Recently I bought a hip coffee table book my mom would call a waste of money.
It’s titled “Fail Harder,” and it’s published by a website (failblog.cheezburger.com) that is basically a blog for people to post funny pictures of “failures.”: a map of the United States labeled “This are the United States.” A retailer who posted a sign advertising a “Huge Ladies Sale.”
You get the idea.
I bought the book because it’s the first time a book has made me literally laugh out loud in a while, and it reaffirmed my long-held theory that failures deserve to be celebrated.
Unfortunately, our social media society tends to silence beautiful failures, and studies show that it’s hurting us more than helping.
A study published last year by the University of Michigan followed 83 college-aged volunteers as they checked their Facebook page throughout the day for a two-week period. The participants answered questionnaires five times each day, rating their well-being at the beginning and end of the day.
The study found that even though more than three-quarters of participants said they were posting good or positive things on their Facebook pages, they tended to feel worse and less satisfied with their lives after they used Facebook than when they didn’t.
“The more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time,” the study said.
Posting our success and reading about other people’s success isn’t making us happier, the study found. It might make us less happy.
Peter Soldinger, a Los Angeles-based screenwriter who writes for digitaltrends.com, said posting good things on social media actually makes us less happy because it makes us less comfortable with failure and more concerned with appearances.
“Imagine trying to make an objective assessment of your Facebook friends based on their online profiles,” Soldinger wrote. “Everyone you know would appear to be living a life of nothing but beautiful vacations, four-star dinners and professional success.”
So to help us stay honest on our social media accounts, he suggests posting about our everyday life (including our failures) as well as our big wins.
“If you’re going to post a picture of a meal at a Michelin-rated restaurant tonight, you should post a picture of the bowl of Special K you ate for dinner last night, too,” Soldinger wrote.
He might have been a little facetious when he said that, but his point hints at the importance of owning our failures or even laughing at them and remembering that not all failure is bad.
Scott Adams, the penman behind of the multimillion-dollar Dilbert comic strip empire, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal last year about how he failed his way to success.
His new book, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life,” explains how he failed at day jobs and entrepreneurial ideas before he launched Dilbert, and even after.
He said the most valuable thing he did for himself was simply stay in the game, take what he learned and try something else.
“Failure is a resource that can be managed,” Adams wrote.
He even listed some of his failures just to dispel the false impression that successful people have magic keys to success that unsuccessful people don’t.
“When you’re done reading this list, you won’t have that delusion about me, and that’s the point,” Adams wrote.
When we only post our wins on social media sites such as Facebook, we give the world the delusion that we are always and only successful.
Our social profiles say that our failure (or even mediocre) moments don’t exist, and we simply float from one high point to the next.
But rather than ignoring or denying our failures, we should give them some good-humored recognition. Failure can give our lives direction that we might not have had if we succeeded the first time, and in some cases, failure is the precursor to greater success.
When it’s not, maybe you can at least get a good laugh out of it.