The Social Media Comparison Trap

BY MEGAN TAYLOR

Millions of people use social media daily. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other sites are utilized for many reasons, such as staying up to date on the news, looking for new ideas, selling new and old items, and connecting with others.

One primary connection social media allows users to form is staying connected to family and friends. We post updates on the recent happenings in our lives. That family vacation to Disney World you just took? Many people will upload pictures of that trip to share with their friends on their social media accounts. In return, we follow friends and family members to see their life updates. Another type of connection social media creates is a connection to professionals, celebrities, and world leaders. We see their recent happenings, as well. While social media can be a helpful way to be in the know on what is going on with people, it can also have negative impacts, one being what I call the social media comparison trap.

As we scroll through our newsfeed and see the updates, we may start comparing ourselves to others, which leads us to feeling worse about ourselves. According to researchers, findings show that when people compare themselves to social media friends, they often perceive others as doing better in life than themselves. These comparisons can contribute to self-esteem and mental health issues, because the feelings of lack and dissatisfaction in our own lives caused by comparing can also create depression and an unrealistic view of the world. However, in the article “Why We Compare Ourselves to Others on Social Media and How to Stop,” writer Emily Holland reminds us that our social media friends are, the majority of the time, posting the best versions of their lives. They aren’t exhibiting their true reality on their feeds. Instead, users are picking and choosing the happier moments that would sometimes make others feel jealous. For example, a user will share over 100 pictures of their beach trip, but won’t share the family fights that occurred during that trip. Once in a while, you will get a user who shares all and produces a true picture of their reality, the good, the bad, and the ugly. But, not everyone posts about the non-picturesque qualities of their lives, because, deep down, no one really wants to give others that information about their lives. Yet, it can be very difficult to remember this and separate the fact from the fiction. The good news is there are ways to make scrolling through your social media a little easier.

First, limit your time on social media. This can be a hard habit to break. Thumbing through Facebook is a mindless task and doesn’t require much thinking. But, limiting your time on social media can make a difference in what you see and help block some of those comparison feelings.

Second, limit your exposure on who you see on social media. That (rarely used) unfriend and unfollow button is a lifesaver, my friend. Make a list of family members, friends, world leaders, celebrities, etc. of who you want to see updates from and who wouldn’t have a negative impact on you. This is a great time to reconsider your relationships and their meanings. If you know someone can be a trigger, remove your exposure to them. As you complete this process, ask yourself “Why am I removing them and what is the trigger?” Are you envious because they are losing weight and you aren’t, but want to? Figuring out the “why” behind your feelings can help move you forward and make changes for the better in your own life.

Lastly, always be kind to yourself and understand that no one has a perfect life. Celebrate your successes and moments of happiness, big and small. You are not in competition with your social media friends and your life shouldn’t be treated as such. Who knows – maybe a friend from social media is jealous about something you posted about? No matter what, comparing yourself to others on social media is unfair and unnecessary. If you find yourself doing this, stop, take a step back, reflect on the situation, and see how you can use the comparison to help better yourself and your own life.

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