Do you ever get exhausted by the constant comparison game? If you spend any time at all on social media, you can make yourself crazy. I’m not sure when the idea of being humble went out the window, but as a society, we seem to have gone to the other extreme. Everyone is hellbent on using social media as a forum to show themselves living their best life: “Look at me! Aren’t I cute? Look what I have that you don’t!”
It can be maddening. I think it may even be worse for those of us who aren’t digital natives. We signed up for Facebook so that we could share pictures of our kids and pets, and so that we could keep in touch with distant cousins and see photos of their kids and pets. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Then we got on the Instagram bandwagon, thinking we could just show the same pictures but play with some filters that smoothed out a few wrinkles. It was all so innocent, all in good fun.
Beware of filters
But those filters took over, and I’m talking about more than adding some sepia tones. People also use a filter to only show you the good stuff. Everyone’s life looks better online. Nobody shows the dirty dishes or the overflowing hamper in the hall. People don’t talk about getting called into their boss’s office because their sales numbers are down. They don’t mention the fight they had with their spouse, or the classes their kids failed. Half the people – maybe more – who are showcasing their fabulous beach vacation paid for it with credit, and they sure aren’t talking about the ton of debt that keeps them up at night.
Those pretty feeds can be fun to look at, but they can also give you a skewed view of life. You can be walking along, minding your own business, feeling pretty good about yourself, and you take one look at Instagram, and suddenly, your shiny things look kinda tarnished. Everyone else seems to be doing everything better than you. They have more stuff, and they’re clearly having more fun.
Managing social-media-induced anxiety
I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’ve unfollowed more than a few people, people that I really like in real life. They didn’t do or say anything to make me angry. I unfollowed them because their online lives are too perfect, and seeing their posts depressed me.
Is that small of me? Maybe. But I had to make the decision to protect my mental health.
You know this as well as I do: there are no perfect marriages, perfect jobs, perfect houses, perfect people.
Stop comparing your life to what you see online. You are in competition with no one, except the person that you were yesterday. Your only job is to be just a little bit better today.
Three tips for a healthier social media experience
Remember this: social media is just a tool. It exists to make your life BETTER. It is there to connect you with people and ideas and products and services that make you happy. If it is upsetting you or causing you to feel less than worthy, you need to make some changes.
1. Unfollow people who are affecting your well-being. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t let guilt keep you from doing what’s best for you. It’s unlikely that the people you cut out will even notice that you’re gone. If they do ask, you can say that your feed was just getting too big for you to manage, and you’re spending less time on social these days in general.
2. Give yourself strict limits on how much time you spend on social media. Check your phone’s battery setting or get an app like Moment that tracks how much time you spend on social. You may be surprised at how much time you spend scrolling. Even if you are only looking at happy things like cupcakes and cat videos, too much time online takes away from the time you have to, you know, actually live life. Set a specific time and place when you allow yourself to check in and stick to it.
3. Think about what you are putting out there in the world. It’s okay to share the good stuff with people you love, but ask yourself: who is this message serving? If the answer is only you and your own ego, you might want to reframe it. Get real. Show the behind the scenes chaos occasionally. Take off the filters and see what happens.
Don’t let the comparison game get you down. You can’t compare your messy, complicated, real-life with a stylized picture and a pithy caption. Give yourself grace and remember that we’re all just doing the best we can.