Social media is singlehandedly the greatest and worst invention of the modern age. Never have we been more connected, yet farther apart.
As someone with multiple social media accounts (including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat), I can say without a doubt that I love social media. I might even go far enough to say that I am addicted to it, spending most of my free hours, as my iPhone tells me, on their various platforms.
While for a long time I didn’t really understand why so many people said that social media was having a negative affect on their lives, now I finally think I understand what they are talking about.
Yes, social media is great. It makes communication quicker and less costly, allows us to stay in touch with others, and has the ability to connect us even when we are halfway across the world from each other!
But just because it is great does not mean it is always the best thing for us.
While we may have all of those benefits, there are also the negative affects no one talks about: competition, comparison and isolation.
No one wants to say it, but everyone thinks it: “why is _____ better than me? Why do they have such a perfect life? Why can’t I be like that?”
Social media makes us feel in constant competition with one another. We see a highlight reel of everyone’s life, and as a result it makes us question our own. It’s human nature. It’s not our fault. We are competitive and comparative people by default.
Seeing our friends having more money, more friends, more fun, more goals achieved, etc., though we are happy for them, often times it makes us feel a little crummy, as we begin to wish our lives were are happy and cool as theirs.
Following this train of thought, we start to compare everything about ourselves to these other people. We begin to judge ourselves based on others, everything from physical appearance, like their face or weight compared to ours, to their lifestyle like the kind of vacations they take compared to ours. Before we know it, we are caught in a cycle of competition and comparison that is very difficult to get out of.
Competition and comparison were both very much around during the days before social media existed, but social media has rapidly increased this issues, as with easy access to the internet comes easy access to comparing ourselves to the people on the internet. Every time we log into Instagram, browse Facebook, or like people’s tweets, we are flooded with others’ filtered, highlighted, what-they-want-you-to-see life. Most of us follow hundreds of people on social media. That’s hundreds of opportunities for comparing ourselves to other people.
All this competition and comparison actually ends up making us feel more alone than before we had access to this digital world. This can lead us to feel alone, and sometimes even isolated among our group of peers. Depending on how active someone is on social media, this isolation can be even more prominent. This is because the more we compare ourselves to others, the more we feel like we have the worst life out of all of our peers.
We all do this. Yet, we all manage to convince ourselves we are the only ones who experience it!
We compare our worst days with someone else’s filtered life. And that’s simply not fair.
There’s a whole other side to every post we see on social medias that we all experience ourselves but don’t think anyone else does.
For instance, we are frustrated why that girl is so skinny and we aren’t, but what you didn’t see beyond the picture was the fact this girl has developed an eating disorder.
We see a girl’s flawless makeup in a beautiful selfie, and are angry we can’t look that cute, but we didn’t see that she was crying over a boy for 2 hours before then.
That guy with all the muscles? He goes to the gym because he doesn’t have friends to hang out with.
That girl with the 10,000 friends in college you always see her post about? They leave her out of everything.
The list goes on and on.
The point is, we only see the things others want us to see. We don’t see the raw. The real. The no-filtered life. And this is something we must keep in mind before we rush to critique our own life!
Because the world is becoming increasingly digital, this cycle of comparison and self-deprivation can feel almost impossible to not partake in, and honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how to not do it myself! Even if we aren’t fully sure how to stop ourselves from doing this, we still need to try. Stopping ourselves from using social media as a measuring stick for our worth is a very beneficial for our mental health, for obvious reasons.
The key to our happiness is to not let social media kill us. We have the power to change the harm it is doing to us and make social media a better place to be. It’s just a matter of trying. Let’s change social media culture, one small effort at a time!