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Thumbs down for happy posts

A woman poses for a selfie at Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid, Spain, on New Year's Eve on December 31 2021.
A woman poses for a selfie at Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid, Spain, on New Year's Eve on December 31 2021.
Image: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

I have to confess to a private irritation (now public) about people who every day post perpetually happy photos of themselves with friends and family in the festive season. Don’t get me wrong. I like happy. But what’s the point?

The point is to make sure you know that they are happy. OK, I got that with the first and second and third day of posted pics. Now why also the second and third and fourth weeks of happy pics? Are you showing off? Is there something you wish to say that you know is not true in real life?

Listen, I know at least one prominent persona who is so out there on social media, I do not recognise her/him (I need to keep this gender-neutral otherwise his/her cover is blown). Every bloody day — new clothes, new hair, new shoes, new face — yes, face — because God knows what you can do with those chemicals to keep that perpetual smirk on your mug.

Have you considered those without the means to buy such public displays of happiness deluxe (PDHD)? Are you mindful, in other words, or mindless?

The truth is, s/he is known to be depressed, chronically sad and generally miserable. The hype is a joke, not real happiness at all. I should know having seen him/her in so many down moments over the years.

Then there is this thing called mindfulness, a cute word that has launched a few coaching careers in recent times. It means being conscious of others, their needs and situations.

So, if you show yourself on a cruise boat the one day, under a gorgeous beach umbrella with a tequila the next, and forever in a swimsuit surrounded by six-packs and golden globes, let me ask you this: have you considered those without the means to buy such public displays of happiness deluxe (PDHD)? Are you mindful, in other words, or mindless?

The festive season is, for many, a period in which they struggle with their own sense of self, especially as they witness the excesses of others.

A friend, who is a senior academic administrator at Nelson Mandela University, shared this on social media the other day when I first mentioned this new variant disease, PDHD: “This is what I constantly tell my socially anxious teen who feels like she’s missing out on so much compared to her peers. Most people only post the rosy ‘perfections’ of their lives and not the ‘real’ ups and downs we all experience.”

That’s the point: our lives are not like those pictures.

Here’s what you need to know about some of those perpetually happy people on social media. Some just got divorced. Several struggle with their finances. Others lost their jobs. Not a few have wayward children. More than one barely survived Covid-19. In other words, they are human like most of us — vulnerable and miserable in chunks because bad stuff happens. So why these outlandish and persistent incidents of PDHD?

My critics say, rightly, that you don’t use your social media facilities to post misery. No and yes.

No, because all of you have seen people post about their frailties, like a day-to-day account of their Covid-19 symptoms given in excruciating detail. Or the details of a break-up between intimate partners that you do not know from Adam.

Yes, because many of us want to put up the best picture of ourselves to the outside world. We want people to regard us not as we really are, but as we would like to be seen.

Truly happy people don’t have time to do constant postings of their happiness; they are too busy enjoying themselves. 

Fine. Here’s the problem.

PDHD people are unwittingly revealing themselves in unflattering ways. They want to convince you that they’re happy. Truly happy people don’t have time to do constant postings of their happiness; they are too busy enjoying themselves.

The PDHDs induce envy, as in those silly postcards: “Wish you were here.” Actually, you don’t — otherwise what is there to share with the disadvantaged? The unstated goal is to elevate yourself above others — this is what I can do and afford and you can’t.

And then there are the sad sacks, people so isolated they crave recognition. My heart genuinely goes out to the desperados who post this on their special day: “Happy birthday to me!” Seriously? Get a shrink.

Considerate people share their holiday pics or other special events with those closest to them, such as family in another country. New grandparents like me long to see a grandchild frolic on a beach thousands of miles away — you feel connected to your children and their offspring even if you’re not physically there.

I love happy postings. My point is a different one: that you only post when you are convinced (sorry Seamus Heaney) that hype and happiness rhyme.

Happy new year!


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