Years ago, my friend posted pictures from a romantic tropical beach getaway with her boyfriend. It looked like pure perfection. I excitedly scanned through all the pictures she posted. They were tan, lovely, and enjoying the relaxation I desperately craved; my son was a baby at the time.
A few months later I found out they had broken up just after the trip. She said the vacation was awful; they didn’t get along at all, the hotel was terrible, and they came home early.
She wasn’t trying to deceive on purpose with her pics; I’m certain. She probably needed a way to feel better about her situation. And yet I also remember looking at where I was and thinking, “damn” I want to be on that beach feeling tan and lovely. But instead, I’m dealing with diapers and middle-of-the-night wakeups. Sigh.
It wasn’t a major moment, and I was happy for her. But we see hundreds of posts a day. Hundreds of opportunities to compare the inside of our lives to the curated outsides of others’ and feel like we aren’t matching up.
And yet it is human nature to want to know where we stand; how we’re doing; how we match up. Social media therefore provides both the perfect opportunity, and based on the story above, the absolute worst place to look for comparison.
No one is sharing pics of their 24/7 life. It’s not kids having a bad day at school, or a middle-of-the-night panic attack questioning the meaning of their life, or the time you got toilet paper stuck to your shoe.
It’s filters, angles, staged moments.
So what can you do?
It’s unrealistic to think anyone is going to be dumping their smart phones, and yet above all we need to detach from social media and the comparison opportunities it provides.
Scrolling through your social media feed may seem like a benign way to pass the time, but again per the above…not so much.
Seeing posts like my friend’s gives little hit of excitement—I can imagine myself there, I can be like that—and then there is the mini-crash that comes with realizing it’s not actually happening.
This is why social media is so addictive. Users feel the setback and then look to get a boost as they search for the next exciting post.
It’s giant feedback loop: Excitement leading to disappointment, which instigates searching for more excitement. And then it’s a rinse and repeat cycle from which one must mindfully break away.
Here are 3 things you can do to make that break.
1. Take the apps off your phone. You can always reinstall them, but not having instant access gives you time for you to make better decision with your time. If that feels too drastic, try taking at least one off; preferably the one that you frequent most.
2. Find a great book, podcast or audiobook to engage you at those times you would otherwise be doom-scrolling your social feeds.
3. If there are people who make you feel particularly triggered, take them out of your feed or mute their profiles. If it doesn’t serve you, why are you engaging?
Ultimately, social media can be a wonderful way to stay connected to people, learn about what’s going on with your friends, family, and the world.
Just be sure you’re not letting it create standards and messages that don’t serve you.