I’ve seen several studies lately that suggest a connection between high social media use and low self-esteem. It seems the more we engage in social comparison, the worse we may feel about ourselves.
I hate to admit that I’ve fallen into this trap myself. When you’re an academic, and most of your social media contacts are academics too, you can find yourself scrolling through a long list of posts about publications, awards, and honors that others have achieved – and that you have not. Sometimes it’s discouraging.
On the personal side, there are always dozens of posts about engagements, marriages, anniversaries, children, spouses, vacations … an exhausting litany of love and excitement that can make one’s own life seem rather dull in comparison.
When social comparison becomes discouraging, I remind myself: the life we see on social media is not real life, it’s the greatest hits reel. Most of us don’t share our failures, or the mundane aspects of life. That new mom will show the adorable photos of the new baby, but may not write about the sleep deprivation and feeding struggles. That former coworker may post photos of the tropical vacation, but hide the fact that it was an attempt to save a failing marriage, and they went broke paying for it.
And there are many aspects of my life that others would envy.
Healthy social comparison can be useful, but if our self-esteem is taking a hit, we’ve probably taken it too far. That’s when I remind myself to keep it in perspective – remember that others are showing their “greatest hits reel” – and if I stay in my lane and do what I do best, I feel great about myself.
Create your own “greatest hits reel,” and play it in your mind until it makes you smile.
Today’s coffee mug (thanks Heather and Jon for sending it!):