Sometimes a song comes on that for some reason resonates with you in a way it hasn't before. For me it was a cover of "wouldn't it be good" by Nick Kershaw. The lyrics really spoke to me. It's a song about envy, perspective and our tendency to assume the grass is always greener on the other side.
I decided to do a little singing cover of it here:
The lyrics also got me thinking about social media even though it was written in the 80s before that was even a thing. A lot of us have been spending more time on Twitter or Facebook over Lockdown and it's both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand we perhaps need it for our work, for networking, sharing content and keeping up with friends but on the flip side it can also be bad for our mental health.
"Wouldn't it be good to be in your shoes?...."
Have you ever looked at your feed and wondered why it looks like everyone else is having a better time than you are? Maybe they've got a "better" house, career, family, lifestyle.... and you might think, as the song goes, wouldn't it be good to be in their shoes?
Well, careful what you wish for.
"You must be joking, you don't know a thing about it. Stay out of my shoes if you know what's good for you"...
A bit of jealousy can be good in small doses because it show you what's important to you & can motivate you to improve your own situation. But wanting to be like someone else is not a great aspiration because you really have no idea what their life is actually like or what values are important to them. Many of us aspire to fame & fortune but many famous, fortunate people just aspire to have a genuine connection with someone that isn't just because of their money or status.
"The grass is always greener over there...."
How many people would have wanted to be like Marilyn Monroe before her tragic death? She was beautiful, successful, rich....but also completely troubled. She's just one example of many people in entertainment or creative industries who we assume are #livingthedream but behind the scenes may be suffering. I remember reading something from Robin Gibb, the last surviving member of the Beegees who tragically lost all three of his brothers. He said in a documentary about his fame that he'd "rather have them all back here and no hits at all".
"You've got it easy, You don't know when You've got it good"...
So much of what we see is smoke and mirrors, assumptions or a story people are telling. And we tell our own stories too because they serve some kind of function. One of the lessons I remember most from my Psychology degree was a lesson on Cognition & Attribution Bias. You really see this in action on social media, particularly in the political arena which has become more vicious and divisive than ever.
There's various types of Attribution Errors but the main ones are an interpersonal or self serving bias where we will tend to portray ourselves in the best possible light & maybe gloss over the difficulties we experienced. (That pretty much describes how I feel about Instagram! You see a filtered, photoshopped selfie but not the 100 photos that person deleted where they had their eyes shut, the lighting was unflattering or their skin was bad). Then there's Fundamental Attribution Bias where we tend to attribute causes to internal factors such as our personality characteristics and ignore or minimize external/situational variables. But conversely we may do the opposite when it comes to other people. So we'll assume a celebrity is only successful because of luck, privilege or nepotism rather than hard work, skill & diligence.
I think we also tend to devalue what we have around us or move the goal posts. I have a trivial example of this when last month I decided to buy a new TV. The new TV is lighter, looks and sounds better and has way more functionality. So I am now stuck with an old TV I need to get rid of which I assumed nobody would want because it's so big & heavy. But then I thought.....well it was good enough for me last month. Last month I really valued this TV. It gave me great pleasure. Only now I've got something better does it appear somewhat crap in comparison but someone else might really appreciate this TV (and they did as I sold it for £25 on Facebay). I've just moved the goal posts. Just like the "me" a few years ago would be thrilled to voice an animated series on Netflix the "me" today thinks it's no big deal. I should be voicing 10 animated series plus 10 triple A video games.
"My broken spirit is frozen to the core"...
Sometimes the things we aspire to have are also quite empty & meaningless & probably wouldn't make us that fulfilled. Like some influencer with a million followers on Twitter. That's not actually an achievement really is it? Unless you are using that platform for something good. And many people don't, they use it to make life worse for people around them. How many of those followers actually know the real person or would actually be there for them in a crisis? In fact the whole cancel culture phenomenon has shown just how fickle many of these social interactions are. Make one mistake or poorly worded comment and those people you thought really liked you will turn on you in a heartbeat and everything you built up could come crashing down. This happened to a friend of mine with tragic consequences.
"Wouldn't it be good if we could live without a care?"
One of the lines of the song is "Wouldn't it be good if we could live without a care?" And I thought actually no, it wouldn't be good. To care is to be human. You do not want to stop caring. If you are living without a care it might be at someone else's expense or you've lost perspective. For many people with depression that numbness, the sensation of feeling nothing is actually worse than feeling a negative emotion because at least feeling something reminds you you're conscious & connected to the world around you.
Maybe a better thing to aspire to is to be grateful and content with what we have (unless it's a crap TV obviously lol). Knowing that the grass isn't always greener & that someone somewhere probably wishes they had your problems or the luxury of being able to post about them on social media.