Social media makes a lot of things easier. Keeping up with old friends. Sharing your holiday pictures.
How about comparing yourself to other people? This is what I think is the curse of social media and I will tell you why.
Social media provides us with numerous platforms that help to quickly trigger unpleasant self-disdain. I have recently been reminded of just how powerful a determinant social media is to my confidence level.
I found myself comparing all aspects of my life, both internal and external, to a person I had met years and years ago. She is basically now a stranger in every sense of the word, and yet somehow, her profile page caused me to question my accomplishments, appearance, and even personality traits.
I did not realise just how illogical this was until I explained it to someone, and, now as I type, I am reminded even further.
Regardless of how illogical these comparisons may be, our emotional response images posted on social media can be so strong that they completely overpower our sense of logic.
The reality is, people are constantly showcasing the best aspects of their life onto social media.
The arrival of a new baby and a recent holiday to the Caribbean are both ideal picture-posting occasions. But do the same people post photos of 2 am feedings or lost luggage?
Not often, because that is not what we use social media for, but it would provide a sense of reality.
Reality is what is lost on social media.
We emphasise the best versions of ourselves instead of the real versions.
Life can be hard, ugly, and downright depressing at times. But those aren’t the adjectives most of us would use to describe the photos we post onto our accounts.
The feeling of lack and dissatisfaction that we feel when scrolling through our news feed often results from comparing our true reality to our “friends’” idealised, perfectly Instagramed realities.
We are using the same scale to measure two entirely different realities.
However, we fail to step back and recognise just how wildly unfair and unrealistic these comparisons actually are.
So how can we stop ourselves from making them?
1. Reduce Your Time On Social Media.
This can be a challenge since we live in a culture that puts such a high value on social media outlets. But that doesn’t mean that it is impossible.
Allow yourself five to ten minutes a day to check your social media accounts and then be done with it. Especially avoid looking at profiles of people who trigger thoughts of comparison. You have nothing to gain in doing so besides anxiety and sadness.
2. Redirect Your Focus On The Things That Really Matter.
When you direct your attention toward the real world, you have less time and energy to direct toward meaningless activities such as social comparisons.
It may sound harsh but focus on a high-energy work out at the gym or finishing a book you have been putting off. Immerse yourself in activities that leave you feeling better for having engaged in them (versus Facebook stalking, which leaves you wishing you hadn’t).
Or make a list of activities and then schedule them onto a calendar. Since we often spend time on social media when we have little else going on, having scheduled plans will reduce the time we are sitting idle.
3. Assess Where Those Negative Comparisons Are Stemming From.
As unpleasant as these comparisons can feel, they can serve a positive purpose in that they inform us of an area of our lives that may benefit from some improvement.
The incident served as a reminder that I want to be secure enough in who I am and where I am in life that I don’t feel the need to measure it in comparison to anyone else (least of all, a stranger).
After my reaction to the profile, I decided to work on developing a stronger sense of confidence and self-worth I’ve done this in a number of different ways such as:
- Putting a higher value on my relationships. I have amazing friends and family, but I admit that I often take them for granted. I have tried to become more present in my interactions with them, as well as in encounters with complete strangers.
- Valuing my time more. In the past, I have been much more conscious and respectful of other people’s time than my own. I’m practicing putting my needs first and learning to accept that it is ok to do so.
- Doing more of what I love. Sounds simple, but I have really made an effort to go on quiet walks with no destination or allow myself an hour to read a book. Doing things simply because I like to do them has given me an increasing amount of self-value.
- Eating well and moving. I make sure to put my body in motion for at least thirty minutes a day (even if it’s just going for a walk), and I eat small, healthy meals throughout the day so I don’t find myself snacking mindlessly on junk. Putting a higher value on my body by eating cleaner and getting exercise has naturally given me a higher sense of self worth.
So, next time you make an unfair comparison, instead of allowing it to make you feel poorly about yourself, view it as an opportunity for a little self-evaluating.
Ultimately, social comparisons aren’t indicative of what others have that you don’t, but rather what you already have but aren’t quite aware of yet.