We’ve all done it. Because we are always on our phones or laptops browsing through social media, we are always seeing others’ lives, and, consequently, we are involuntarily comparing ourselves to those around us.
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow users to post photographs and small textual updates, and often these posts offer only a small snapshot of what that person’s life is like. The increased use of social media today has been linked to a decline in positive body image; this means that when we are viewing others’ social media posts, we are being bombarded with their perfections in stark contrast to our own glaring imperfections.
Whether or not that brief post or picture is accurate to what that person is experiencing on a daily basis, social media posts are most often limited to a positive, “best foot forward” or “best-case scenario” view of someone, which leads to this comparison of strengths to weaknesses. This phenomenon is called the Social Comparison Theory, where we evaluate and are critical of ourselves or others based on how we measure up to each other.
For example, if you see that your friend is constantly posting award-worthy pictures of their adventures on their study abroad or vacation, you may feel that your friend is more social than you, or that you have lower worth because your bank account says that you cannot do the same activities or have the same opportunities.
Similarly, if you were to see someone post something that was spelled incorrectly, or was horrendously wrong or “immature,” you may find in your comparison that you are a much better person because you would never post something so “childish” or make such a mistake.
Comparing ourselves to others can be extremely detrimental to our health, and we need to either limit our social media usage to prevent making these subconscious judgments on ourselves and others, or step back and try to have a more positive view of ourselves and others entirely.