I can hardly remember what life was like before. How did we keep in touch with people? How did we keep track of birthdays? How did we keep up with fashion trends? How did we learn about flash sales or participate in prize giveaways? How did we find new recipes or plan parties? Seriously, what was it like before social media???
I remember when Facebook began. I was in college when Facebook was only for college students. And then Facebook started adding the option to upload photo albums and we promptly began uploading 492793874238 pictures to highlight our latest shenanigans (Yeah, bad idea). Then before we knew it Facebook rocked our world and let high schoolers, parents and employers start profiles. Massive photo purges ensued, privacy settings were examined and we started to realize the true implications of social media. It was a game changer! And now as an adult, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’m not sure what I’d do without it.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are part of my daily life. I spend time on at least one of these social media platforms every day. I rarely spend long amounts of time on social media but I find that I mindlessly open the apps and peruse without even thinking about it. I also use social media intentionally to file recipes and connect with friends. What blows my mind is when I sit back and think about the influence this steady stream has on my mentality, my expectations, and my attitude. It’s something I’m trying to be conscious about and I could ramble about it all day. I find social media’s influence to be fascinatingly unfathomable!
Influence is defined as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something. There is no denying that social media has influence on today’s society. I’m not an expert by any means but I think we can all agree that there are positive influences as well as negative influences related to social media use. What bothers me the most is our tendency to use social media as a comparison tool.
Do you guys know what I’m talking about? At some online stores you can select 3-4 similar products and it will display them side-by-side with a handy chart to compare all of their features. It’s awesome! In one swoop you can clearly see the differences between each item and examine the qualities they each may be individually lacking. It dawned on me the other day that this is sometimes how my mind functions when scrolling through the endless stream of social media. It’s feeding our natural tendency to compare ourselves to others but it’s not a natural setting so the results are all wrong and the effect is messy.
You didn’t sign up for Facebook thinking “I want to prove to everyone else that my life is better than theirs” and I bet you didn’t start a Pinterest board thinking “I want to be jealous of the things strangers have/do/create more often”. I sure hope not.
It seems like social media is becoming a battlefield of subconscious comparisons and consistent one-upmanship. It hits the hardest on our soft spots. The things we worry about, the things we care about, the things we fear. If you let your mind wander too much social media can turn into a dangerous place where comparisons run wild, self confidence is shaken and unrealistic expectations are created. We have to stop ourselves from scrolling through the feed and mentally making comparisons: She has stronger abs, a stronger marriage. A bigger house, a smaller pant size. She can run a 5k, or a successful business. They have prettier landscaping, or a prettier wardrobe. They take more exciting vacations and earn more impressive degrees. Her child has hit more milestones, or won more trophies. The list is endless and it’s a slippery slope.
Like I said before, I’m not an expert. Most days I love social media for the connections it fosters and the memories it allows me to share with friends and family. But there are also moments when I play the comparison game and have to remind myself of this powerful quote from a time well before social media influences:
Well said, Theodore Roosevelt. That one sentence sums it all up. I’ve made the decision that if I find myself making comparisons on Facebook or yearning for something that I realistically will never have on Pinterest, then I log out immediately and instead scroll through a few of the latest pictures of my own family. That’s where the true joy is felt and nothing can compare.
What are your thoughts on the influence of social media? What do you do to avoid the tendency to make comparisons?