At one point in their life, people compare themselves to things like wealth, success, and looks with others, especially with family, friends, and public figures. This phenomenon, also known as social comparison, is explained by Leon Festinger (1954) as “a human tendency to compare or make a comparison between ourselves and others”. This inborn tendency provides people with information to evaluate their standing and capabilities resulting in either upward or downward comparison.
In the case of the upward comparison, it can lead to low self-esteem, higher risks of depression, and less experience of positive emotion. The over-engagement of upward comparison might be caused by the advancement of technology and the widespread use of social media which accommodates the availability of information about others’ lives. Moreover, being conscious that others might also judge your life could lead you to show a selected side of your life – a perfect and happy life – masking your real identity on social media.
Moreover, due to showing the perfect life on social platforms, we end up making a fake identity to hide those insecurities from comparison on social media. Multiple studies have shown that social media/online self-representation is related to low identity clarity.
As it has been said that with ease also comes discomfort. Almost everyone on social media seems to have a perfect and happy life. However, with such great ease and convenience comes the need for approval and comparison, and often start comparing your abilities, achievements, and even your appearance with others. With time, it turns into an unhealthy lifestyle, affecting your mental health and self-esteem. Self-esteem might get affected by continuous comparison, which later leads to other psychological issues such as depression.
To avoid these negative influences of upward comparison in social media, you can do the following:
Limit the use of social media
Scrolling for too long daily on social media can lead to emotions of stress, worry, sadness, and feeling insecure. When you feel overwhelmed by everything that is going on, go ahead and take some healthy time off which can do wonders for your mental health. Reducing the amount of time spent on social media can be challenging since it is part of people’s daily routines, but it doesn’t mean it is impossible.
The first option that you can do is to set a timer for daily checking on your social media. As the notification pops up on the screen you might want to check even if it’s not necessary. Turning off notifications of some social media accounts which are not necessary can be a small step towards your break. Setting time restrictions to take a break from the internet will also be beneficial to avoid seeing the profiles of individuals that might trigger thoughts of comparison.
It’s essential to be aware of how you’re using social media to ensure that it doesn’t negatively impact you and your mental well-being. This can be understanding when and how to take a break, unwind from all the anxiety and stress that social media is causing you, and divert your attention to something else.
Get in touch with a close friend, a family member, or even your therapist and share your worries. Adopt a new hobby, like practicing meditation or anything that gives you comfort. Reach out to people around you for support and spend time with them when it’s becoming difficult to take a break.
Do a social media fast
According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, “a social media fast can offer a much-needed respite for the body, mind, and spirit,”. To start, you can create your plan and fast for a day, a week, or even a month. It can be difficult for many people to start social media fasting and limit their time using social media. Especially when we have mobile phones with us all the time. However, at the beginning of social media fasting, you can start with small goals and set a limited time spent on social media.
Having a plan for your social media fast can be very beneficial. For example, why do you want to fast from social media, when, and for how long? Once you are done with the plan, you can begin your fast. You can also note down the difference in your thought process while you are fasting. Now you will be wondering what you can do in that free time.
For example, several activities can be done to fill in this free time such as reading a book, trying new things, or finding a new hobby. Or you might want to add more healthy activities to your daily life such as jogging and cycling. Doing so can offer the same benefit with an addition of positivity, a healthy mind, and a healthy body. Your body will ultimately become adapted to the movements by performing these simple workouts regularly, lowering your risk of suffering joint injuries. Hence it will help you to stay physically fit while having fun.
Do a social media detox
If you have familiarized yourself with social media fasting, you might want to try social media detox next. It is a practice where you have to make voluntary attempts at stopping social media use for a longer period. It may seem hard to do, but you can do it step by step or ask a friend or a family member to do it with you for more motivation.
Self-care can help reduce stress and make it more tolerable. Self-care also promotes wellness and brings a sense of well-being through challenging circumstances. Maintaining a good relationship with yourself is necessary for self-care. It can come in the form of engaging in activities to improve your well-being and relieve anxiety to care for your emotions, body, and soul. Maintaining good relationships is needed for self-care and to do that you have to engage yourself in such activities that improve overall well-being.
Self-care acts as a reminder that your needs are essential and worthy. It can start as something simple like treating yourself, e.g. buying yourself some flowers, taking yourself on a coffee date, or having some me time. You might also want to meditate in silence — it helps in bringing awareness and peace to the busy brain. Meditation also will help you in getting inner peace and happiness.
Other than meditation, spending quality moments with family and friends is also beneficial to bring clarity to many things in life. In your busy schedule, taking out some time for close family and friends and spending quality time with them helps in coping with stress and increases happiness, which leads to a healthy lifestyle. Family and friends also help in motivation towards a better version of yourself.
During these activities, you may get in touch with your emotions and reflect on your thinking process — what makes you happy? Why do you compare yourself with others? How did you feel when you did that? Once you start to handle your thought process and feelings, you wouldn’t need to rely on other people’s approval or the number of Likes on your post to measure your happiness.
Comparison on social media platforms which is accessible on our fingerprints 24/7 can be dangerous and cause negative influences such as stress, anxiety, and depression. However, it can be avoided by using strategies such as reducing the time spent on social media, taking a social media break, and practicing self-care which focuses on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These strategies are recommended to avoid unhealthy social media comparisons.
If you would like to learn more about social comparisons, visit the Personal Resilience Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other learning materials. Check out the Personal Resilience Science Labs today.
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