This week I'm wanting to write a story of a daily truth and potentially a struggle. Which takes a bit of courage, because I'm sharing bits and pieces from my life. Originally when I started writing for the Odyssey I told myself I was not going to write anything too personal. I didn't want to be that girl who talked about things that were going to pick up a lot of attention. Which seems silly if I'm going to take the time to write something but, the real reason why was because I didn't want to say anything to cross the line or, that would be offensive to people. I was scared of rejection, but this week I found a lack of interest and inspiration in writing how to or tips articles.
This week I've been inspired by the girls in my bible study to write something with more content. I want to share a truth of something that is going on every day in our lives. It's almost impossible to escape because it's so prevalent. I'm going to break down the walls and uncovering the trap of social comparison and how it is affecting so many people, especially through social media.
Learning how to Balance Healthy Social Comparison and Your Social Media
So let's take a look at what it means:
"Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others we perceive as somehow faring better or worse" (Social Comparison Theory).
The word, Social Comparison may seem simple but, it is a very complex and dynamic part of everyday life, which is why it is so important to know and understand. I know, it may seem silly to break down it down and you may be asking yourself why you should continue reading; but it's because deep down this is relatable and I'm wanting to share important information and advice. I guarantee that you or someone close to you needs this. Hopefully, after reading this, you can be the one to help others or yourself.
When we compare ourselves to each other, it can be a healthy measure of development especially when they have similar attributes such as age gender background... However, too often we often compare ourselves to people we don't know, don't have the full story on, are just not "realistic" or have nothing in common with ourselves (Social Comparison Theory). I've found that when comparing ourselves we are typically looking at people who we believe are of a high status than us. They are prettier, smarter, thinner,... you name it which causes us a great deal of internal pain, anxiety, and stress. The sad thing about social comparison is that so many people obsess over it and it can challenging when trying to find "realistic images."
How I've Been Affected by Social Comparison:
Its crazy but I have been affected by social comparison since, forever. I have had so many experiences, starting as early as elementary school. Starting this young I would look and see what the other children would be doing or having and I from that observation I would either believe that I was better or worse than them. As sad as that may sound it seems to just be a part of life and the hierarchy system that we have created. This situation that I am explaining is pretty normalized. An example of this would be when I was in middle school I wanted a pair of Uggs when I saw that all of my friends had Uggs, it made me feel bad that I was left out, until fortunately, I got my first pair ( which ended up getting trashed because I dragged my feet, splashed around in rain puddles with them, and essentially wore the boots to death. The light pink color looked a dingy grey by the time my mom ended up throwing them away). Anyways, from this, you can see I constantly, like many others found myself so caught up in these materialistic things, appearances, and an image of success.
It wasn't that I was always unhappy, I was a very lucky child and was extremely happy it was just at times I would get fixated on something that was getting me nowhere because I was just comparing myself to others and I was dragging myself down. So, can you even imagine what happened when I was introduced to social media and the internet?
The World Wide Web's Affects:
Ok, that sounds really dumb let's just call it the internet. Which was originally created in the 1990s as we would recognize it today by Tim Berners-Lee (Andrews). Nowadays it does so much more for us than we could have ever imagined and is still constantly changing and improving which is fabulous. We are so globally connected, but it can for many comes that comes with a downside. I have found access to so much content has also lead to the growth of social comparison in a negative and unrealistic way.
"These evaluations can also promote judgmental, biased, and overly competitive or superior attitudes. Most of us have the social skills and impulse control to keep our envy and standards for social comparison quiet, but our true feelings may come out in other ways. Some research shows that people who regularly compare themselves to others often experience negative feelings of deep dissatisfaction, guilt, and remorse, and engage in destructive behaviors, like lying and disordered eating." (Social Comparison Theory).
Since so much is now accessible online we just have to be aware and careful of how this global outlet and social media presence is going to be influencing us.
Identity and Influences:
Two weeks ago I wrote a post pertaining to identity and I just wanted to hit on this topic again briefly because it's important and relates to this topic as well. The overlap over the two issues come down to this: you don't decide what you want and the person that you are going to be, then you're going to be swayed by things important to the world. I have three categories of worldly values, which would be power/prestige, pleasure, and materialistic goods. It is easy into falling into the trap of letting these three things dictate your life's direction but, that is where we get life wrong. Essentially to avoid these worldly values you have to find your own values. Everyone has a different journey but you will be happier when find what makes YOU content (look back to the previous article for more info). A lot of that is found when you know yourself and your mindset. So props to you if you know who you are, showcase your greatness, and don't negatively compare yourself.
If you do struggle, it's natural, so don't worry as I am going to try and help explain how to find the balance of loving yourself and social media.
Where To Start When Your Struggling:
Well, the first thing is to realize it, so you're in the right place. Make that acknowledgment. Then from there, you have to find the best way for you to cope with the comparison. It's naturally going to happen but, working to cut out or get rid of unrealistic and hurtful content is important. Go through your social media platforms and think about who you're comparing yourself to because it all really is just a mindset and internal fight. Also, share this new goal and plan of betterment with someone that can help keep you accountable. Ultimately with the goal of you to becoming a happier/ less anxiety driven person.
Make note: your not perfect, this could be a daily struggle in the beginning. This is due many of us putting too much of our worth into social media. Which is causing this negative mindset, although it doesn't have to. Keep reading to find out how to fix and balance your mindset.
1. Know what's real
You have to know that what you see presented online is not necessarily the truth.
So I encourage you to take what you see with a grain of salt and to not focus on social media to the extent that it's hurting you. What we see online was placed there for a reason, it doesn't matter whether it's a personal post or an advertisement. This is the information that everyone wants you to see. Although it doesn't and can't go into full depth of the entirety of that person's life, it is just an image.
Do you ever think about why we don't see pictures online that are displeasing views of people, or with comments saying negative things, Such as "today I just had a very terrible day and I have been really struggling with… (you can fill in these blanks). The majority of the time we don't see this because it's become a social norm that we look "put together" and that we are trying to achieve the "American Dream" even though we may not be feeling that on the inside.
However, social comparison doesn't have to turn into this negative spiral of making yourself feel bad or a place where you place/see only "fake things." Instead, think of it as a positive place to store/ showcase all your accomplishments, amazing memories, and to share stories.
2. Loving ourselves
We have to come to the realization that natural beauty is true beauty. This natural beauty that I'm referring to is what's happening before the picture. Sadly a camera/iPhone will never capture how beautiful something really ever is and I'm sure you agree; most things are more beautiful in person. For example, I'll pull out my phone to capture a view, but I am always disappointed because my eye's view is always a better quality image compared to what technology can do. I often catch myself saying "if only you could have seen it in person." I'm not saying that editing technology and photography is wrong or bad, it is totally a hobby of mine. However, it's important to have a healthy and balanced mindset about yourself, realizing edits are typically made to enhance images.
3. Understanding Editing's Beauty
In fact, taking pictures and editing itself can be really beautiful! If you have the mindset to make those enhancements or, even if you're just playing around with images it always seems to amaze me of how much we can even do and learn to manipulate images (for the good and the bad). That editing skill alone I believe is something so cool and pretty in itself. Plus since a picture can't always truly capture what your eyes see in some cases edits can be made to better replicate a more authentic view. It's just realizing where that line is. I encourage you to look to find the positive on both sides, prior to and after the camera.
How to love yourself and how to stay positive on social media
The trick to achieve that is again your mindset. Again, it's just knowing to differentiate the beauty prior to the camera and the beauty of a captured/transformed image. So, instead of comparing yourself as less than someone, look to them for inspiration and for something you can make a realistic goal out of. Or, you could even just acknowledge and compliment them as just having this skill, beauty, or talent and be content with that. It never hurts to be nice to people. Plus it's never going to bring you down to lift someone else up. Who knows, they may even help you to achieve your goal or give you info on what you're complimenting them on.
Another important Reminder: People aren't perfect and as hard as it may be to digest, sometimes another person's skill sets are not your own. It is OK to work on developing yourself, or changing yourself into a better you but, don't try and be someone your not either! The way that you're going to progress and how fast or slow it may be is your journey alone, no one can do it for you. Stop the negative comparing. Try to see the comparison in the light of helping you versus hurting you.
In conclusion, I've found it better to be at peace with our world/ the power of editing, which is why I'm writing this and think it's so very important. So, the next time you're looking through all those pictures on social media, stop and realize what type of social comparing your doing and you will be able to tell if you analyze your after effects and what it leads you to do or think.
Thanks for reading as always and best wishes,
"Social Comparison Theory." Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/social-comparison-theory.Andrews, Even. "Who Invented the Internet?" History.com, A&E; Television Networks, 18 Dec. 2013, www.history.com/news/who-invented-the-internet.