in the neighbourhood, I may as well knock on Instagram’s door).

I’m in that space between the end of the weekend and the reality of a new week. The noises in the house are familiar. A last minute load of laundry is on. Someone is opening the fridge. There’s a soft hum of voices asking what time is it, where are the tweezers, who has the phone charger.

The sunlight has well and truly gone. And I turn from my real world into this other one, radiant with good times. Brimming with obvious life fulfillment and enrichment; with experiences that are so good you are surely going to be getting comfort out of them on your deathbed.

It’s during these sneaky moments of scrolling that I get a pit in my stomach. I start feeling blue. Maybe even a failure. I question and assess. I berate myself for lost opportunities I didn’t even contemplate. I make promises about doing things differently. And all my failings seem worse on a Sunday night.

Why don’t I organise surprise parties with thoughtful photo collages for my friends?

Why didn’t I take my kids to a secret river and watch them gleefully jump off rocks into the water? We just went to Woollies on Saturday and then we had to go back because we forgot dog food.

She has another book out. Come on. Get your act together.

I’m going to Google that secret river place and we are all going there next weekend. With a really healthy picnic that everyone will love.

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They are doing a marathon together. I want to do a marathon with my husband.

The sadness of Sunday night Facebook. (Image: iStock)

She always looks fabulous. I need to spend more time doing my makeup.

How happy are they? Look at all that artwork on the walls. They're such a creative family. 

He's in Egypt. I've always wanted to go to Egypt.

Snapshots of lives that if I put them altogether into one huge photograph as big as the wall I'm facing in my bedroom, my life would be perfect too.

I'm not worried by celebrity Facebook pages or Instagram feeds - it's a "real" friends-only Sunday night blues zone.

The problem is I know, really, truly know, all these photographs, experiences, emotions are only revealing part of the story. Still, I can't shake that feeling.

I've had conversations with people who've given me the Sunday night Facebook blues and have been told their children hate each other, or their mother-in-law is playing seriously sick mind games, or their last holiday was paid by credit card and I still look at posts of their perfect children, and loving family get-togethers and awe-inspiring holidays and get that feeling.

It's as though the seeing overrides the knowing.

I know no-one has a perfect life.

I know I have a good life.

I know social media is as real as the wizard from The Wizard of Oz.

Plus. I'm too old for this social media self-loathing shit.

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Step away from the phone 

Studies have found Sunday nights can make people feel anxious and depressed because they are no longer anticipating a few days of "freedom". You see, on Friday you get to anticipate a great weekend - even if that involves sleeping and Netflix bingeing, anticipation can be just as heedy as doing. But by Sunday night, the act of anticipation has been replaced by a feeling of loss.

Add those enhanced feelings of Sunday night anxiety and loss to the numerous studies that have found when you compare social media users, those who are on it for longer periods tend to exhibit higher rates of depression and anxiety, you get a double blues whammy.

Still, I know better. It's me. A grown-up. A mum and worker, wife, daughter, friend, sister. A woman lucky enough to have numerous, fulfilling, life-saving real life relationships, sitting on the end of a bed on a Sunday night feeling a little blue. Drifting into a negative emotional trap that I warn everyone around me about. That I have rules about for my kids. That I've spoken to friends about and we've laughed at other people's investment in this online life mirage.

It's an emotional trap I can see coming. It's as clear as the hand holding the mobile phone that's in front of my face. And I still fall.

I'll probably never be able to rid myself of feeling a little sad on a Sunday night, but I think it's time to give myself a loving, thoughtful "life lesson" about combining the end of the week with a social media check-in.

GET OFF FACEBOOK ON A SUNDAY NIGHT YOU GOOSE.

Okay. Thanks for that.

(The saddest thing is: I know that already)

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