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Why isn’t my life full of the fun I see on Facebook?

The dilemma I am feeling terribly lost and pathetic in life. I don’t have friends to call my own and I work so hard all day and most of the evening as a teacher that I can barely cope with the workload. I was in a relationship for three years (bearing in mind I am still young, 26 next week), but he left me a year and a half ago. I now realise he left because he couldn’t stand that I was such a loner and had no one but him. I see people on Facebook going out all the time, going to hen dos and meeting people, and I wonder to myself why I am the odd one out.

Mariella replies Join the club. Judging your own life in contrast to those apparently being led by others, whether on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter is a mistake we are all increasingly guilty of. Such edited excerpts don’t offer an accurate communication, but they do have the capacity to make anyone with a pulse feel inadequate and despairing of their own lacklustre, unPhotoshopped existence.

There are days when all those perfect people with their ceaseless socialising, sexy lifestyles, designer homes, impeccable children, wonderful vacations and fabulous work opportunities are simply too much to bear. Even when you can acknowledge you are being served only the highlights of other peoples lives, it’s difficult not to be depressed by how far you’re failing in the newly required skills of lifestyle bragging and follower flaunting. It’s enough to turn any sensible mortal into a sociopath wanting only to curl up in a corner and read Kafka.

These days everyone can give their lives the sort of superficial gloss once reserved for the rich, famous and powerful. We may once have aspired to the elevated heights of the Brangelina lifestyle, but Brad and Ange seem positively suburban compared to the freeze-frame fabulousness served up by Instagrammers. The other day I looked at an old friend’s online profile and found myself confronted by a total stranger whose entire existence was packaged under #Blessed and bore no resemblance to the struggling, lonely and hard-pressed single parent of my acquaintance. A recent holiday confirmed this sense of parallel lives when I found myself among serial Instagrammers who spent more time inside on Wi-Fi sending and receiving photos than they did by the pool.

Clearly you need to take back control of your life and stop the demands of work – and your fear of engagement with others. But first develop a realistic picture of what your life could be. So much of the emotional despondency you are expressing is at epidemic levels. If shared experience remains the key to quality communication you’d be surprised how many friends you actually have, people desiring exactly the same visceral connection as you. The mythology of social media makes much of its ability to create a global village, yet more and more people feel marooned and alone in their bedrooms.

As a teacher you have a hefty workload, but it’s up to you to say when enough is enough. Being busy is another 21st-century vice that detracts from our ability to engage with the world around us. Women in particular seem to be bad at marking out their territory. One of the great skills men have acquired over millennia is to compartmentalise. It’s something my own sex could do with brushing up on.

Be clear about your professional availability and then use the time you free up to find a pursuit that interests you: a hobby, sport, dance class, charity, political party… anything you fancy really, so long as it involves other people. Putting yourself in the path of human encounters is a far more fruitful way of finding friends than playing bystander to the lives of others on the internet.

One good friend is as valuable as a million Facebook followers and a good life doesn’t need to be overpopulated. Start sniffing out adventures that await you outside the door. There’s only one person who can change your life, but plenty of others who can contribute to the quality of it once you’ve made that first move.


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