How to Stop Comparing Yourself to People On Social Media
Social media has made it easier than ever to compare ourselves to other people. Before apps like Instagram and Facebook existed, the people we hung out with years ago would fade into a distant memory. Now, we are constantly bombarded with the highlights and achievements of their lives, along with those of total strangers. Study after study has confirmed that social media is associated with lower self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and greater body shame. With mental health issues steadily increasing, especially in teens and Millennials, I feel it’s important to share how to loosen the grip comparison culture has on your life. Here are five tips to help you escape the social media comparison trap:
1. Realize that social media is not reality
It’s important to understand that social media shows an airbrushed, distorted view of people’s lives. The carefully-curated images you see on social media can lead you to wonder how all your friends are so successful and how everyone is poolside in Bali except you—but that’s simply not reality. Everyone experiences hardships and challenges in life, but those things don’t usually make it onto social media. It’s so easy to think that everyone has it together except you, but that’s just the impression that is given through these filtered, handpicked snippets.
2. Make social media sociable
The way you use social media can have a big impact on how it makes you feel. One study showed that mindlessly scrolling through social media induced depression and anxiety in adolescents, whereas contributing, sharing, and interacting had the opposite effect. Try getting involved by sharing pictures or commenting on things that interest you. Social media was created for you to be social on—not to just sit back and watch.
3. Curate your feed
Are there certain people on social media that make you feel bad when you see them on your feed? Unfollow them! Don’t worry about potentially upsetting them—your mental health comes first. Instead of following people that make you feel inadequate, anxious, or depressed, fill your feed with people (or animals!) who induce positive feelings. Your whole feed could be filled with pictures of kittens, nature, and a few close friends—you’re in control!
4. Confront the comparison
If you’re feeling ready to do some introspective work, ask yourself why seeing a particular person on social media makes you feel so bad. Perhaps they stir up thoughts that you’re not doing what you want in life, or that you’re not feeling very secure of yourself in general. This reflection allows you to work on yourself and make positive changes in your life. This kind of work can be challenging so don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist for support if that’s an option.
5. Reduce the time you spend on social media
If you feel you’ve developed an unhealthy relationship with social media, it’s important to understand that it’s not your fault. Social media apps like Instagram and Facebook were literally built to be addictive and drive comparison. In fact, Justin Rosenstein, the engineer who created the “like” button on Facebook (which he now describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure”) feels the need to limit his social media usage. Sometimes, the best way to shield yourself from the potentially damaging mental health effects of social media is to use it less or stop using it all together. Nobody is forcing you to be on social media and your real friends will connect with you in other ways (phone calls, texting, in person, etc.). I promise you’ll be okay if you use social media less or cut it out completely. In fact, your well-being will likely be much better for it!
Own your magic
We are all beautifully unique in our own ways and it’s unfair to compare ourselves to one another. After all, why would you want to be exactly like someone else? As you develop a healthier relationship with social media, use some of your extra time and brainpower to work on loving yourself just as you are. Stop looking for magic outside yourself—you are it.