We’ve all had it happen to us: you’re scrolling through your social media of choice, and you see someone from your circle posing in a stunning location, enjoying a night out with friends, celebrating a milestone or the purchase of a new car, or just about any other aspirational event that commonly gets posted online. You feel that surge of envy and unhappiness. You want what they have, but for one reason or another, you either don’t or can’t have it.
This experience is a common one, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s normal or healthy. Social comparison has existed for as long as society has, but social media sites have driven the phenomenon to a new extreme and have highlighted the effects that it can have on a person’s mental health, especially in the large doses that social media encourages. Many studies like this one on self esteem have been conducted to examine the link, and they all tend to turn up similar findings that report social media and the social comparison that comes from it as a potential cause for a lot of mental health issues. Here are a few of them.
Low Self Esteem
Sometimes, nothing makes you feel worse about yourself than seeing another person’s successes up close and personal. Whether it’s a friend on a vacation that you can’t afford, a picture of a party that you weren’t invited to, or someone showing off a talent that you don’t feel you could ever master, social media can often be a stark reminder of the have-nots in your life, drawing your attention to negative feelings and regrets. These ruminations can often do damage to your self-image overall.
We’ve all experienced the presence of that little green monster, jealousy, and social comparison can take it to an extreme. Rather than feeling bad about yourself because of what another person is able to have or do, you start feeling bad about them, which can often lead to unhealthy effects like resentment for your friends and loved ones.
Unhealthy Social Support
Many people these days find themselves turning to their online circles of friends to receive social support. This support is something that we all need, but the kind that you’ll receive online is often fragile, and is more about competition than genuinely feeling good about yourself and others. While it may make you feel good initially to see those likes and comments rolling in, the high is often short-lived, and when it comes down to it, seeking support on social media is often more about competition than genuine connection– you’re trying to make yourself feel better by creating something that other people will feel bad about.
Studies have shown that there are strong correlations between social media comparison and depression. This mental disorder has the capacity to throw your life completely off the rails, and the sour mood that can arise from too much time spent scrolling is a trigger for many people.
While none of this means that social media in and of itself is a negative force, it is one that can lead to some negative effects on your mental health, so it’s worth using it consciously and carefully, and putting effort into improving your wellbeing in other ways. Here’s how!
Manage Social Media Use
Know thyself. Pay attention to what your mood and mental state is like after a long period of social media usage. If you tend to feel worse, that’s a sign that you should be using it sparingly! Try designating a specific time where you use social media, and getting off of it immediately when that time is up. You can also work on purging your feed of accounts that make you unhappy when you encounter their content.
Seek Out Supportive Friends Off the Internet
The performative aspect of social media can be a part of what makes it a difficult space to navigate, so instead, seek out your social support from friends and loved ones without using social media as your vehicle. Text them, call them, or meet up in person to chat and exchange words of encouragement. You might end up feeling a lot better!
Negative social comparison can make you feel bitter about the things you don’t have, so to counteract this, make time in your life to be grateful for the things you do! Whether it’s gratitude journals or just a simple daily exercise, enjoying the positive things in your life can do wonders for your mental health.
If you’re interested in learning more about ways to improve your mental health, make sure you continue reading our blog here!