I think I can go out on a limb here and say: everyone in some shape or form has interacted with social media platforms. This is especially true if you’re a millennial or part of Gen Z. I don’t know if you remember the good ol’ social media days – when the only thing we worried about was who was in whose MySpace top 8 (and eventually top 40, because millennials are proudly a participation trophy generation). When the only photos we posted were those awkward low quality photos from middle school and high school taken on our trendy digital cameras that we somehow were not the least bit embarrassed about.
The fact that we didn’t spend much time editing goes to show how carefree the social media environment used to be. Don’t get me wrong – there were still trolls and bullies online, but there didn’t seem to be the pressure that exists in social media today. The pressure to be perfect.
I don’t know about you, but there are so many ways that being active (read: scrolling) on social media has made me feel like my life sucks. It just seems like everyone on social media has their lives together, doesn’t it? That’s at least how it feels when you’re scrolling aimlessly and believing everything you lay your eyes on.
It’s tricky. No one taught us how to navigate the ever-changing landscape that is social media. We went from only being able to post photos on our Instagram feed to being able to use Instagram as video editing software to cut out the unfavorable parts of our existence. YouTube used to be a place for amateur videographers to have fun and share their work. Now, influencers are creating entire productions with better quality video and sound than your favorite Disney Channel movie.
All of the ring lights, editing, and filters make everything seem so effortless. So…perfect. And suddenly your evening of harmless scrolling turns into a night of self-loathing. You realize your real life seems like one big disappointment compared to Susie on Instagram who *seems* to have perfect skin and who just got married and built a beautiful house.
You know none of this is true, but it’s hard to shake the feeling. Let’s start with acknowledging the areas in our lives that social media has a negative effect on.
Ways that social media can make your life feel less than fabulous:
Most of us grew up thinking our career trajectory would look something like: school –> work for a few companies the rest of your life. But once YouTube and Instagram got big, in came the “influencer.” Now everyone wants a career trajectory of creating content and making GOOD money from it (which isn’t a bad thing, by the way, it’s just a thing). The problem becomes: if you’re not a YouTuber, Instagram influencer, or an online entrepreneur it feels like you’re doing life wrong.
This is because this stuff is constantly thrown in our faces as the “best” thing anyone could do with their lives, making people feel like any kind of schooling they have was a waste of time and money. And shaming folks for having a “traditional” mindset. And not to mention, making people feel like working for someone else is the worst thing that could happen to their career.
We live in a society where people post ALLLL the happenings of their lives on the social medias. Because if it’s not on Instagram, did it really happen? I’ve seen people posting their net worth, posting screenshots of their last student loan payment, and posting their bank account both with and without funds (I wish I was lying). And more commonly, I’ve seen people posting photos of their expensive possessions and endeavors, such as luxury cars, luxury brand accessories, and luxury travel destinations.
And to make matters “worse,” these people are like 23 years old. *Sigh*. Nothing has made me feel deflated faster than seeing someone pay off their student loan – because frankly, I’m quite some time away from that amazing feat. And seeing 23 year olds with all these luxuries makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong. How about you?
Ah, yes. Being let into the homes of hundreds or even thousands of the people you follow and watch can bring special awareness to your own circumstances. You could be feeling perfectly content about your cozy apartment until you go on YouTube and watch those overly edited house tours of your peers. Seeing 25 year olds building huge custom houses with the perfect interior design and decor is always a head-scratcher for me. Like, how?
And what is it with all these people having the perfect office/work-from-home set ups? All those rose gold staplers and paperclip holders will have you on Amazon searching high and low. This has been especially present since the pandemic. Jealous? Yep, just a tad.
If I had a dollar for every engagement, wedding, pregnancy, and family photo I encounter on Instagram alone, I could totally stunt on you with thousands of rose gold staplers. And I’m sure you could stunt on me, too. What really does it for me is couples and families on YouTube sharing their seemingly perfect relationships and lives with hundreds of thousands of people. I always wonder how much editing and cutting goes into those.
Constantly seeing posts and videos with people together with their significant others and kids, telling everyone that ThEy HaVe sO mAnY pRoBlEmS jUsT lIkE Us, is sometimes disheartening. Because the very next day, they’re on Insta stories on their way to the pumpkin patch in their Porsche truck with the peanut butter colored seats.
How nice is it to see everyone enjoying themselves on wineries, on hikes, at pumpkin patches, and in those little tiny cabins in the woods every weekend? That’s good for them and all, but then you wish that was you out there, seizing the day. You wish it was you, at those luxury resorts on pristine white sand beaches, sipping on a tropical cocktail.
And to make matters worse, it seems like everyone and their mom is traveling to Tulum and Jamaica with no worries during the pandemic. It makes you want to sweat in a mask on the beach any day to have that warm sun touch your skin far, far away from home.
I know you’ve seen those time lapsed, sped up significantly, TikTok videos people drawing, playing instruments or some other talent. These videos flow perfectly and seem to showcase flawless ability to defy all the laws of the universe. I’ve watched videos of people drawing an entire work of art in 15 seconds and subsequently got down on myself for not being able to do so. Silly? Yes. But real talk? Yes.
Watching people show the world what they can do on Instagram has gotten them fame and fortune. As for the rest of us? Lower self-esteem, a dip in self-confidence, and an internal existential crisis.
I used to follow a lot of health and fitness accounts on Instagram. You know the ones – posting workouts every day, perfectly healthy meals, and a perfect body to top it all off. Nothing wants to make you drop that cookie as fast as seeing someone with rock hard abs doing endless cardio and push-ups. But following these accounts isn’t always healthy and motivational.
There’s a dark side of feeling ashamed of your own body and your health. And there’s an even darker side of realizing that everyone’s body is different and you can do the exact same things as Susie on Instagram and have vastly different results. AND that making healthy meals and only eating those meals just isn’t as easy for you as everyone says it is for them. Cue the spiral.
Ahhh, make it stop!
Are you feeling completely seen yet? Let’s undo all of that right here, right now.
The reason why we feel inadequate when we’re on social media is because of one thing: comparison. Comparison isn’t always a bad thing. It’s helpful to compare things, with all things being equal. The only time comparison is harmful is when you’re comparing apples to oranges.
What I mean by this is when you compare two things/people/places/etc. that are completely different, the comparison becomes baseless. Also, when you compare things without the full scope of information on one of them, comparison becomes baseless. Virtually all comparison that comes from you looking at someone’s social media feed is baseless. Because what you’re doing is putting yourself or your life (of which you know the full scope) next to someone else life (of which you don’t know the full scope) and making critiques in both directions.
You’re basically comparing your entire photo album to one measly photo of someone else. And you don’t even know all of the effort that went into capturing that photo and editing it to look a certain way. The fact of the matter is this: you don’t know the full story and therefore you shouldn’t compare your full story to someone’s table of contents. This is especially true when you don’t know them personally.
So when you’re feeling down or inadequate from scrolling social media, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re comparing yourself to someone else. And then ask yourself what is the base for that comparison. Are the two of you leading the same life? Are your circumstances the same? Do you live in the same city or town? Do you share the same genetic material?
These may seem like silly questions to ask yourself (because you know the answers already), but the point is to take a step back to logically and objectively think about why you’re feeling the way you do. This will help to dismantle your argument against yourself.
And here’s another fact: things are not always what they seem. Just because someone posts about their perfect relationship or perfect meal, it’s one photo on one day. It’s likely that they are posting because their in a good mood and all is well in their world. Just like you, there ARE times when things aren’t going to smoothly.
So, take a deep breath and know that there’s a lot more to someone’s life than a photo or a 15-second video.
Don’t compare someone else highlight reel to your behind-the-scenes. It’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics of social media and to think everyone has it together except for you. That’s simply not true. It’s important to get into the frame of mind that a picture isn’t everything and your life is just as good and valuable as anyone else’s.
What’s your experience like on social media? This is something I’m very passionate about, so I want to chat it up in the comments!