Last week I had an epiphany; one of those rare moments of clarity where everything starts to make sense.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media. It’s been a long and gruelling partnership of trying to fit in, inadequacy and fake friends. On the flip side, I’ve also met some incredible people over the years and social media is a fantastic way of keeping in touch when friends live in different parts of the world.
Recently, however, I’ve noticed a correlation between feeling low and an increase in my use of social media. The more I found myself endlessly scrolling through my Facebook news feed or Instagram stories, the more I realised I was starting to feel lonelier and less competent among my social circle.
As a 24-year old, I’m at a relative cross-roads in my life. On the one hand, I have friends getting incredible promotions, getting engaged and buying their first properties. On the other hand, there’s those like me who’ve stuck with education a little longer, or have decided to go travelling or are simply living in the moment. Consequently, choosing this path always makes you feel a little behind.
My current problem with social media is that its supposed aim is to bring people together and cultivate friendships; all I’ve found, however, is that it stands to encourage social comparison. My feelings of inadequacy stem from constantly viewing others at different stages in their lives. As social media users, we are encouraged to cherish likes, comments and shares. The more likes a post receives, the more validated you’re supposed to feel. Equally the more friends you have, the more successful you’re perceived to be. Quite frankly, I’m done with presenting my life online for others to compare themselves to, and vice versa.
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”Steve Furtick
Last week I decided to delete my Facebook profile.
With wild abandon, I pressed that glorious ‘delete’ button and didn’t look back… for an hour. The virtual freedom is indescribable.
However, as much as it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re trying to cut those ties, you do need social media if you want to keep up with friends, particularly those who don’t live close by.
After careful consideration, I reconstructed a new profile, only after hours of research and reflection. I’ve decided to follow a set of loose guidelines to make the most of my time (listed below) I found them on a great article by Tiny Buddha: Why We Compare Ourselves to Others on Social Media and How to Stop.
They’ve helped me more than I first realised.
After almost a week of freedom from my noisy newsfeed, toxic connections and embarrassing memories, I feel lighter. Like a weight of expectation has been lifted from my shoulders.
A new profile is like a clean slate. In a world where we need to be more mindful about our information and data, it gives us the opportunity to make better choices online, too.
Life is too short to compare ourselves to others. Use social media as the tool that it is and nothing more. Your mental health is more important than keeping up appearances online. Take care of yourselves.
1. Reduce time on social media.
This can be a challenge since we live in a culture that puts such a high value on social media outlets. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Allow yourself five to ten minutes a day to check your social media accounts and then be done with it. Especially avoid looking at profiles of people who trigger thoughts of comparison. You have nothing to gain in doing so besides anxiety and sadness.
2. Redirect focus on the things that really matter.
When you direct your attention toward the real world, you have less time and energy to direct toward meaningless activities such as social comparisons.
Focus on a high-energy workout at the gym or finishing a book you’ve been putting off. Immerse yourself in activities that leave you feeling better for having engaged in them (versus Facebook stalking, which leaves you wishing you hadn’t).
Make a list of activities and then schedule them onto a calendar. Since we often spend time on social media when we have little else going on, having scheduled plans will reduce the time we are sitting idle.
3. Assess where those negative comparisons are stemming from.
As unpleasant as these comparisons can feel, they can serve a positive purpose in that they inform us of an area of our lives that may benefit from some improvement. The incident served as a reminder that I want to be secure enough in who I am and where I am in life that I don’t feel the need to measure it in comparison to anyone else (least of all, a stranger).
After my strong reaction to a stranger’s Facebook profile, I decided to work on developing a stronger sense of confidence and self-worth. I’ve done this in a number of different ways such as:
- Putting a higher value on my relationships. I have amazing friends and family, but I admit that I often take them for granted. I’ve tried to become more present in my interactions with them, as well as in encounters with complete strangers.
- Valuing my time more. In the past, I’ve been much more cognizant and respectful of others’ time than my own. I’m practicing putting my needs first and learning to accept that it is okay to do.
- Doing more of what I love. Sounds simple, but I’ve really made an effort to go on quiet walks with my dog more or allow myself an hour to read a book. Doing things simply because I like to do them has given me an increasing amount of self-value.
- Eating well and moving. I make sure to put my body in motion for at least thirty minutes a day (even if it’s just walking the dog). Putting a higher value on my body by eating clean and getting exercise has naturally given me a higher sense of self worth.