Facebook courted some controversy recently, when it revealed its role in an experiment to see how peoples’ moods were influenced by their manipulation positive and negative sentiments in posts our newsfeeds.

It’s a fairly well understood and accepted psychological concept that other peoples’ moods affect your own, and we all know some people who seemed to drain the energy and optimism out of every situation they encounter, whilst others can boost your day and your endorphins simply by being around. It’s really no different online. People were angry with Facebook for manipulating our moods without permission… but what about the friends and family who do this to us all the time?

Of course people use Facebook for sharing the bad things as well as the good – for sharing news about things that have happened to them, things that are affecting them, and how they feel about it.  That’s perfectly okay and in fact it breaks up the monotony of the endless “oh look at me and what a brilliant life I’m having” statuses – those of us lucky enough to be living in Spain are particularly prone to the sharing of glorious sunsets and vistas…

We are sorry… At least it’s cheery and pretty to look at!  But it’s also fine to use Facebook to tell me you’re having a rotten day, and I might even be sympathetic.

ask meDo me a favour though, tell me what’s going on. Let me and all your other Facebook friends share the understanding, of why your day turned out so badly after all. Tell the story, take us through it… Perhaps together we will find new ways for you to look at what went on, to help you see some humour or underlying irony in the situation – even if it doesn’t change anything about the facts.

Of course there might be nothing funny to find in the situation at all, and increasingly now people are turning to social media to announce bereavements losses health problems and changes in their life is the simplest way to communicate effectively with large numbers of people at once. That’s okay too and it’s a positive side of social media that many people can be reached with a single point of communication at a time when perhaps energy is feeling low.  This is one situation where use of the ‘like’ button is not an appropriate way to indicate that you have read something – you need to make a comment or send a private message.

But on a day-to-day basis Facebook is filled with far more trivial misfortunes. So please, whatever you do, avoid the “Oh poor me!!” teaser status.

You know what I mean by this, if you spend more than five minutes of your life on social media. Oh no, can this day get any worse? I really think we must be the unluckiest family in the world! I am soooo angry I just can’t believe it! My job is so awful! I can’t believe what just happened!!!

I promise you, it really doesn’t matter how many exclamation marks or other rhetorical punctuation you employ in your update: I am not going to ask you. I am not playing.

The classic Transactional Analysis text “Games People Play” was written in 1995, many years before the advent of Facebook.  However had Facebook existed at the time Thomas A Harris was researching interpersonal behaviour and communications, you can bet the “poor me teaser status” would’ve been included as one of the social games that people like to play in relationships. And games like this always take at least two willing players, otherwise they grind to a halt pretty fast.

Another classic psychological concept is that of the ‘cry for help’ and that’s really what the ‘poor me’ status is all about.  My day – or my life – is really so bad, that the only thing that can make me feel better about it is reaching out to people I know online in and provoking them into asking me to expand in more detail, on the minutiae of my terrible life.

Perhaps I’ll wait a little while before replying and expanding on what’s happened. Because then, the comments will have time to mount up:  What on earth happened? Are you okay? Can I do anything to help..? It’s just so unfair, whatever it is, because you are the last person who deserves more bad luck! The more comments I see, the more important I’ll feel, and the better I’ll feel about whatever it was.  I might leave people who really care about me wondering and guessing for a while. But perhaps they’ve seen it all before anyway and I just going through the motions with their ritual replies, as they know what I’m like.

Seriously, if this is you – have some respect for your friends. And maybe some respect for yourself.  For most of us life isn’t that bad, not all of the time, and the really bad news doesn’t need a warm-up act.

Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, August 8th 2014.

©Maya Middlemiss,

Casslar Consulting SL

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