Our world in 2020 looks different than it did in any other point in history. Classes have gone virtual, work meetings are all video conferences, and a majority of our social interactions are on social media. It’s easy to get insecure when seeing other people’s social media posts, because you might be comparing your reality to someone else’s highlight reel. Studies have shown that social media can cause lowered mood and insecurities in young women. Science Direct’s study asked female university students to spend 10 minutes browsing Facebook and compared their reported measures of mood and body dissatisfaction to after viewing a neutral website, like an arts and crafts website, for 10 minutes. After viewing Facebook, they were in a more negative mood and made appearance comparisons, saying that they had a stronger desire to change their faces, hair and skin. A lot of people can identify with this effect of social media because it’s natural to compare ourselves to other people. However, problems arise when the comparison is begins every time you open your Instagram. Celebrities, bloggers, and even your friends portray themselves online in a positive light, and rarely show the problems in their lives. This might make you feel insecure and try harder to create a perfect digital version of yourself, when what will make you feel confident is nurturing the real you in the three-dimensional world.
1. Take a Reality Check
Use your own experiences to put another person’s great moments into perspective. Sure, she went on an amazing vacation to the Caribbean. But do you remember what happened on your last vacation? It wasn’t all sunsets over the ocean and margaritas. I bet you can remember the stress of booking and packing, the crowded airport, the baby crying the whole flight, or the pain of mosquito bites and a bad sunburn. She probably experienced a lot of these struggles, but she didn’t post a picture of her mosquito bites because that wouldn’t have gotten as many likes as her bikini picture in front of the sunset.
This reality check can apply to all sorts of different posts, like if someone posts a picture with their new baby, it’s easy to feel a little envious but not think of the stress of taking time off work, late night diaper changes and crying, and the financial cost that come with having a child. If you see a post of a girl with a great body at the gym, think about all the hard work that she put into working out, the junk food she had to give up, and the money paid to personal trainers and dieticians. Additionally, it was probably posed to show only her best angles, or even edited it to change things she’s insecure about.
It’s important to remember that what you see on instagram is the tip of the iceberg, it’s one moment in that person’s week or day that they chose to display. Their life isn’t only composed of liking what they see in the mirror, going on vacation, and having great relationships. They probably worked hard for all of that, and might not even be as happy as you think. After considering all that goes behind an Instagram post you might not even be jealous anymore, but if you are, keep reading.
2. Use social media as inspiration and not as an indication of your self-worth.
It might seem like there is not value in feeling jealous, however because envy is such a strong feeling, it can be used as a force for change in your own life. When you use the feeling as a compass for what you really want in life, it can inspire you to make changes in your own life. If someone posts about a new job that you want, try and ask your boss for different assignments or think about preparing for a career change that would be more fulfilling. If it’s a picture of a girl with a fit body, use it as inspiration to hit the gym more often or eat healthier. If seeing a cute couple post makes you wish that you weren’t single, consider getting on a dating app or putting yourself out there with someone you’re crushing on in real life. Often the reason we feel a lingering jealousy after seeing an instagram post is that we already wanted that career, body, or vacation before, and the post just reminded us of it. Don’t let this reminder put you in a bad mood, instead use these images as inspiration to keep working towards the goals you already had.
You can also purposely seek out and follow accounts that show the behind the scenes of their accomplishments, like a fitness influencer that spends time talking about her insecurities, or an entrepreneur starting a business that shows the whole process, including the struggles. Accounts like these will allow you to get inspired by their successes but not get caught up in thinking that it came easy to them.
3. Unfollow or mute liberally.
If the posts that make you envious have things that are relatively unattainable to you (we see you, private jets), consider muting or unfollowing the person that posted it. Often we follow influencers because we like the fantasy life that they show off, but don’t realize that seeing their luxurious lifestyles is bringing our moods down long term.
Alternatively, ask yourself whether you’re in too vulnerable of a state to use the posts as inspiration. For example if you’re struggling through a break-up or struggling to have a child, seeing posts of happy couples or new moms might make you feel worse than before, and reframing it might not be enough. When struggling with something difficult, you may need time to make peace with it before you are able to be genuinely happy for others. Muting is great if the person posting these unattainable things is a friend and you don’t want to unfollow. They won’t know that you muted them but their posts won’t come up in your feed, allowing you to scroll instagram without seeing images of things that just make you feel worse.
4. Practice Gratitude.
Being grateful is not about ignoring what you desire, but about focusing on the things that we already have that make us happy and have value in our life. It’s harder to be jealous of a friend’s blessings if you’re already counting your own. If your friend posts about a romantic gesture that her significant other did for their anniversary, think about how supportive your significant other is to you, or about how you appreciate the extra time you have to focus on yourself because you’re single.
5. Reduce your time on social media.
We’ve all been there when you open Instagram or Facebook with the intention of responding to a notification and end up scrolling for an hour. The more time that you spend on social media, the more time that you could end up comparing yourself to others unfairly. Therefore, it’s helpful to go on social media when you know that there will be a set end time. For example, you could open Instagram when you’re waiting for someone to show up to happy hour or if you happened to get to work early. At home, set a 10 or 15 minute timer when you start going on social media and when it goes off, put your phone away.
6. Find other forms of entertainment.
If you start spending less time on social media, you’ll find that you’ll have a lot more time on your hands. This is a great opportunity to fill your time with activities that you care about, like working out, reading, journaling, or meditating. These activities will make you feel better about yourself after doing them and this confidence will help protect you from the comparison-mindset next time you’re scrolling Instagram.
Comparing yourself to others, especially online, can put you in a negative headspace that is hard to get out of, but logging out of social media forever also comes with problems like not being able to interact with friends online, and feeling disconnected from your social world. Therefore, the best way to interact with social media is to use it occasionally for inspiration and socializing, but keep in mind that these are other people’s best moments, not their daily lives.