Many of us do it. We look at posts on social media and wonder, “How does she look so refreshed? She has three kids under the age of seven; I only have two.” Or, “Wow, they look so happy. And us, well we look happy… and tired!” And then there are the moms who feed their kids: gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, nut-free, and possibly taste-free food; so, we ask, “Am I a bad mother?” as we hand the kids Oreos.
Comparing our lives with those we see flashed across the television or computer screen, can cause us to question our worth. The posed and positioned lives look similar, yet so different from our own; we then wonder about our status. Wondering what he or she has that we don’t, we look for secret formulas and seek to acquire “The Five Keys to Success.” Tracking “Likes,” hearts, and laughing emojis, can cause us to lose track of the important hugs and smiling eyes in our present, everyday lives.
When we engage in comparison, we take skewed inventories of our lives. Single people want to be married. The married envy the freedom they imagine all singles experience. The talented want more followers and bigger ticket sales. Destination weddings, celebrity shout outs, and sold-out events; have a way of highlighting our dashed and delayed dreams. Waiting for “one day;” we miss out on celebrating today.
Is social media totally to blame? Of course not. Social media has a way of making us think someone cares. We think that someone cares that we drive a Mazda and not a Mercedes. No longer satisfied to only keep up with The Jones’ down the street, we now have an open invitation to keep up with the Kardashians… On Twitter. On Instagram. On Snap Chat. On TMZ and even Facebook.
Given the popularity and prevalence of social media, what’s a person to do? To answer that, let’s look at what comparing is.
- to examine (objects, ideas, people, etc.) to note similarities and differences
- to appear in a similar standing
- to differ in quality or accomplishment as specified
- to vie; rival
From the different definitions we can see some of the dangers associated with evaluating our lives based on the showcased lives of others. When comparing, we look for similarities and differences. From there, we make inferences as to why these parallels or peculiarities exist. We do this without knowing the full story of what others endure, or the sacrifices they make. Isn’t it interesting that intrinsic in comparing is the potential to “vie or rival” others? Now, how to stop comparing and start living.
Consider your personal/professional goals: What are YOU hoping for? What is YOUR “Why?” When thinking about what you want out of life, do you smile? Are your goals fueled by passion, or are they poisoned with thoughts or talk like “I’ll-show-them”? Are you pursuing what will bring you joy, even if no one applauds?
Take an honest assessment of your life: Look at where you are currently. Is it so bad? Are you involved in that which will bring you closer to your goals? Are you in meaningful relationships that hold you accountable to your values? Or do you only interact with who you hope will give you your “big break?” Are you having any fun?
Do you need to take a social media break: I’m not talking about staging a pic of you with a journal, a pensive look, and the caption; “Taking some time to contemplate this thing called life.” No, not that. Please, not that! It would be best to answer the previous questions without the noise of the “theys” and “thems” that pop up in our feed. It may be a good idea to set aside an hour or two each day to unplug from your devices and plug in to your inner you.
Breathe and count blessings: Studies have shown that when experiencing negative emotions, we tend to take shallow breaths. But we need to take deep breathes that take in oxygen needed to replenish cells and improve the body’s functioning and reduce stress levels. But it isn’t just about inhaling; no, when we exhale we breath out toxins. To combat the need to compare, schedule some time for deep breathing exercises that include intentionally contemplating what you are grateful for and what you currently appreciate. Now would be a good time to pull out that journal.
See, even when comparing apples to apples, we can overlook the condition of the tree, the seasons, and the intended taste. It will do us no good to chide the sweet Gala Apple for not being crunchy and tart like the Granny Smith. Comparing our real lives to the positioned lives on social media comes with many risks. Looking at and appreciating our journey helps us avoid making concessions that may bring us closer to what “they” have; but drive us farther away from the path we are purposed to take.