Opinion: Take a break from Facebook over the summer holidays

Woman on phone in bikini
Turn off the social media feed, writes Heather McCarron. Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: "#48hoursinFiji. Leg 1." The caption on my Facebook feed was accompanied by photos of the corresponding friend and a handful of his island-shirt-clad mates, about to board a plane at Auckland Airport. They looked mightily excited.

This was also the friend who was supposed to be coming for a BBQ lunch at our house in less than 48 hours. Clearly, he'd had a better offer and hadn't told us. Stink one bro!

More pictures appeared - #48hoursinFiji - maybe just one then! Cue pic of five cocktails lined up alongside a fancy looking pool. He'd "checked in" at Sheraton Fiji Resort. There was no way he was coming for lunch. So it was a tad surprising when he did.

"But you're in Fiji," I insisted. It was on Facebook, so it must be true. "Oh nah," he explained. "That's just us winding up a mate's fiancé."

It turned out he and his pals had gone to considerable effort to make it look like they were in Fiji for a stag party, when in reality they'd flown half an hour to Auckland for the day.

Apparently, the fiancé hadn't been keen on her husband taking part in pre-nuptial shenanigans, especially if it involved international travel. So being the supportive chaps they were, the groom's mates decided a right royal wind-up must ensue.

The shots of them drinking on the plane were real; the shots of Fijian landscapes were courtesy of Mr Google. This was brilliant. The bride-to-be - and everyone else - fell for it hook, line. Classic.

Our friend paused, mid-explanation, to upload another pre-prepared pic.

"It's like living this whole other life," he mused. In Facebook land, he was downing exotic beverages and getting sand in strange places. In reality, he was standing in our kitchen eating cheese.

It struck me as a giant metaphor for social media, a reminder that even though people's Facebook pages make their lives look so much better than yours, it's a life based on the good bits, or, in some cases, entirely made-up bits - timely, given that the holiday season is upon us and our News Feeds are getting clogged with the token snaps of swimming pools, parties and cutesy kids getting their festive on.

Wouldn't it be so much more interesting if we included the boring and awkward bits too? A shot of your mate sitting home alone after no one turned up to his New Year's Eve drinks - #48HoursInIsolation. Or a snap of your bestie sulking on the car ride home because her husband wouldn't stop ogling at other women at the beach #48hoursinthedogbox. A video of you on your hands and knees with the brush and shovel, scooping up the kids' breakfast that's been flung across the lounge. A pic of the leftovers you're about to consume (oh wait, we do that already). Or a shot of your sister on that night-time cleaning job she's secretly taken up to help pay for the Christmas presents she couldn't afford. #48WeeksInDebt.

I remember one Mother's Day, following a relentless stream of seemingly well-behaved kid pics, one of my Facebook friends got honest and posted about her day being quite s**t. The kids were terrors; she was stressed and ended up in tears. It sparked a flurry of #MeToo-type responses, even from those who'd earlier posted the Brady Bunch updates, and was probably the most well-received post of the day.

In 2015, A University of Copenhagen study of more than 1000 participants set out to discover how Facebook affects users' quality of life. Half were told not to use Facebook for an entire week, while the other half continued their lives with Facebook as per usual.

Those who took a Facebook break reported their general satisfaction with life boosted from 7.56 to 8.12 on a one-to-10 scale. After a week without Facebook, the share of subjects who reported they felt mad, sad, depressed and lonely declined significantly.

So there you have it folks - the more exciting our own statuses are the more depressed it makes others.

So if those selfies of your mates at his bach, or snaps of your colleagues getting drunk on a boat are leaving you feeling glum, remember they probably get the same "feels" when they look at your Facebook page.

If that doesn't cheer you up, you can always "go" to Fiji. Even just for 48 hours.

Heather McCarron is a freelance journalist and mother of two.