Such a refreshing edit this published as part of Sunday Review at The New York Times. The contrast between people’s real lives and ones as perceived by their “friends” on social media is so succinctly articulated by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Especially evident is the side of us exposed to Facebook as against Google (the search engine).
Alone with a screen and anonymous, people tend to tell Google things they don’t reveal to social media; they even tell Google things they don’t tell to anybody else. Google offers digital truth serum. The words we type there are more honest than the pictures we present on Facebook or Instagram.
Sometimes the contrasts in different data sources are amusing. Consider how wives speak about their husbands.
On social media, the top descriptors to complete the phrase “My husband is …” are “the best,” “my best friend,” “amazing,” “the greatest” and “so cute.” On Google, one of the top five ways to complete that phrase is also “amazing.” So that checks out. The other four: “a jerk,” “annoying,” “gay” and “mean.
I just could not have put this is in a better way. The fakeness of what streams at Facebook has always been at the crux of the platform being disliked by a vocal minority, especially the geeks. It won’t be too much of a stretch for the argument to say if it is not fake, it is not visible on the Facebook timeline.
How does one protect oneself from getting miserable at the hands of this streaming pile of curated noise?
Once you’ve looked at enough aggregate search data, it’s hard to take the curated selves we see on social media too seriously. Or, as I like to sum up what Google data has taught me: We’re all a mess.
Now, you may not be a data scientist. You may not know how to code in R or calculate a confidence interval. But you can still take advantage of big data and digital truth serum to put an end to envy — or at least take some of the bite out of it.
Any time you are feeling down about your life after lurking on Facebook, go to Google and start typing stuff into the search box. Google’s autocomplete will tell you the searches other people are making. Type in “I always …” and you may see the suggestion, based on other people’s searches, “I always feel tired” or “I always have diarrhea.” This can offer a stark contrast to social media, where everybody “always” seems to be on a Caribbean vacation.
Yep, the best lifehack I have read in a long long time. Amen.