Peak to Peak
There’s a lot of research behind the idea that we measure how well we’re doing in life not by absolute measures, but by relative ones.
Most people would (perhaps obviously) choose to earn $75,000 over $50,000, all else being equal.
Yet change that choice to be between earning $50,000 while your friends and colleagues earn $40,000, or earning $75,000 while your friends and family earn $100,000, and the popular option flips. Most people choose to earn less overall, rather than to earn more overall while still earning less than those around them.
Evolutionarily, we’re wired to look for our standing within a group. We determine how we’re doing by checking how well we compare.
And that, I think, is the danger of Twitter.
Most people’s average days are, well, pretty average. Yet within any given day, at least one relatively interesting thing is likely to happen. That’s the part people tweet about:
“I’m at [fill in the blank interesting place]!”
“Just ran into [fill in the blank important person]!”
“OMG! I love [trendy thing]!”
Basically, you get the highlight reel of all your acquaintances’ lives, 140 characters at a time. All of whom, extrapolating from there, seem to spend their entire lives attending parties, being fabulous, and generally living very well.
But, like in reality TV, the trick is in the editing. You live the entirety of your life (the highs, middles, and lows), and only read about their lives’ peaks.
So, rather than let Twitter depress you with comparison-driven angst, consider a thought experiment I personally enjoy: Tweets that your friends should publish if they were trying to reflect the full balance of their lives, but probably never will:
“Still working on [busywork related to current mind-numbing project]!”
“Eating a tub of Haagen Dazs alone on the couch while watching TV again!”
“Holy crap, I just had really explosive diarrhea, and boy did it burn!”