Beginner’s Guide: On How to Deal with the Negative Effects of Social Media Comparison

Effects of Social Media Comparison

Avnish Mishra, Counseling Psychologist, BetterLYF Wellness

As compared to earlier times, when memories wouldn’t come back to us through the archives as a notification on a 6-inch screen, our only bet to relive those cherished moments was when they were brought up during reunions, get-togethers, family discussions, et cetera. Otherwise, we would not be aware of how things are in other people’s lives, isn’t it? It is fairly recently that social media took up that space of our memories. Now, we’re always on the go. Aware of everyone’s lives around. But, are we aware? We believe what we see and choose to then compare it with where we are in our lives.

Someone who has posted a picture (after ages) they are smiling in, is happy; or someone who put up a story about (perhaps their only) travel (in years), is enjoying and living their dream life; or someone who went live for a discussion on their weight loss or transformation journey that they had to do (because the doctor told them about it being their last hope), is so determined, or someone who shared a post around being the topper of their class (first time in their life), is going to make their parents proud, that’s how our belief system works. Relatable, isn’t it?

Let’s hear Amit Tandon’s views on happiness and social media.

Social Media induces anxiety. Here’s how?

The connections we tend to build on social media are not as strong as the ones in real life because social media has decreased our sense of emotions by bringing more and more comparisons into our lives. We are quite a lot of times on the lookout for something to compare with others and feel good about ourselves, isn’t it?

This has increased the feelings of inadequacy as well. We don’t want uncertainty to govern our lives, rather, we are getting increasingly intolerant of uncertainty thereby increasing our anxious behaviours.

Knowing what’s going to happen helps us feel secure and in control, while uncertainty brings with it insecurity and lack of control. Someone bought a new house, someone got into your dream college, learned cooking, got married, and here you are looking at their happy moments and not the struggles because that is what they chose to show. But what does this anxiety do to us? It incapacitates us in various spheres of life we were previously very confident about.

We used to be happy with our marks, but now we know a topper on social media receiving all the praises from everyone around, we now know someone who has gone travelling and here we are at our home, trying to finish our assignments, we now know someone who is happily posting pictures and losing weight while we are not even getting any time to click pictures, let alone posting, we haven’t been able to hit the gym, forget losing weight.

FOMO, the fear of missing out is something many of us are grappling with. Oxford defines FOMO as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.” But how do we work around this fear?

3 Tips to navigate through the burden of comparison-

1. Acknowledge

We need to acknowledge our struggles, our limitations in terms of resources. We aren’t going on a trip because we have been given the responsibility and trusted by the organisation to deliver a presentation to the investors. We aren’t getting time to post a picture because we probably have an exam coming up next week.

We haven’t been able to attend the gym or follow the diet plan we made because we don’t feel like it, we are not in our best mental state and maybe have decided to go for therapy now. That’s a great decision by the way. Therapy, both online therapy and offline therapy help. You can check BetterLYF for online counselling.

2. Accept

This is one of the most important things we often choose to forget. There needs to be an acceptance of the limitations or the struggles, we acknowledge it and then accept it, that I couldn’t go for a trip and that’s okay because I have certain things to take care of for now. I didn’t click a picture because probably, I prefer being in the moment and choose to create memories than albums and that’s okay.

3. Respond

Often people choose to react than respond. We see a post and our instant reaction is, why am I not enjoying life to this extent? Everyone is having fun, and here I am preparing for the seminar or going for therapy. If we choose to take a second and reflect, maybe you have been given the task for the seminar because you’re being trusted with that responsibility, or maybe you can look at it differently,  maybe the struggles they have had are not visible through their social media, not all of us have the courage to talk about our mental health in a stigmatized society like ours.

We’re just trying to bring up an understanding that things are much deeper than meets the eye. Let’s not compare our struggles with someone else’s because we never know what the other person is going through and similarly they do not know what they’re going through. Social media shows us what people want to show us and probably they do not want to show the struggles because acknowledgement for struggles is lesser than appreciation for achievements while both matter equally if not more.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Theodore Roosevelt’s quote about comparison sums it up pretty much.

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