When you feel like a certain aspect of yourself is not good enough, it is difficult to dislodge that insecurity from your headspace. It’s not just limited to the physical flaws, but also includes whatever you are struggling with socially, academically, or financially. Seeing other people who seem to have it all figured out, who are perfect in the exact places that you don’t measure up, tempts to heighten our self-doubts and even promotes envy — why can’t I have that, or be that?
Comparing yourself to other people has become synonymous with the use of social media. It’s nothing new: these online platforms are just a high-tech version of the last-century “Keeping up with the Joneses” obsession, the idea that in your suburban neighbourhood you needed the neatest lawn or the biggest car. If your neighbours bought the new flat-inch TV—even if it put them in debt—then by golly, you needed one for each living room. Nothing has really changed. In fact, it has now become easier to get trapped in this cycle of pride and despair.
People can share things more publicly and instantly, which means that you get constant access to how they’re living their life (which can seem to be quite an improvement from yours). However, they’re also able to painstakingly assemble their images from behind their iPhone screens. What they choose to single out is their life, sure, and those moments are fantastic ones. But these snapshots also paint an incomplete picture. A chain of pieced-together highlights. It is much harder—and braver—to publicise setbacks.
People are not going to “check in” about having a dramatic, upsetting fight with a friend. Their Facebook profile picture took 150 takes to get right, and the 3am dark circles are edited out. They will only post that delicious, frighteningly nutritious low-carb breakfast because today is a special occasion that calls for more than the usual Up & Go. Sure, they were browsing Karen Walker dresses, but they didn’t actually buy them. They didn’t respond to your Snapchat because their face was just not on point. If you take everything your peers portray at face value, you only damage yourself. Nobody lives the charmed life: everyone just wants to.
This is not saying that people who only share their best moments are doing something wrong — most people are inclined to show the better side of their life. But it is easy to forget that when your week is going terribly and someone’s immaculate holiday pictures are visually assaulting you when you log in. Moreover, you are not reduced by comparison when someone publicises their success or happiness. Success is not a finite pool of resources reserved for only a few people; you are not out of luck if they got into the team, and you didn’t. So remind yourself to be happy for them, because they’ve worked for it! At the same time, count your own blessings and remember: social media personas are barely skin deep, and you are far too three-dimensional and interesting to pit yourself against them.
Written by Saffron Huang
Edited by Wendy Lee