“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:
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.