Alexandra Sieh

Tossing my phone aside, I groaned.

“What’s up?” Manfriend asked from across the room.

“I just don’t get it,” I mumbled, pillow over my face. “I don’t understand how any of these people are doing it.”

Those people were the many full-time “digital nomads” I follow on Instagram. I’d just sifted through photo after photo of their excursions through exotic cities and dense rainforests. They posed with perfect hair and athletic bodies, well maintained amid their career traveling.

“How were they doing this?” I kept wondering. It was all I could do to sort out funds for a weekend trip, let alone country hop for a year.

But really the question was, why did I care?

Just as I had in my years as a page designer, in Beijing, I sought out communities based on my new interests. Now I reached out to expats and nomads. I hoped they could inspire me and offer advice as I found my footing abroad. And most days, these Facebook groups and Instagram accounts did just that.

But there were other days — when work dragged on and the house was a mess and I was days behind on my writing — that it felt almost unfair. It was like they were flaunting their perfect lives at me, strutting about in trendy outdoor gear while I sat in thermal pants, hair askew, fretting about my meager finances after a long day at work.

On those days, I succumbed to the worst side effect of social media: the jealousy factor.

As we post our accomplishments and random thoughts online, we seek connection and approval from strangers and loved ones alike. In turn, we see others succeed and accomplish and laugh at their own lovely lives. And sometimes, their happiness comes at a time when you’re a little more overwhelmed than optimistic.

It’s those times, though, we all need to remind ourselves that we’re only catching the “like”-worthy snapshots and not their everyday reality. That they are as frazzled and fraught as the rest of us. That there’s no reason to be jealous.

After returning from my latest trip to Hong Kong, I logged on to post a new photo. I hadn’t explored much, but I’d captured a rather lovely sunset I wanted to share. The next day, I sifted through the likes and comments it had garnered.

One struck a chord, saying they loved my photos and they hoped to travel like I did one day.

They felt the same about me as I did about others.

I wrote them back, assuring them they would one day — just as we all will, when we can.

And then I tossed aside my phone to get on with a perfectly lovely day.

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