The Point of Social Media is Not Comparison; It's Connection
Facebook is, generally speaking, the example social network. It has the widest range of diverse users, of all ages, and all walks of life. It has evolved a great deal since its start in 2004, but one thing that has remained the same is its ultimate goal of connection. Connection is at the root of Facebook; it’s in its DNA. Facebook’s first (and extremely memorable) mission statement read: “To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Today the mission has shifted slightly, – it now reads “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” – but nonetheless, connectivity is still at its core.
So why is it that today, social networks have shifted from a place of connectedness to a place of comparison? When did the course altar? And what can we do to combat it?
The change, generally speaking, began when visual content became a more popular form of sharing on social media. When social media first became a popular sphere for connectivity, it was predominantly text based. But, you know how the phrase goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” What people once shared in words is now entirely blown out of the water with the integration of images. Instagram was the first social network to adopt this way of sharing in all of its glory, and certainly plays a key role in this damaging, comparative mentality that so many users have adopted.
A majority of the problem also lies within the amount of time that we spend on social media. Today, if you find yourself alone in public it would feel weird to not pick up your phone and scroll through all of your feeds to pass the time. On average, people spend 135 minutes on social media daily, according to Statista. With all that time consumed by our screens, it’s natural that we begin to associate the way that we view ourselves in comparison to those that we see on social media.
Our feeds are flooded with celebrities, “Instagram models,” and influencers who can, quite frankly, make us feel like we live a shitty excuse for an average life. Take Kylie Jenner, for example, who practically built her empire on Instagram. She has 121 MILLION people (including us!) looking up to her and following her journey on social media. The most polished, top moments of her life that she shares can make us question the value of the rather plain, simple lives that we live. After a while, this mentality can start to take a toll on our mental health and damage the way that we decipher our own reality from a desired, unattainable life. We’ve adopted an idea that our best lives will exist only in the next destination, whether that be the next place, the next job, or the next version of ourselves.
The good news if you have ever felt this way, you are not alone! Users with followers of 100 to 100M can feel the pressures of social media and, often times, the consequences of comparing themselves to others while using the platforms. In speaking on this topic, influencer Alexandra Mondalek said, “Someone is always purchasing something you can’t purchase or making connections you haven’t yet made. It’s the rat-race lifestyle boiled down into the palm of your hand, and sometimes it feels inescapable.”
The best way to combat this feeling? First and foremost be aware of it – since giving up social media altogether isn’t exactly the most viable option in this day and age. It’s natural to feel a sense of envy with people traveling the world, or “living their best lives” as they constantly post it on social media & rack up thousands of “Likes.” But remember – the post you see is 1/1,000,000 of the experience that they’re actually having. The post that you see is strategic. It’s the perfect shot. It’s hand-picked. And it probably required time, planning, and staging. The result is a filtered-to-be-flawless, minute glimpse into the reality that they actually live.
If you find your feed filled with “Instagram models” and influencers who show off their top moments, remember to take it with a grain of salt! Don’t devalue YOUR amazing, authentic, best life, for the “best life” that you see on your explore page. Make a conscious effort to switch your attitude from one of judgment and comparison to one of appreciation for what others are sharing. Consider the true authenticity of the content you see and spend more time on social media showing people who YOU are rather than comparing yourself to others. If nothing else at all, remember that social media is truly designed for: connectedness.