Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I am Facebook friends with a cousin. We live in different states and do not see each other. However, I am consumed with jealousy over her life. We are both married with kids. I am generally a happy person, but when I see her updates I am filled with envy. She does not have a college degree and went from a retail position to a high-level executive position in a short time, while I have a degree and am struggling with my career. She owns a beautiful house, while my family is cramped in an apartment. She is an amazing cook, is beautiful and thin, while I have a few extra pounds. She goes on amazing vacations in exotic locations, while we cannot afford to go away. Recently in response to a post, her friends and family gushed about how generous, kind, etc., she is. I wanted to scream. I keep wishing that something bad happens to her and I hate feeling this way. This jealousy is consuming me. My husband says I need to just get over it, but I cannot. Not showing updates on FB is not an option because a lot of mutual FB friends share her updates.
Jealous in Jersey
DEAR JEALOUS: A recent study from the University of Houston uncovered a link between Facebook and depressive symptoms. Facebook doesn't cause depression, but compulsively checking and comparing can affect your mental health.
Based on this theory (and during a recent dark period in my own life when I had relatives posting photos each day from Tuscany), I decided to take a Facebook fast. Within 24 hours I felt demonstrably better.
You will be much more able to cope if you climb out of the social sharing stream -- even temporarily. At the very least, you should eliminate the trigger of these feelings by "hiding" the source.
Concentrate instead on connecting with people who are supportive, philosophical and own their flaws and challenges with joy. This might help you to "flip the script."
DEAR AMY: Is it obsolete wedding etiquette to allow invited (single) guests to bring a "plus one" to the wedding? I have now received my third wedding invitation -- over three years -- which has only my name on the invitation. No "and guest." I know weddings are extremely expensive and people try to save money however they can, but it just seems odd to me. I miss the days when I could take a date or boyfriend to a wedding, so I didn't have to hang out by myself or with single strangers. I never say anything to the bride and groom, because it's their day -- but going to weddings as a single person stinks! Is this the new norm and I need to get used to it -- or do I just have cheap friends and family members?
Tired of Going Solo
DEAR TIRED: I'm not aware of an overall trend away from the "plus one" concept. One of your options is not to attend weddings where you can't have a pal with you. However, if you are being invited to roughly one wedding a year, perhaps you can force yourself to endure this six-hour experience in order to be a part of something larger than the party itself. In fact, if you can manage to approach these events with a degree of enthusiasm, you might change your own status by the time next wedding season rolls around. A lot of people make new friends and future life partners at weddings.
DEAR AMY: "Heartland Holdout" is a private businesswoman who does her early-morning work at a cafe and is unsure how to respond when strangers ask, "What do you do?" She should just say that she writes poetry. They won't be able to back away fast enough.
Retired and Writing Poetry
DEAR RETIRED: We're all poets/but some don't know it. Thank you!