Lesson 20: NEVER look at Facebook when you’re down.

When I heard that a girl from my high school graduating class died last Friday, I was saddened. When I found out it was suicide, I was shocked.

Michele wasn’t a close friend of mine, not even when we were back in school. We were friend-LY, but not close friends. But I do remember her fondly with a perpetual smile on her face and a seemingly big heart. All of her friends on Facebook have confirmed that.

This past April, she emailed me on Facebook. Now I wonder if it was a cry for help:

If only she knew.

If only she knew that all those inspirational quotes I post are often ways for me to hang on when I feel like giving up. Or how lonely I feel every Friday night when I walk home alone, facing yet another weekend by myself. Or how defeated and discouraged I feel after every date, after I’ve pumped myself up only to meet yet another “boy” who has no idea how to treat a woman.

But she didn’t know that – my Facebook page shows the other side of me. The strong, confident, optimistic Susan. The one traveling and salsa dancing – having fun and making the most of what life has to offer. Which is me, just not ALL of me.

Facebook is a dangerous place when you’re sad. Or feel any kind of void in your life. It always appears as if everyone else is living the most fulfilled, fabuous and funny life. It’s snippets of people’s realities, but strung together they appear to be who we really are entirely.

No one’s posting the fight they just had with their husband, or the crappy weekend they spent at a job they hate, or the incredibly depressing date they had with Mr.Wrong Again. That would look pathetic. Instead, we check into the cool restaurant, concert, or city we’re visiting and post pictures of the fun we’re having.

I get it. And I have always remembered what our Shaker Heights High School Health teacher, Hubert McIntyre, taught us:

“Never compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.”

But perception is reality. And when everyone else’s reality looks oh so much better than your own, it can really be depressing. As happy as I am for my friends’ 500 photos of their new babies, statuses proclaiming their love for their wonderful better half, and shout-outs to their amazing children – I am also tortured by it. Seriously. Could you please stop a little?

I know that’s not very spiritual, but I guess it’s human. Sometimes your Facebook joy just adds to my real life pain. It reminds me of everything missing in my life. And seems so far out of my reach.

It’s enough to make you want to give up.

Last Friday as I walked home alone, I was struck by the overwhelming feeling that I didn’t really matter to one special person. No one was waiting for me to come home. No one was hoping to hear from me – except for my mom (thank God for her). It’s a pretty lonely feeling. Because that’s all any of us really want. To feel like we matter. I’m pretty sure Michele mattered to a lot of people, but for whatever reason, she gave up anyway.

I guess the lesson is to never assume that the people you care about know how you feel. We all need to hear it – married, single or divorced. But especially those of us living alone. Don’t forget us. We need you. The smallest gesture can save a life:

And NEVER look at Facebook when you’re down. Step away from the mouse. Pick up the phone instead.

Rest in peace, Michele – so many people miss you and will never forget you.

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