The Difference Between What We Post and What We Search

In the book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz plumbs our Google searches and Facebook posts for some deep insights about what we’re really thinking. Bottom line–we all suffer, but we don’t like to admit it, at least online. Here’s the difference between how people describe their husbands on social media versus what they actually search for about their husbands anonymously:

Four most common words used to describe husbands on social media: the best, my best friend, the greatest, so cute!

Four most common words used in searches regarding husbands: gay, a jerk, annoying, mean.

There’s definitely a difference between what we show the world and what we are thinking.

The irony is that most people–in person, one on one–will focus on the negative. Ask someone about a recent vacation and they’ll mention the flight delay, the cold they caught, and the rainy beach day. But look at what they posted online to the big, anonymous world, and you’ll see huge smiles, sunsets, and raised glasses.

So where is reality? Do we want social media full of bad news? Not really? But when it only shows parties and vacations, we get a skewed comparison of our life to others. Studies have shown that young people often feel worse about themselves after being on Facebook. Everyone is out having fun, except for me!

When you suffer from anxiety and sadness because of a fear of missing out, or a fear that your life is not as exciting as everyone else’s life–that’s a good time to breath and reflect: you’re feeling the same universal sadness that humans have felt for years. It’s built into our DNA: we’ve evolved a pervasive anxiety. It’s helped us stay alive in the wild world of our hunter-gatherer past. Is it still useful to always be on edge like this, always on the lookout? No. In the past, a constant need to compare and keep up with others kept us bonded as small communities in tribal days. Do we still need to constantly compare ourselves to everyone else? No.

It’s best to balance every social media post you see of other people living epic awesomeness with the insight that they too have a secret world of worry. And right after putting down that martini and leaving behind that sunset, they are probably searching for something like these four, all-time, most common google queries: how to lose weight fast; how to get rid of pimples; how to relieve anxiety; and, my favorite: how to be happy.

Stephens-Davidowitz’s book is a must-read if you’re interested in looking deeper into the gap between what we show the world and what we ask google when we’re all alone.

Until next time: Give Up (constantly comparing with others) and (because that’s the last thing you’ll be worrying about on the day you (Die).


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