Are you relatively new to this bustling metropolis? Don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York once upon a time, except, of course, those battle-hardened residents who've lived here their whole lives and Know It All. One of these lifers works among us at Gothamist—publisher Jake Dobkin grew up in Park Slope and still resides there. He is now fielding questions—ask him anything by sending an email here, but be advised that Dobkin is "not sure you guys will be able to handle my realness." We can keep you anonymous if you prefer; just let us know what neighborhood you live in.

This week's question comes from a New Yorker who's kind of bitter he's not out on Fire Island all summer.

Dear Jake:

I am stuck working at my lame desk job all summer, while every single one of my friends seems to be at the beach or on some insane vacation in France, Japan, or Peru or whatever that I could never afford. I know this because they are constantly posting their trip pix to Instagram and Facebook. Some are even obnoxiously checking in on Foursquare ("Amaaaazing lobster!") or texting me their stupid hot dog leg pix. How do you deal with feelings of jealousy and inadequacy that are brought on by your insensitive friends?


Midtown Office Drone

A native New Yorker responds:

Dear MOD,

It could be worse! Think of your fellow New Yorkers who not only have to brave the fetid garbage smell on their way to and from work, but also have to work outside in the heat, selling hot dogs or laying asphalt. They're probably checking Facebook on their phones and feeling bad about all their friends posting pictures of their air conditioned cubicles!

Instead of stewing in your misery, you could log off social media and spend the weekend at one of our area's many affordable weekend getaways: surfing in Long Beach, perhaps, or visiting a Drive-in Movie Theater. Gothamist has put together a few lists of ideas; the best cure for summer jealousy is just having a better summer!

(Courtesy Private Jake Dobkin Vacation Selfie Collection)

But I didn't come to work today to write to you about weekend plans: I came to talk to you about wisdom, man. Life is far too short to waste even one precious minute in your dope cubicle envying the lives of others. Your problem has two parts. The first is that your job is not providing you the necessary amount of challenge and flow necessary to keep you engaged in the moment and away from Facebook. But in these challenging economic times, you might not have a lot of alternatives, so we'll focus on the second part of your problem, which is the jealousy that arises from contemplating other people's lives.

All good philosophy agrees on this point. The Buddhists say "do not ponder others." The stoics agree. Marcus Aurelius wrote, "do not waste what remains of your life in speculating about your neighbors, unless with a view to some mutual benefit." New York is a wonderful place to put this advice into practice, as it daily presents you with a wide range of things that others have and you do not. The guy on the subway with the enormous Rolex, or the Porsche parked in your bike lane, or the fifty million dollar condo on the cover of New York Magazine. And not just material things: what about the daily crush of people, some of whom just seem happier and more at peace with themselves than you do? In most places on earth, people are confronted less frequently with these extreme contrasts and tempting comparisons.

Of course, people elsewhere still have to deal with the emperor of all spiritual maladies: Internet "social media." Even the Dalai Lama feels like shit after he checks his Facebook feed. Twitter could make a Mother Teresa want to punch an orphan. And don't get me started on Instagram: streaming through an endless stream of #blessed beach house pix would engender klesha in even the most balanced mind.

Satan himself could not devise a better combination of spiritual torture than the pavlovian desire these apps create to refresh and view another set of updates from your "friends," each presenting an endless and almost completely false version of their lives. In a perfect world, every time someone posts an update from their Hawaiian vacation, they'd have to follow it with a true report of their current worst personal problem ("I had to get my stomach pumped after the luau" or "my foot got gnawed off in a malfunctioning hot tub jet!") to balance the scales. But for all our oversharing, our cameras are far from candid.

You know who you should really pity? The "journalists" who have to wade neck deep in this cesspool to bring you back "content." At least you could, theoretically, delete these apps from your phone and block them at work. Those of us who work in online media do not have this option. The resulting acute unhappiness is a good reason to avoid media bars, where those afflicted sad-sacks attempt to drown their sorrows in alcohol, shellack them in cocaine, and distract themselves with petty bullshit fights over who was the first person to report the latest #breaking micro-story. Even those of us who work for the more spiritually progressive sites, the ones which aim to enlighten and uplift, rather than fan the flames of despondency, materialism, and celebrity worship, have trouble avoiding the bad energy. Pray for us!

For the rest of you, the obvious course is to avoid consuming poison. If you can't delete the apps, put them in a folder that's not on your home screen, turn off the notifications, and delete the bookmarks on your browser, so you'll at least have to go through the trouble of typing in the URL. When you do read through the feeds, remember that everyone is fronting, and rather than hate them for it, try to sympathize with them instead: life ain't easy, and everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. That doesn't mean you should do likewise; post as little as you can, and always with a thought for the feelings of the people who will be forced to read it. A healthy sense of self-deprecating humor goes a long way here, and while your friends probably won't notice, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you haven't made the world a worse place today.

Over the longer term, you could embrace meditation, find a job that involves helping others instead of shuffling papers for money, and focus on enjoying the simple pleasures in life: contemplation of nature, the company of close friends and family, and take up a few engrossing hobbies, like fly fishing or photography, that focus the mind and eat up time you'd otherwise waste online. But that's a pretty big meatball to bite off in August—start with something small, like just not checking Facebook until you've actually finished reading this post.

N.B. Internet jealousy is related to the slightly more subtle phenomenon of FOMO (fear of missing out)—the difference is that FOMO is the bad feeling that arises from events that you've been invited to or could have gone to, but didn't, rather than events that you weren't invited to and couldn't have attended (like your friend's thoroughly-Instagrammed month on Nantucket).

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