Let’s Talk About Social Media and The Comparison Trap

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I touched on this briefly in my ‘4 Life Lessons I’ve Learned…So Far’ post but I feel like I need to go more in-depth. This is something I personally struggle with all too often — comparison. I find myself doing it mostly when I’m scrolling through my Instagram or Facebook feeds. As a new blogger, I always find myself comparing me to those with more followers/subscribers or more brand deals and partnerships.

When you are seeing everyone’s perfect pictures with their perfect families doing fun activities you start wondering why you don’t have that — I call that the comparison trap. You’ve scrolled or clicked too much and you have seen all of someone’s successes and accomplishments. What you fail to realize is that almost everyone on social media, especially those with a big following, has curated feeds. 

Meaning, everything they post was probably planned out ahead of time or even staged. Seeing this daily can adversely affect one’s self-esteem. Don’t get me wrong, it can also boost your self-esteem if you see yourself being better off than someone you follow. I know, that’s horrible but it’s real

Social comparison theory

In psychology, this can be related to the social comparison theory, which was developed by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954. (This just goes to show that we as humans have been comparing ourselves for years, social media just makes it easier for us to do so.) This theory suggests that people determine their own social and personal growth by how they stack up to others. 

There are three types of social comparison but I’m just going to focus on two, upward and downward social comparison. Upward social comparison is defined when we compare ourselves to those we believe are better than us. Downward social comparison is just the opposite, it’s when we compare ourselves to those we believe are inferior to us or less fortunate than.

For example, you’re scrolling through someone’s feed and you see their business is skyrocketing and they just bought a new house. You start comparing yourself as a stay at home mom who is still unsure of what they want to do when the kids go to school or if you’ll ever stop renting. This is an upward social comparison. 

An example of downward social comparison is when you see someone on your feed who is down and out on their luck. They seem to be very unhappy, all their post are depressing, or they just seem unhappy at the moment. In turn, you start to feel like your life isn’t all that bad in comparison to theirs so then comes a self-esteem boost. 

A lot of the pictures you see on social media are edited and filtered to look better and brighter. While you are taking all your photos on your phone, these big influencers have invested thousands in a professional photographer or a professional camera. There is nothing wrong with that, that’s just something to think about next time you’re aimlessly scrolling while bored.

Depression we meet again…

It’s been countless times where I have found myself completely down and in a funk even though I was just happy not too long ago. It took my husband telling me, “maybe you’re on Instagram too much”,  to realize that I was in the comparison trap. I scrolled too much and clicked through to too many perfect patty’s and lost sight of the blessings before me. 

Whether you saw someone graduate with their masters, close on their new home, buy that new car, start their new business, or land that new job. You will always find something you think your missing when you’re scrolling aimlessly or think you are doing everything wrong. When in reality you are too busy focusing on other people’s blessings you have lost sight of your own. 

I may not have a beautiful home, a nice car, expensive things, a job, or the picture-perfect family. But what I do have is a husband who loves me unconditionally, two beautiful girls who surprise me with their intelligence every day, a roof over my head, a car that runs perfectly, friends who care for me, and a village who has helped me through motherhood.

Once you realize social media is a highlight reel you will slowly start crawling out of that comparison trap. No one is posting their failures, struggles, and sacrifices. They’re just not. You have to train yourself and your mind to not go to that dark place of self-doubt and negative self-talk. I believe where you are in life is where you are supposed to be. Not everyone’s path is the same and neither are your blessings. 

If you have read this far then I must have spoken to you in some way. Here are 4 ways you can take the reigns back on social media and avoid the comparison trap:  

Know triggers 

You know when you have been on too long and you start to feel sad. Don’t even let it get to that. Or if there is a certain person you follow that you just can’t help but compare yourself to — mute them! Facebook and Instagram offer this feature and it’s been such a big help for me. You just need to have the self-control not to go searching for their page. 

Reduce time

Try not to spend hours and hours scrolling through your feed just because you’re bored. That’s when I find the comparison trap sucking me in the most. GET UP AND BE PRODUCTIVE. Do something else with your time because it’s precious. Stop using it admiring the life of others because I’m sure they didn’t get there by worrying about other people’s posts. If you are a blogger like myself I suggest you allow yourself a certain amount of time out of your day to use social media. Use that time productively, meaning reply to dm’s, updated feed/story, reply to comments, etc. You can do this once a day or multiple times a day spread out.

Ask yourself why you are comparing 

Your comparisons are often rooted in things you are already self-conscious about. I recommend you hone in on those and instead of engaging in negative self-talk. Ask yourself what can you do to achieve what others have. Nothing is given to anyone, people work hard for what they have and where they are in life. Whether it’s their physique, their job, their home, their marriage, or the things they own. Something was given up or sacrificed I can guarantee it.

Pray, meditate, journal

This one has helped me the most. I engulfed myself in The Word through the Bible app on my phone. I wrote about it here. There are so many devotionals about social media and comparison. Try turning your phone off and just sitting and appreciating the silence. Readjust your focus to something productive and beneficial to your life ahead. Once you figure out the why in why you are comparing, try writing them down and coming up with a game plan on how you can change it. 

Are you negatively or positively affected by social media? What are your social media habits? Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid the comparison trap? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it! 

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23 comments

  1. Such a great reminder about journaling. Such a powerful tool! Thank you for reminding me about this important tactic to maintaining sanity around social media (and elsewhere!).

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  2. If we see ourselves as part of our branding in our social media, and we believe that we are unique as a person, then why do we need to compare ourselves and our social media to others? Stop comparing coz our platform is unique!

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  3. This is awesome to read Social media is one of toxicity nowadays. It’s so important to take time to your self and not scrolling all day to your social media account nice post!

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  4. Socia;l media can be dangerous and I have taken steps to limit my social media usage but also to not be jealous of others. Instead, be supportive and praise everyone.

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  5. Too much use of social media is a distraction and I agree, it does contribute to depression because you tend to compare yourself to others. I’ve seen this among peers and advice them to ‘take a break.’ Thank you for this insightful post!

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