Comparison and Joy

Comparison and Joy

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Many of us have heard this Teddy Roosevelt quote time and again, but for the last few weeks, it’s been repeating itself in my head on a continual loop.

Mostly it’s in reference to Instagram, which affects my day-to-day life more than I wish it did. One of my favorite bloggers recently asked her followers on stories to describe in a word or two how Instagram makes them feel. Many of the answers were anxious, stressed out, or simply FOMO.

Seeing how many responses she received like this made me realize just how much the platform affects everyone, not just those of us who make our living from it. Yes, of course, it can also be an incredibly powerful community full of inspiration and motivation, but if you’ve ever scrolled through a feed in your life, you know what I mean when I say that many of us who are fall into a major comparison trap on social media.

For this post, I’m focusing on Instagram because that is the platform that I personally use the most.

How Does Instagram Make you Feel?

I did my own little social experiment last night and asked my Instagram followers the same question. Here were some answers that I saw over and over again:

Left out
Inadequate
Inferior
Anxious
Disconnected
Distracted
Inspired
Entertained
Sad
Jealous
Not enough
FOMO
Unproductive
Insecure
Dazed
Overwhelmed
Removed
Guilty
Alone
Informed
Connected
Mind-Numbing
If Only
Depressed
Creative
Deflated
Obsessive
Exhausted
Like Sh*t
Calm
Annoyed
Unstylish
Skeptical
Addictive
Self-Conscious
Vulnerable
Hopeful
Behind
Competitive
Frantic
Broke
Happy
Unfulfilled
Messy
Unhealthy

Wow. Just wow. The percentage of negative responses to positive ones was probably 95% to 5%. Yet we still find ourselves mindlessly scrolling, continuously comparing, and creating unrealistic expectations for ourselves. I should also note that there were a lot of responses with two feelings like “inspired yet overwhelmed” or “connected yet disconnected” or “entertained but alone.”

At this point I realize you’re probably like, “Duh, Julia, this is old news.” And yes, it is, but I’ve been talking through this comparison trap in therapy and that has been a big help so I wanted to share a few tips that have worked for me. TBH I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my anxiety with Instagram entirely. And, by the way, I’ve talked to all of my blogger and non-blogger friends about this topic and every single one of them feels something similar. Every one!

So why are we all still so addicted?

Personally, I have a  love/hate relationship with the ‘gram. I love how it keeps me connected to friends (old and new), and how it inspires me with my wardrobe, home, and wellness. But I really hate how it makes me feel inadequate at times. In real life, I love my family, friends, dog, home, and life. But then I’ll start scrolling and for sometimes it all of a sudden doesn’t feel like enough. That is completely unacceptable and I refuse to live my life that way, so I’m doing something about it and I hope you will too!

Here’s What You Can Do About it

Delete the app! Realistically, are you going to delete it forever? Probably not (but if you do, more power to you), but sometimes I’ll delete it for a day or two and taking that small step away makes a big difference. Another tip in the same vein is to limit your time on the app. You can do this through settings on your phone. Anel locks himself out of certain apps after 10pm and I just started doing it mid-day.

Unfollow. Spend 30 minutes going through the list of everyone you follow and uncheck those boxes henny. Unfollow anyone who makes you feel inadequate, less than, or sad. I’ve had more than a few women reach out saying that they’re struggling to get pregnant and it’s too sad to see stories of Amalia so they had to unfollow. I beyond understand that and if you’re in a similar boat in any circumstance, do the same!

Remember that social media isn’t real life. Remember that each snapshot only captures 0.2 seconds in time. While I might have a picture of Amalia looking happy as a clam, she might have melted down 15 minutes later. While a fashion blogger might look gorgeous in a dress and strappy shoes on the street in January, remember that she is probably freezing from the shoot. When you see their friends sharing happy moments from family vacations, remember that traveling with children is incredibly difficult. Remember, when your successful friend shows off a beautiful new bag or a fancy new car, that she might not always love the crazy hours she works for her success. Those are just a few examples.

This quote sums it up perfectly: “The major problem with social media comparisons is that we’re comparing our insides to someone else’s outsides,” explains psychologist Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D. “Taking a picture that appears happy is not the same as truly being happy; you can’t know whether the person taking that ‘perfect’ pic was in the bathroom crying twenty minutes later. It’s a losing game to compare our lives—with all of the challenges, pain, and boredom inherent in being human—to a highly curated selection of moments in someone else’s life.” (source)

Change that narrative. If you’re feeling this way about others’ posts, yet still posting only the highlights on your own feed, break that cycle and think about adding some photos and captions that highlight the good, bad, and the ugly.

Instagram your life; don’t live for Instagram. There have been times where I’ve found myself doing something I don’t really want to be doing just to “get the ‘gram” as they say. Once in a while, obviously, this can be fun and exciting. And because I depend on Instagram for my living, I have to do this from time to time. In everyday life, however, you can take a lot of pressure off yourself if you’re not living for the ‘gram. Post when you have something to post about, and try to avoid creating a post just because you feel like you have to.

Turn jealousy around. When I was living in the city without kids and a dog, I was majorly involved in the blogging scene attending every event and schmoozing with brands and bloggers multiple times a week. As an introvert, this would exhaust me and I’d often come home so out-of-it that I would have to go right to sleep. I ended up missing out on a lot of time with my other friends because I felt so pressured to only go out for work events. But now, when I see my city blogger friends going to dinners and events, I get terrible FOMO. I feel like I’m missing out on opportunities and missing out on fun.

The point of that long-winded story is that in that moment, I try to remember what it was really like for me to go out that often. Then, I send a big batch of love to whoever’s post I’m looking at, and try to move on. I look around wherever I am and say three things that I’m grateful for in that moment. It actually helps.

And this brings me to another quote that I can’t stop thinking about lately. It stood out to me in the book I’m reading right now.

“How do you find happiness? You start by looking right around you for the blessings you have. When you find them, be grateful.”

Instead of looking to other people online (or in person) for validation, I’ll end this post with a reminder that we should all look around us for the blessings we have, and find happiness in those.

Photo by Julia Dags.

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  1. Shannon said:

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve had to learn to check myself while scrolling through Instagram. My biggest downfall is seeing people’s milestones- posting about their jobs (I really can’t), their engagements, weddings, and new houses. I want all of those things and I feel like I should be doing them because other people my age are. After I get overwhelmed, I take a step back and remind myself that I’ll do all those things someday soon and that those people just have different circumstances than me for whatever reason. I don’t need to be engaged or buy a house to feel secure and happy.

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Before Instagram I felt that same way when I was younger about Facebook. I felt like I was always behind everyone else. I’m glad you’re aware of it and taking that step back!

      2.19.19 · Reply
  2. Bettina said:

    What app does your husband use to block Instagram?

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      The new iPhones have this feature built in and that is how we do it but I’m sure there are other apps!

      2.19.19 · Reply
  3. Emily said:

    This is exactly what I needed today. I deleted Instagram last night, and this time I am hoping it lasts. The worst part for me is when people talk about hanging out without you or talk about their problems/fights with other people online instead of just talking to the person. I learned to just mute those people on Instagram because their impact on my life was so negative and didn’t help me at all. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Good for you! The hanging out without me realllly gets to me too!

      2.19.19 · Reply
  4. MM said:

    I deleted the app on New Years after way too much usage over the Holidays thinking I’d give myself a little break. Two weeks later I deactivated and will never look back! To illustrate what an addiction it is, it’s been 7 weeks and I still pick up my phone to look at it before I realize I do not have it anymore. I feel so much happier on a daily basis, read more and buy less!

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      YES! Get it! This is inspiring, and I’m so happy for you!

      2.19.19 · Reply
  5. Rachael H said:

    While I love bloggers – I want my IG experience to reflect my life. I only follow people I know (the exception being Chrissy Teigan.) But sometimes I want to check out what my Bravo celeb is doing I’ll go and search their name. I don’t need a million “swipe ups” controlling my feelings.

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Ok I think Chrissy Teigan should be everyone’s exception. I adore her! That’s a great way to go about it though. And so glad it’s helpful.

      2.19.19 · Reply
  6. Monica said:

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been thinking about how I should use instagram and how it really makes me feel. Then I think about the time I loose scrolling and watching stories of people I don’t know and I don’t really care about. I’m going to delete the app and see how long it lasts. Thank you for being realistic and true, you’re one of the few bloggers I really appreciate and follow.

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Good for you! Good luck and let me know how it goes!! Appreciate you following along.

      2.19.19 · Reply
  7. Agnes Sudol said:

    Such a great bog post. I do think the stories you put up on your feed are great. I look forward to the ones where Amalia is laughing or doing something absolutely adorable… they always make me smile.

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Aww thanks so much! Glad my girl can bring a smile to your face.

      2.19.19 · Reply
  8. Nancy said:

    Thanks for keeping it so real on this post! Something that’s worked for me is I delete the app at night around 10:00 and will download again when I get to work around 9:30. I will not let Insta affect my morning. I’ll check Insta for about 15 minutes and then delete again. Ill down load again around lunch time and scroll for another 15 minutes and then again delete the app. I’ll load the app one more time around 5:30-6:00 and scroll on and off until about 10:00. I do have to get better in the afternoons, but I have made so much progress. I was literally checking it every five minutes. I hope this helps!

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Instead of deleting it and re-installing it so often, you can either use your phone or an app to lock it for you. Might save some time and have the same results!!

      2.19.19 · Reply
  9. MarciaMarciaMarcia said:

    It’s interesting to me how often I read or hear about how badly IG makes people feel, because for me I find it a refreshing break. That may have to do with the things I follow though. My feed is lighter on fashion and lifestyle and politics, and heavier on friends, humor, travel porn, and rescue animals. The reaction most people seem to have to IG is the way I feel about FB though, and I am gearing up to delete my account from there pretty soon. It siphons my joy, while for me IG is a fun escape. I guess for all us with regard to social media, how well it works for you or doesn’t is all in how you use it.

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Maybe I need to follow more rescue animals and travel porn! Any recs for accounts you love?

      2.19.19 · Reply
      • MarciaMarciaMarcia said:

        This would be my starter list. I’m a little obsessed, but it really does make me happy:

        Travel and photography accounts: @beautifuldestinations, @passionpassport, @instastrasse, @natgeotravel, @geosteinmetz, @vutheara, @chrisburkard, @instresting, @coastal_living, @travelandleisure, @forbestravelguide, @nakedplanet, @ilhan1077, @malthezinakoff, @franslanting, @ilkinkaracan, @lezbroz

        Rescue animals: @austinpetsalive (this is the no-kill shelter in Austin where I volunteer), @lexy_the_elderbull, @henrythecoloradodog, @freedom_farm_sanctuary, @goatsofanarchy, @pitbullsofinstagram, @thiswildidea, @boochaces, @youngestoldcatlady, @foster_kittens, @calistathepitbull, @pumpkinthepetworthpitbull

        2.20.19 · Reply
      • Megan said:

        Hannah Shaw @kittenxlady and Brianna Madia @briannamadia on Instagram are the best.

        2.20.19 · Reply
  10. Jen said:

    I miss how Instagram was when it first started. But the reality is different today. I go through at least once a week and delete who I follow. I find this makes a huge difference. Sometimes for me it is not even the content but the volume.

    You are far from getting to this point but the effects on teeens/kids is crazy. My 16 year old just removed it from her phone. We do not have new phones but I am going to check into that feature controlling access to apps. She has been very conscientious about who she follows but still she felt like she always needed to check it. Even to find out the newest songs or whatever. I am proud of her for doing that all on her own. I think that is a huge aspect of this for anyone with kids is whatever we do they model. And that increases as they get older.

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I know, me too. When it first came out, I LOVED it. I felt so inspired and connected. I’m so terrified about how it’s going to affect Amalia in the future. I can’t imagine having social media in middle school and high school when things are already so hard. Your daughter sounds like she has a good head on her shoulders, I’m so impressed!

      2.19.19 · Reply
      • Jen said:

        Julia, You are ahead of the game by already thinking about it for yourself. From what I see it is the parents who do not acknowledge it. We talk all the time about how these are challenges for us and other adults too. How many adults do we know that do not use social media properly or feel down because of it. My first suggestion to my girls is always to put the phone down second is to get more sleep third is to eat healthier and fourth is get some movement. No one is perfect and we learn as we go. My kids know they always have us and our family. That matters the most.

        2.20.19 · Reply
  11. Kristin said:

    I think this is such a great post. It’s proven that technology, social media, etc. can be addictive but it still blows my mind that we don’t really treat it as an addiction. There are so many red flags for alcohol, drug abuse, etc. but we seem to ignore the red flags for technology (not being able to resist what’s happening on insta, using it while in traffic, having it be the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we do before bed, spending time on insta that we could be spending with our kids or doing something productive, breaching the privacy / personal space of our friends and family for a post). The list of addictive / negative behaviors goes on and on.

    I hate all of the extra adverts on insta now and most of the posts I see from influencers tend to be sponsored . My strategy right now is limiting my following to friends and family and most of those people aren’t majorly into it anyway so I don’t feel the need to check in so often. I like the fact that my daughter doesn’t always see me with my phone in hand, scrolling away on nonsense as well. I hope that the next generation won’t be so reliant on social media but that’s probably wishful thinking.

    2.19.19 · Reply
  12. Julia said:

    I started feeling the same way about social media at the beginning of last year around the time I started therapy and challenged myself to not really use either of mine (Instagram and Facebook) to see how it affected me. While I found myself happier not using them, I ended up still looking at them a few times a month and when I did use them they still gave me lots of negative feelings and I had higher levels of anxiety. To really test the theory and improve my mental health I decided to delete both of my profiles last fall and have not looked back since! I ditto what another commenter said about reading more…my kindle now comes with me everywhere and I love it! The only part that still gets me is that many other people will not understand your choice and always question why you deleted them. But, the mental health benefits far outweigh the annoyance of answering those questions 🙂

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      WOW. You are living the dream, woman! So proud of you for making this decision and sticking to it.

      2.19.19 · Reply
  13. Libby said:

    I love your insight on this topic! I held off on making an IG account until about one year ago because of some of these things. I did end up really taking a liking to the platform when I finally made an account, but realized right away that you should take what you see at face value, if that makes sense. Even while keeping this in my mind, I still find myself comparing or feeling any one of the things you’ve listed!! But, the tips you gave are perfect! I am going to start shutting myself out of the app during the school day, and at night, so I can get some good uninterrupted studying in 🙂 thanks so much for this, Julia!!

    xx Libby
    https://premedwearspearls.blogspot.com

    2.19.19 · Reply
  14. Monica said:

    Love this post, such a good reminder to be grateful for the blessings we have in our lives! I particularly love that you gave concrete tools and tips to combat and reduce our FOMO and feelings of inadequacy. I will definitely be implementing a few in my life when it comes to social media.
    I also want to let you know I think you are a wonderful writer, I am always so impressed with your blog posts. Your more serious posts are always thoroughly researched, planned and well written! Kudos!!

    2.19.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Thank you so much, Monica. That means the world to me! And so happy you’ll be trying out some of these tips.

      2.19.19 · Reply
  15. Liz said:

    IG has been my ‘achilles heel’ for too long. Last year I tried to go cold turkey and that DID NOT work out. This year I took a different approach and decided that I was no longer allowed to tap the “Explore” button. Such a simple little thing has helped SO much and I feel compelled to share it here so that maybe someone else can leverage this trick to help their habit. I can still use IG but I only follow people I know (plus a few others) and I have yet to find myself in the black hole of endless scrolling and comparison. Hopefully one day I will feel secure enough to delete it entirely. Little by little!

    2.21.19 · Reply