Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Most #Liked of Them All?
Steps for Avoiding Social Media Comparison
Living in the age of social media has its perks. You can look up your long-lost friend from 3rd grade with the click of a mouse. You can see what’s going on almost anywhere in the world at any given time. But constant exposure to everything, and everyone, can also get a little hazardous. Without the right mindset, social media can make you feel insecure about your appearance and your lifestyle.
In short, if you find yourself comparing yourself head to toe with social media posts and pictures, this one’s for you.
Please tell me that’s photoshop!
“Why can’t my butt look like that?” “Is that even human?!” “How does he keep that six pack when he’s drinking beer in every photo?!”
Images making us feel insecure are nothing new; in the 90’s, underweight models were all the rage, and to this day you can’t pass the magazine aisle without seeing, “Love yourself just as you are!” and, “Lose 80 lbs. in 5 minutes!” on the same cover. Although these messages permeate our billboards, TV’s, and magazines, social media makes unrealistic ideals more pervasive and accessible than ever before.
Why it’s dangerous
Research suggests that those who frequently use Facebook tend to compare themselves to others more often, as well as being more likely to objectify themselves by placing all of their self-worth in their appearance and sexuality. They are also at an increased risk for poor mental health, low self-esteem, and body-shaming.
When you measure swords, you’re bound to get cut
When we fill our time with images of hot models sipping champagne in Costa Rica or yoked out 32 year old’s flexing their monstrous biceps and driving expensive sports cars, our imperfections seem to grow, and we feel unhappy with how we look, what we possess, and what we do, or don’t, experience.
The reality is – that isn’t your reality
For most of us, daily life isn’t as glamorous as the images on our newsfeeds. We wake up early, rush to work, and we’re lucky to run a comb through our hair, much less work on our washboard abs or cook our gluten-GMO-calorie-flavor free frittata. Spending too much time comparing your life to posed and manipulated images can distort your perception of reality and erode your self-esteem. Here are a few tips to enjoy the benefits of social media without letting it get to your head:
1. Stop living off "Likes"
It can be hard when no one gives your posts a blue thumb’s up. Especially when your arch rival has 10 million followers and gets 15,000 likes just for posting a pic of their caramel frap. When you find yourself worrying about your social media popularity, challenge your thinking. Dr. Jill S. Kapil, specialist in young adult and millennial issues, suggests that you ask yourself the following questions: Are these thoughts helpful or are they harmful? On a scale of one to ten, how unrealistic are your thoughts about the importance of “likes”? Is it truly realistic to compare your life to complete strangers on the internet? What else can I think about that is more positive and realistic? Checking your negative and unrealistic thoughts will help you maintain a healthier perspective.
2. Know your limits
Like all of life’s pleasures, social media should be enjoyed in moderation. If being on social media tends to be a negative trigger for you, Dr. Kapil suggests going on a “technology cleanse” by either deleting the app(s) that are most troubling to you or setting a 30-minute limit, logging off and changing activities after your time is up. Sticking to your limit will reduce exposure to triggering images and will also allow you more time to focus on the important things, which brings us to the next suggestion:
3. Gear your “Fear of Missing Out” toward reality
The real world doesn’t pause for you to spend time swiping left. When you spend time fantasizing over someone else’s “supposed” reality, you are missing out on fully enjoying your own. If your “fear of missing out” is geared toward missing out on the 8 gazillion social media posts being published every minute, you’ll never be satisfied. Remind yourself that the things you truly don’t want to miss out on are the real people and experiences that are a part of your current reality. Keep your head where your feet are at - focus your thinking on staying in the present.
4. Have an attitude of gratitude
The past can’t be changed, and the future isn’t certain. If you focus your thinking on finding the good in your present day, there will be less time for concern about comparing yourself to others. Make a list of all of the things you can be grateful for today – all that you have, what you’ve accomplished, and everything about yourself you admire. Be body positive – celebrate the things that make you unique. Keep your list close by and read it when you feel insecure.
5. Turn on your #FakeAlert
While there will always be people who are wealthier and more attractive than the next person, social media never tells a person’s full story. When people post flattering pics of their bodies or possessions, they aren’t captioning them with, “I found out my girlfriend cheated on me last week. I’m $87,000 in debt and I have to put my dog down.” No, their photo is just that – a snapshot locked in a tight frame that doesn’t show any of the rest of the life surrounding it. Don’t compare your real life behind-the-scenes to their highlight reel.
6. Ditch the double-standard
Talk to yourself the same way you would if someone you cared about was dealing with this. If your friend came to you saying she was feeling bad about herself because she’s jealous of some exotic insta-model slanging detox tea on a yacht in Miami, what would you say to her? I doubt you would tell her, “Yeah, you really stink. You’ve got nothing going for you.” NO! You would talk her up, remind her that images are misleading, and that selling laxatives on a rented boat with some creepy Craig’s List photographer is not the only life worth living.
7. Unfollow the dream
While we don’t have total control over what we are exposed to when we go online, we do have control over who we follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Be aware of what types of images trigger your insecurity and avoid following those types of pages. If you are struggling with your body image, it’s probably not the best idea to follow Maxim’s Hottest or the Chippendale’s Review. If you’re feeling inadequate because of your income, avoid following each “Real Housewife of #WhereverYouLive County.” On the flip side, there are lots of social media pages dedicated to inspiring quotes, positive ideas, and motivational thinking. Be protective of your self-worth when you decide who you follow.
8. Talk to a specialist
Learning how to enjoy social media without comparing yourself to others can be tricky. If you’re having a hard time with the body-image and lifestyle pressures that social media can bring, try talking to a specialist who can help you develop positive thoughts and coping skills to overcome insecurity.
Dr. Jill S. Kapil, Psy.D., specializes in empowering young adults and “millennials” to overcome the stresses of societal pressures including social media issues. Her expertise includes supporting young adults through major life transitions including experiences related to college life, careers, and relationships.
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