Is it any surprise that the stories we see on social media sometimes seem too good to be true? The “friends” out there who lead blessed lives, drive fancy cars, live in big homes, vacation in the exotic places, or whose personal and professional existence is without peer or rival. Maybe they are living a lie?

It may not be deliberate; maybe that’s just their persona to share the best and hide the worst. But there are those who share their failures, their missteps or regrets – almost to a fault – as a reflection of their gloomy disposition. In the process, they may bring us down.

But Fair Warning: All may not be as it may appear to be.

Those whose lives are filled with more gifts than one person should reasonably enjoy might be steering us astray. Whether it’s real or conjured isn’t the point here. Whilst we’ve previously explored the perils of social media, the time lost to its addiction, the sharing of personal information often being scooped up by internet thieves, or details made public to outsiders simply unworthy of your life’s story – this is different.

This is more of a warning to those on the viewing side. Recently I was seated next to an attorney on a flight. Their clientele included social media influencers, people whose riches were created by presenting themselves to followers and sponsors alike as living blessed lives. The attorney clued me into a secret: Many of these influencers’ smiles are pasted on. Some are miserable with their lot – the expectations pushed upon them, the need to constantly wear that mask.

Millions of followers fall for the charade, buying the lie – and wondering why their own lives aren’t as charmed as that of the influencer.

Word of advice: Don’t buy it, from influencers or your friends. At least, take it all with the proverbial grain of salt. To be sure, weddings, births, and other joyous milestones are worthy of mentioning, celebrating and even reacting with a “Like” or even “Love” emoji. But just know those posters are only sharing one part of their life, often hiding their hardships from public view.

As well they should, I would argue. Social media is a community, where people today share their woes, just like they did to the barkeep or in other less social settings before the digital age.

I’ve known people with these so- called charmed lives, who behind closed doors and away from the public eye, were in the throes of a personal crisis, like a sordid separation – all kept quiet behind the walls of their home (and rightly so). A friend of mine who everyone saw as happy and successful, behind closed doors was in a terribly dark place and committed suicide.

Celebrities are not immune. Four-time Grand Slam tournament winner Naomi Osaka left the tour due to mental health concerns. Another extreme is Robin Williams. To the public, his life was one well lived – a man well loved by the public – until his demons became too much for him to bear any longer.

“They all seemed so happy,” we say after seeing behind the curtain.

We all would be best served to keep in mind that much of what we see on social media is a mere snapshot of reality. Our highs, our lows, our successes and our failures, these tidbits taken alone or as a reel – all have the power to impact people. Some viewers may think, “why is Samy’s life so blessed?” or “why is mine such a trainwreck?” or “why do others seem to have so much, whilst I have so little?”

The message here: Don’t be jealous of someone’s seeming “success,” or too surprised when you learn of their failures or downfall. Assumptions can be dangerous when you lack the complete picture.

Life is rife with inherent pressures; don’t add another layer atop the pressures of keeping up with the Jones’s appearances of success.

If you’re going to surf – and there’s nothing wrong with a healthy, intentional social media session – do it with a dose of consideration. Don’t buy someone’s apparent happiness on face value. And if you suspect someone’s in a bad place, pick up the phone or open your messaging app and check in on them.

When I learned a friend’s daughter was in the hospital – something they didn’t share on social media – I texted my best wishes and offer of support. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Social media has the power to bring out the best – and worst – in humanity, whether for the person posting or the person reading the post. Together, we can make it a tool for good and elevate how we view each other – and the world.