I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Instagram has simultaneously kept me in touch with cousins who live across the country and friends whom I otherwise may have never seen again, while also managing to deliver me the worst self esteem and self confidence I have ever experienced in my life. Snapchat helped me make the transition from a nerd in the corner with a book to a mildly social and modern American teen albeit still nerdy while also giving me way too much information about people’s lives and teaching me exactly why I don’t want to be a social and modern American teen.
You gotta love the 21st century.
Social media gave me one final thing that I absolutely did not need: comparison. When you open any social media app, you see perfectly smiling, edited, acne-less faces with beautiful friends or in beautiful settings. If you check Instagram/Facebook/snapchat accounts at night or by yourself on the couch as I do typically, you kind of start to despise those people as you scroll through their themed and excellently manicured feeds. You strongly dislike them, but at the same time they have the kind of power over you that no one needs to have in anybody else’s hands: the power of comparison. If you are as sensitive as I am, I can predict what thoughts go through your head: they are so pretty, their group of friends is so cute, how is she so photogenic, I can’t believe she goes on these amazing vacations all the time, they are smart and talented and beautiful all at the same time, why is their life so amazing, and finally here’s the real killer, why am I not more like them.
Why am I not more like them? It’s quite bluntly one of the worst questions you could ask yourself. Society always blabs at us “be unique”, “be different”, “be special”, but somehow we all seem to want the same things: to be attractive, seen as successful, surrounded by people we care about, and loved. And society tells us there are only a few ways to go about doing that. So we all try to reach for ultimately the same things and we love to share our success stories with the world. But our failures? They stay in that one drawer of clothes you never wear and never show to the world.
We’ve been told this thousands of times, so I’m just going to gloss over it, but comparing yourself to all of your friends success stories on social media is only going to make you feel worse about yourself. I’m perhaps one of the biggest hypocrites in the world because I am one of the worst “comparers” I know. It’s almost sickeningly addicting, looking at the perfected images of all the people in my life and the successes they have had or are currently living.
I have known for a long time that social media and comparing myself to the people I follow is ultimately bad for me. But I learned another lesson today (the hard way of course... how else are the best lessons learned?) that while it’s never healthy to compare, understanding the way other people live is important because it gives us perspective. I led a retreat today and had the opportunity to speak with a young middle school girl. For her own privacy, I won’t share the specific troubles she is facing, but I will say they are far beyond the kind of suffering any child should face at the age of 12.
This experience helped me to realize that we cannot completely ignore the rest of the world in attempts to prevent comparing ourselves to others because how else do we gain the understanding and perspective which broadens the way in which we are able to view the world? And yet, in this quest of understanding and being enlightened of the human condition, how do we ensure that we don’t lose ourselves along the way due to the insecurities of comparisons? It’s a question I quite honestly can’t answer, so I’ll leave it to your own musings... :)