Dear Eleanor and Wesley,
Everywhere you turn someone will be lining up to give you a definition of the good life. Not in any cohesive sense. The definitions come in snippets, vingettes, and flashing images. Suggestion is far more powerful than description. Stories with messages hidden in secret decoder rings drive us wild. I always wanted a decoder ring. And that’s just it, we get jealous for it. In the jealous economy everyone is trying to write your version of the good life for you. That must be why I never get tired of you shouting at our TV screen: “You can’t have our money.” Maybe what we should be shouting is “You can’t have my heart, I’ll find the good life elsewhere.”
Envy as a commodity, driving people to buy and sell things, is nothing new. But social media has changed the game. The green monster of jealousy is now the currency of exchange. People tally comments, hoard facebook “likes” (I hope that is not still a thing), and collect retweets as an end in itself. All of this online information starts to read like a bank statement with our identity on the value line. The twists and turns of our digital presence send our hearts racing as if we were a bunch of suits glued to the rise and fall of the stock market. Even the letter I’m writing now is drenched in this temptation. I’ll put it on a website and be tempted to judge it’s worth by the number of eyes that see it, rather than the degree of honesty, truth, and love I’ve put into it towards you. The whole system is rigged to push us towards inspiring desire, partly because we crave external proof our lives our desirable.
Perhaps all of this is not so new. When I was in fourth grade, I was known as the kid who played soccer. The class kickball competition meant a golden opportunity to showcase the power behind my well-rehersed kicking form. In the run up to the event, there was even a bit of a buzz about the chance to be on my team. Being a rather scrawny kid of average athletic ability, this was something entirely new and I started to believe my own hype. People were finally recognizing the goods I was bringing to the table. Being the lone “Z” in class meant plenty of time for the anticipation to build as we worked through the alphabetical line up. I made it up to kick three times that day and never even made it on base. My dinky kick popped up to the short stop everytime. Eventually, I retreated as far back into the outfield as possible, all the way by the monkey bars, and screamed something incoherrent at the teacher when she called me closer. I was assigned to sit the wall for the rest of the game, collapsed in a heap of tears, deflated ego, and disappointment. I didn’t even notice as the game ended, the team lined up and returned to class without me.
I was completely thrown off by the envy and esteem of my peers. I was left drenched in jealousy. Afterall, disappointment is just jealously for a hoped for future that never came. Here is what I recommend to you. Refuse to participate in the jealousy economy. Sure, hashtag it up about great cups of coffee and float your passing thoughts into the internet ocean. Simply guard yourselves from setting your hopes upon the response. Real relationships are a lot better at helping us to understand ourselves than a million twitter followers. The love of a real human being who will stick by you through tough times is worth any amount of clever commenters pestering you from behind a screen. To that end, you’ll always know where to find me.