Awards shows and album charts. Movie deals and business exits. Jobs, acceptances, children’s accomplishments. Big or small, it’s all shared in real time and in our “news” feed.
There’s a theory that something in our human nature makes us want to see where we fall in the ranks, to know that we are better or worse, winning or losing. This can’t help but call in assumptions: about ourselves, about what others think of us, and about the other person’s circumstances.
Comparison and sharing successes has definitely become a regular thing. I most certainly understand putting our best foot forward on social media- who doesn’t want a lovely picture or a flattering bio? I notice it a whole lot in my fields: acting and music. Actors in particular tend to share successes, bookings and any kind of work, and it’s tough not to sound like you’re bragging. I’m not sure what industry escapes it, honestly, though: tech industry does it, entrepreneurial fields, health, wellness, fashion… you name it.
Recently, a peer in the music industry shared a lot of good news and a photo looking very, very happy. I get it; I would be happy too. But it made me feel bad. I instantly compared myself. This person didn’t mean it that way, I’m sure. But looking at it was detrimental to my self-esteem, self-love, and my motivation at that moment.
Social media builds on these comparative and assumptive instincts. How many likes do you have? How ‘popular’ are you? How do you stack up? I’ve participated in this type of sharing and posting in the past. And I hope I haven’t made anyone feel bad, but chances are, I have. I hope if you’re reading this and I ever have made you feel that way, you’ll understand it was never intended. But then, if I’m being 100% honest, was it? Maybe if I am looking underneath, I was trying to be “better.” I know that I have faked it on social media too many times to count (filters and apps, anyone?), and I’ve propped up numbers to look “better” than I really am (ugh, right?). Those types of things are designed to lift one up, but I wonder- at whose expense?
I know that when we look at others on the internet, what we are seeing isn’t the real real. I know that, because I’ve done it. And yet, my perceptions and assumptions can carry me away. I become convinced that I am worth less and they (whoever ‘they ’ are) are worth more.
What can we do about this? For many of us, social media is part of the game, and it is often what drives people to sites and music and news, and where people like myself find new things. Plus, I do enjoy seeing what my friends and colleagues are up to and I value getting to share in their lives. But what about those surprising instances that creep up and get you down?
How do I deal with those comparison moments and still love myself?
1. Forgo assumptions, or turn them upside-down. I recently got my feelings hurt after seeing photos from a party I wasn’t invited to (I know, apparently I am in eighth grade). There were lots of people I knew looking like they were having a great time, and I felt excluded and hurt. But here’s the problem: I automatically assumed that I knew the host. Maybe I didn’t. Or, maybe, it was a party with a special purpose that I am not even involved in. The point is, I assumed when I shouldn’t have. So try this: go without assumptions, or perhaps try assuming the complete opposite of your instinct: like, in my case, maybe you don’t even know the host, or in other status update or photo cases, maybe the person posting has had a sickness in the family and needs to concentrate on good news, or maybe they are struggling with money and want to connect through other ways.
2. Focus on your important relationships. When something hits you the wrong way, shut down the Facebook stalking or the Instagram time and think about who you haven’t caught up with in your life, and who really matters. Text them, or better yet, call them and make plans. Don’t focus on the ones who you think don’t love you. Focus on the ones who you know do.
3. Make your time matter. What are you putting off that you could be doing? For me, often, it’s practicing my guitar or writing. But I have to go over, get it out of the case, turn on the amp, figure out what I’m practicing, etc. Or, I have to take the time to be creative and figure out what to write for this site. Picking up my phone is so much easier! Yet I always wish I had spent my time more constructively after I get sucked into social feeds. Always. Remember that and make your time matter.
4. Remember that what’s being shown isn’t the real real. Remember: we aren’t seeing both sides of the coin. Maybe we see the stunning white sands of the Waikiki beach trip our acquaintance made, but what we didn’t see was their struggle with the fact that both kids got massive ear infections and kept them up every night.
Ultimately: it’s about the real world and our real relationships. Next time we need a break, let’s put down the social feeds and spend time with our dog or child, or look out the window and enjoy breathing and sunshine. Or maybe simply enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. Because that’s life; that’s real. That’s what matters, and you and I will always measure up there. Let’s stop ever allowing our assumptions or comparisons tell us that we don’t.