For years, I’ve used Facebook like a lovesick teenager uses chocolate. Taken in the proper dose, it makes me feel better about myself. Seeing how most of my Facebook friends live their lives makes me happy for them and even happier for me. Chances are, you feel the same way I do (especially if we’re friends on Facebook).
I’ve got friends who perpetually forward e-cards with fiendishly clever sayings like “You’re so fabulous, I’m pretty sure you fart glitter.” They make happy to be married to the beautiful woman I am, who doesn’t need the Internet to tell me what she thinks of my farts.
I’ve got friends who think everyday is Throw Back Thursday #tbt. Regularly experiencing a news feed full of mullets makes me happy I grew up in a time void of digital cameras (to my knowledge, the only tangible proof of my failed attempt to grow an Alabama neck warmer in the summer of ’91 is in the faithful hands of my loving wife).
I’ve got married friends who post about their amazing spouse. Single friends who post about their amazing social life. I’ve got friends who were once married with an amazing spouse and are now divorced with a not-so-amazing social life and are friends with me just so they can stalk their ex in my photo feed.
It’s good to be me on Facebook. At least it used to be. Lately I’ve come down with a case of Facebook envy.
It started when my friend Tim went snowboarding in Holland. I was happy for him then, just as I was a week later when Tim went hang-gliding in France. It wasn’t until Tim posted pictures of himself base jumping in Brazil that I began to feel the jealousy bug. Tim wasn’t on vacation. He was on his life. As near as I can tell, Tim has no job, no mortgage, no car payments, no responsibilities. His life is like a Mountain Dew commercial.
If Tim’s were an isolated case, it would be easy for me to stave off my Facebook envy. After all, I have plenty of friends who lead interesting lives with plots that vary from my own. I’m friends with comedians, writers, pop-culture pihilosophers and other artists who’ve done wonders to enrich my online social life while keeping my jealousy at bay, mostly because no matter how successful they are, I’ve seen each of them with a mullet thanks to #tbt.
Then there is Johnny. Like Tim, Johnny travels the world and posts his adventures to Facebook. Unlike Tim, Johnny has a job. He’s the drummer for Gary Clarke, jr, a blues-rock quartet from Austin, Texas. He’s played in front of millions of adoring fans. He’s been on the Dave Letterman show. He even has his own signature drumstick. Can you sense my jealousy yet?
Johnny and I were friends long before Facebook existed. He and I were drummers in rival bands in the Gainesville music scene back in the late 1990’s and early 2000s. That he’s now having tremendous success is no shock to me. He’s a great drummer. Always has been. But the real reason he’s living his dream has less to do with talent (or Johnny’s un-mulettable hair) than it does with determination. The source of my Facebook envy is where he is because of his drive and willingness to succeed even if it means missing out on certain life events that define most of us.
When I was getting married, Johnny was living in his band’s practice space. When I was buying a house, he was paying his dues on the club circuit of Austin. When my daughter was born, he was besting over a hundred professional drummers to win the gig for Gary Clarke, jr.
Last week he and his band opened up for Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin fame) in a castle in Ireland- the same castle where Zeppelin played “Stairway to Heaven” live for the first time in 1971. Johnny posted a selfie of him and Plant backstage and said he spent the night listening to the legendary frontman spin tales of the late great John Bonham (my ultimate drum hero) over pints of Guinness. Face it, if you’re going to succumb to Facebook envy, it might as well be for the right reasons.
It’s not that I’d trade my life for Johnny's. I wouldn’t. Neither would you. But there’s a chance that you too have that one Facebook friend who makes you a little jealous, just enough to wonder how things might have turned out if you’d chosen another path. Facebook envy isn’t all that bad. In the right dose, it can be a healthy fantasy. But there's no need to indulge it for too long. My five-year-old daughter just asked what a mullet is, and I think I’d better show her before my wife does.