Frequently, people post an unrealistically rosy “curated” version of their lives on social media: e.g. “Wow, here I am on this beach vacation! And I got a promotion! And I’m at a party with friends, it’s great!”
Unfortunately, some people experience dissatisfaction in their lives as a result of comparing themselves to the curated ”best of” experiences on other people’s profiles.
In order to fix this issue, social media apps can simply provide a toggle switch in their user interface: do you, the user, want to see other people who are (allegedly) having a better time than you, or a worse time? This would then determine which posts were shown on a user’s news feed.
For example, a user who picked the “show me people having a better time than me” option would see:
- Your former boss on a foreign vacation.
- That one high school classmate driving a $200,000 car.
Obviously these are only superficial trappings of success, but they can be very convincing on social media!
While the “show me people having a worse time” option could consist of posts by:
- Your neighbor who got arrested for illegally attempting to smuggle 100 snakes out of the country in his jacket.
- Your classmate who is recovering in the hospital after going on a “soda only” fad diet.
This system could be more generalized as well: it could show posts that will convey a certain desired emotion to the end user. For example, imagine a “degree of positivity” menu that one could select on every social media site (Figure 1).
A mockup of the results of selecting “delusion” and “despair” is shown in Figure 2.
It’s hard to believe that this feature doesn’t already exist! Maybe it does…. but only behind the scenes, as some shadowy administrator option in your favorite social media apps?
PROS: Would allow people to avoid depression as a result of comparing their own lives to unrealistically-optimistic vignettes shown on other people’s social media profiles.
CONS: If the user sets their profile to “despair,” this system might induce depression and/or a paranoid degree of worry about being (partially?) eaten by a shark.