Disclaimer: I do not in any way condone stalking of any kind. No accounts were hacked; and no information, that hadn’t already been made public, has been used. And of course, all names and all identifying features have been changed.

In the cult 80’s teen flick Say Anything, All-American-Dream-Girl-Next-Door and sheltered, overachieving daddy‘s girl, Diane Court (Ione Skye), goes out on a date to a pre-grad party to celebrate the final year with fellow members of her graduating class; a body of misfits, she later comes to realize she barely knew. After awkwardly making her way through the room full of vaguely familiar and bewildered faces gawking at her, Diane is excitedly pulled aside by one such female classmate, who “knew of her” rather than “knew” her, and hears this: I know we were “ultra competitive” this year but if it wasn’t for [you] I probably wouldn’t have gotten into Cornell because you made me study twice as hard. So thanks. 

Diane is taken aback, and then, in kind, admits that her studiousness (resulting in her being valedictorian, no less) was also influenced, in some ways, by their silent competition.

Art imitating life? Not according to a number of current studies showing that women hate individual competition, especially in the workplace.

Per these studies, most women prefer to compete in groups, even when an individual woman is fully competent on her own. But, still to the chagrin of many a feminists, most work environments don’t engender group competition, making it much easier, likelier for men (who tend to thrive on individual competition) to earn higher wages and job promotions. It doesn’t help that girls and women receive mixed messages on the subject of competition. Sexual competition is bad. But workplace competition is good; the caveat being, however: if your competitor in said workplace is a fellow XX chromosome-carrier then you need to mind your P’s and Q’s, lest you perpetuate gender stereotypes like catfighting and backbiting.

At least for me, those studies are/were true. I recoiled from any sort of competition: individual; group; male vs. female; female vs. female; etc. My last attempt at some kind of meaningful competitive resolve was in high school during standardized testing season, and like Lebron James, I simply choked.

And ever since, you can say I’ve been simply coasting: ceding any and every “contest” in my life to others. I was trapped in this navel-gazing rut-bubble. Competing against oneself isn’t necessarily the greatest motivator: sure, I hadn’t accomplished anything great in my life, but neither did “Babette.”

My rut-bubble burst when one of my mother’s random asides actually penetrated my psyche: Such-and-Such, a (former?) childhood bff of mine, was getting married; and was now living in a certain cosmopolitan city.

Who? What? Huh?

  • Ocean Breezy

    Competition can be either good or bad.

    For my part, competition is not something I thrive on whether it be in the workplace or out. I am quite reticent and don’t like the attention and pressure that competition brings.

    If we are to go by the exact, dictionary definition of stalked, then no, I have never stalked someone via social media. There are many people who willingly make the most intimate details of their life available. Furthermore, I wouldn’t look to social media as a teaching tool of competitiveness, seeing that there are many people who put on the impression that their life is great because that is what receives the most Facebook status likes, comments and adulation.

  • Princess P

    I’ll pass. FB stalking my friends post graduation made my life hell. I was so saddened by not being able to find a job and moving back home w/ the folks, while everyone else on my timeline seemed to be chocolate dipped Carrie Bradshaws living the fab life.

    Fast forward 4 yrs, I’ve learned that I can’t compare my life to anyone elses, especially using FB. I don’t know their struggle to get their coveted positions and they don’t know mines. And just because someone has fly job titles and exotic vacation albums doesn’t mean their life is any better or more fulfilling than mines. And in the words of Andre 3000 “Lean a lil closer you’ll see roses really smell like boo boo.”

  • LN

    I have to agree with Princess P, I don’t think that FB stalking is a good idea. Post-graduation I pursued journalism and, when the industry started caving, I left to make a living off of my own personal website. Many of my Facebook “friends” made snide remarks about what I was trying to do, as they flashed their weddings, marriages and babies in my face. I was broke, living in a family friend’s basement on the outskirts of Chicago and feeling depressed.

    So, what did I do? I unfriended 80% of my Facebook friends. The only people I left were people who were supportive of me, who weren’t going to be overly nosey and who weren’t super competitive. I went from 500 friends to 89.

    Without the constant sense of judgment, comparison and negativity around me I THRIVED. It was kind of like going from trying to do my own thing while sitting in a crowded room and being constantly distracted… to doing my own thing in a comfortable empty room where I had room to breathe.

    Also, I found that — rather than being motivated by competition — it’s better to be motivated by MENTORSHIP. I started reaching out to other bloggers who I respected, to ask how they got to where I ultimately wanted to be. These relationships gave me more motivation, strength and incentive than any Facebook stalking ever did.

    Today I make a full-time living off of my website and I’m blessed to earn a good living. Funnily, I’ve become the person that people stalk on Linkedin (Linkedin tells you who’s viewed your profile, and quite often I find that old college classmates have been checking in). But I don’t think they should.

    Instead of checking in on me, or anyone else, they should be figuring out what THEY want to do, and seeking out motivation and mentorship within that arena. Hell, even competing in an appropriate professional arena is better than stalking a random person on Facebook whose life has nothing to do with yours.

    Also, Facebook is the WORST indicator of how people’s lives actually are. Facebook is for making your life look as amazing as possible — putting up your best pictures and best accomplishments. No one on Facebook (or rarely anyone) is honest about failing marriages, cheating fiances, messed up finances or general depression. If you take Facebook at face value, you’ll ALWAYS feel terrible.

    My husband works in finance, around good-looking black men who went to top schools/Ivy Leagues and look like they have it all together. One of them went to Harvard, and is engaged to a gorgeous local media personality. From the outside looking in, they look like a beautiful black couple. And they’re respective Facebook profiles look amazing. I mentioned this in passing once, when my husband mentioned to me that he cheats on her repeatedly — and had actually cheated on her just a week before — and proudly told the other men at work about his exploits. She knows about the cheating, but is so desperate to have a wedding that she’s looking the other way. So, you just never know…

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    THISSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

    Girl I’m so happy for you!!!! Your story has spruced my life! Facebook belies a lot of truth!

  • OSHH

    I totally agree with both LM and Princess P. We have to walk on own path, which is as unique as our fingerprints, so to compare is useless. Be the best you cause there is only one. BTW I don’t do FB.

  • http://yeahtam.tumblr.com YeahTam

    I agree with Princess P 100% I am in competition with myself because I owe myself success. My success does not involve trying to reach a goal just to get one step ahead of such and such. I refuse to feel like I should slit my wrist because I am 31, single and no children but Monica is married with 2 kids, and a master’s degree when truth be told Monica’s husband is cheating on her and she hates her job. Facebook pictures don’t tell every story.I realized that behind all of these smiles were unhappy lives when I went to my 10 year class reunion. I was happy and everyone else seemed miserable.

    I just keep focused on my own life, that is all.

  • http://yeahtam.tumblr.com YeahTam

    :: applause:: All of this 100% ::church stomps::

  • edub

    “Also, Facebook is the WORST indicator of how people’s lives actually are. Facebook is for making your life look as amazing as possible — putting up your best pictures and best accomplishments.”

    Lady, you got me in here humming negro spirituals. A FREAKING MEN!

  • KARMELLK

    I get where the story is going. A little competition never hurt anybody. When you’re in school, you want the best grade, and you try to do better than the best student (at least in my classes we did) Sometimes without that push, you become lax and settle for what works, not pushing yourself further to what works better. Do not become depressed at someone else’s happiness, but to see that they did it, and then do it for yourself. take risks, enjoy life, and don’t get stuck in a rut. If you become depressed looking at someone’s facebook page, you probably have much deeper issues to address.

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    “She knows about the cheating, but is so desperate to have a wedding that she’s looking the other way.”

    *headdesk and sigh* What’s the sense of getting hitched to an out-and-proud dog for the sake of ‘having a wedding’? Ugh, the wedding thirst among some women sickens me.

  • EbonyLolita

    I think what’s a good thing to do is surround yourself with AMBITIOUS ppl to begin with. Even though their personal goals are not an exact match of yours their drive should be. That is the kind of ppl that will give you a boost!! Even when some of my friends are down their up b/c their DRIVE is pushing them to do better. That is something I relish & have naturally incorporated into my life. Mainly from upbringing, but I kept the ball rolling due to the type of friends/acquaintances I keep in my cypher.

    P.S. FB is a damn lie & I know it b/c when you KNOW ppl personally & see the hooch they try to sell on FB it’s a laugh out loud moment. Ppl always wanna be on full display & FB helps ppl write & star in their own screenplay. Don’t feel bad about what you read or see on there girl. LOL

  • binks

    Agreed, surrounding yourself with ambitious people in turn makes you ambitious, I could never be friends with someone who has no goals. Nor do I mind competition, to Jr challenging myself and competing with a worthy opponent makes me better even if I am on the losing end. All in all it’s about your drive and stepping up to the plate for yourself. But SO glad I don’t do social media…lol

  • Megira

    This is an interesting post. Personally, I try to avoid looking around too much on Facebook because it often does make me feel unhappy with my life when most of the time I feel like I have a pretty good life. I think this is for a few reasons. Facebook sometimes makes me a little insecure about my own life choices, but in a way that has more to do with uncertainty about the future than actually wanting what a person has so much. For instance, I may see someone’s pictures from a vacation and wonder if I should travel more, but then I realize I don’t want to spend my money that way.

    Also even without trying to show off people are usually going to post stuff on Facebook that makes you think everything in their life is hunky dory but really you can’t tell. Most people don’t post about bad stuff on Facebook cos it makes them come off a little ungrateful I think. Like if you took a trip with some friends somewhere you’re gonna post the pics but you’re not gonna mention that you were bored or whatever cos that could be seen as rude. You know, it’s “what’s good” for a reason. :)

    The thing about looking at other people’s profiles is that their life is not your life. You have to live YOUR life. If looking at other people’s profiles gives you good ideas about how to get what you want then that’s good. But I recommend LN’s solution–find a mentor who can give suggestions cos often you won’t feel competitive with a mentor, you feel inspired by them.

    There was actually another interesting post I saw on this here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2088074/Facebook-makes-sad-Pictures-make-people-jealous-other.html

  • Nicole

    Omgoodness! Thank You & Thank You. As a recent post-grad I too often compare my life to the “smiling faces” of so many of my fellow Facebook friends and wonder if I’m actually happy. –I am going to follow in your footsteps and DECLUTTER my facebook with anyone who makes me feel any lesser than the awesome human being that I am.

    :)

  • Morgan

    I feel like you took the thoughts out of my head.

    My husband hates it when I do this, but it’s such a source of motivation for me!! I working on this start-up and some days are rough (I mean, really rough), and honestly… what you’re talking about in this article (although it feels weird to admit it), is the only thing that gets me going sometimes.

    I think how it affects you really is based on how confident you were before you started looking. Lots of things suck about my life (some dreams I’m living, some haven’t been fully executed yet), but a lot of things are awesome about my life.. and I know there are girls out there stalking my page.

    I think if it makes you feel bad, you definitely shouldn’t. But for those like me, who have that more masculine competitive fire.. I say go for it. Nothing is more ice-cold-water-in-the-face-refreshing than to see that chick who you thought was nobody graduated from Yale Law.. hahahahahahaha. Nothing’s better for me to get me up off my butt!

    Congrats for being brave enough to share!

  • http://thiscannotbemylife.wordpress.com Alissa

    This is a great post! I’m all about some healthy competition and sometimes Facebook is a great motivator for that, other times it can be a great depressor! Lol.

    I think people tend to see the good in other people that we don’t see in ourselves regardless of what we post on Facebook. I am all-consumed with wanting a job in journalism and get depressed seeing some of my colleagues I graduated with posting status about their awesome TV-reporter jobs. Yet, I’m sure while I’m moping about that, some other chick is coming home from her awesome job and looking at my FB pics of me & my husband and then getting sad because she isn’t married. We all have good about our lives and bad about our lives. Facebook can to illuminate the good in other people and the bad in ourselves. It’s kind of weird in that way.

  • Cree

    Great insight, Alissa! What you are talking about is actually a great way to understand the word “envy.” It’s not just a green-eyed monster…it’s about valuing something else as good, because you may feel that what you have is bad. The antithesis to envy is “equanimity” which means realizing ALL things have good and bad…nothing is exclusive…like you so wisely pointed out. Envy essentially is wanting to trade “A” for “B” because it may be hard to put in the work toward valuing yourself and your life on the B side…especially if you feel like your life isn’t living up to some idealized image. The mind tricks itself into thinking you could easily trade “A” for “B” and then you’d be happy and your problems will be solved. Not true!!!

    There is a whole chapter on this, and many other interesting human passions and virtues, in the book I’m reading called “The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues: Finding the way home” by Sandra Maitri. It’s a heavy read, but if you are really interested in inner development and attempting to find contentment, it’s a rewarding challenge.

    In all, this book pointed out that envy is all about “valuing the good in others and illuminating the bad in yourself.” You were spot on :)

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