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Social Media and Mental Health

“Comparison is the thief of joy” -Theodore Roosevelt According to the Social Comparison Theory, we as individuals determine our personal and social self-worth by stacking up or comparing to others, often people use this comparison to build their self-image along with self-belief, and motivation. Psychologist Leon Festinger developed the Social Comparison Theory in 1954, before the creation of the internet and subsequently Social Media. Since the development of the internet and Social media, the opportunity to compare your life to others has grown astronomically now that we have access to see the daily lives of millions of people all over the world in the palm of our hand. We are constantly comparing ourselves with one another. The comparison of yourself to another person is essentially inevitable, whether or not it is as small as comparing the shoes on your feet or as big as the house you're living in we are comparing ourselves to each other. With social media being such a huge part of the daily lives of millions of people throughout the world, finding ways to protect yourself from feeling inadequate or down is very important. The first protective step you can take is to know the type of posts or the people who make you feel inadequate. It might not be the celebrity with a million followers, it could be a former teammate or a co-worker who is similar to us that hits you hardest. Now that you know your trigger points as you scroll through social media, you can now move toward how you deal with the thoughts and emotions that arise after you compare yourself to someone or something in your feed. After you experience a trigger or attachment to a particular thought, stop and be mindful of how you react mentally and physically. This will help you see your conditioned responses in these situations and begin to help you see where else in your day you are experiencing these feelings. Don't be afraid to give yourself a reality check! The small part of people's lives you see on social media most likely does not reflect their lives exactly. Giving yourself a reality check will also help you feel more at ease or comfort with how your life is compared to someone else's. Take a look at your own posts, do they honestly reflect your life perfectly? We look at social media to see what is going on in the world, how people are living, and what they are doing. One of the most important things we need to keep in mind while doing this is staying focused on what is good in your life. Focusing on the negative or what you don't have will always leave you feeling inadequate or down. The most important thing for you to worry about is your life and that starts with you, not someone on social media that has 10,000 more followers than you. Using the envy or jealousy you feel as motivation will help to push you toward your goals. This will make you feel that your life is adequate, and also help you brush off those negative feelings you get when you compare yourself to someone else.

Stephen Duff


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