Issue 9 Mental Health Social Media

The Thief of Joy is Comparison

I woke up one Saturday morning having not set an alarm and saw that it was 11am. A rare lie in for our household. I instinctively reached for my phone, saw the ream of notifications that had accumulated overnight, and robotically began dealing with them. A couple of emails, texts, and Facebook messages later, I found myself scrolling mindlessly through Instagram.

I immediately felt like my morning in bed had been a morning wasted…

Stacey Solomon had done three ‘taps-to-tidy’, (Sorry Stace, we actually love you!) Kourtney Kardashian had blitzed up a green smoothie and was pictured sitting on her squeaky clean kitchen counter talking about detox life and Louise Thompson from MIC had already completed a core body workout with her bodybuilder partner. 

But rather than key me up and make me feel like I needed to jump out of bed and instantly flip the switch on the blender, or pull on a gym set, it did quite the opposite. I slumped further into my duvet and let out a long sigh. 

“Social media propels a comparison culture where we measure our success, self-worth, and happiness through likes, emojis, and comments. We measure, liken, contrast, and mould our entire lives around comparison.”

– Leaders in Heels

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that social media is a small window into someone’s life. And that not every post on your feed is to be taken entirely seriously. For one, a lot of celebs have content planned and scheduled, so the video you’re watching may have happened last month rather than that morning.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to the bright white smiles of peoples whose job it is, is to sell you the clothes they’re wearing in a post, buy the products they are using in a post and selling you a story about their glamourous lifestyle to keep you following and liking their content.

“What we all know but tend to forget is the majority of the pictures we see have been tweaked. All filters aside, it’s amazing what good lighting, good posture, and some contouring can do. After just minutes, you can transform how people perceive your body image. Add a good filter to your picture, and you could be on the next cover of Sports Illustrated!”

– Coachpact.com

It’s also difficult to remember that most celebrities have personal trainers to get them up and motivated day to day, nannies to watch the kids whilst they make tik-toks, and they have hair and makeup artists on hand to transform them from bedraggled just-out-of-bed to woke-up-like-this glam.

Okay, so it’s hard not to be jealous or sometimes judgemental of the seemingly perfect lives on social media. But sometimes it’s important to remember that the thief of joy is comparison. Because I may not have gone for a run, had a smoothie bowl and put on my face that morning but I had slept really well, woken up feeling a lot more refreshed and enjoyed a snuggle with my husband and our gorgeous cat Scamp. 

“A study in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking journal found that Facebook use can be associated with lower self-esteem, poorer mental health, and greater body shame.”

Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social New

Reflecting on that, I realise that I might not have the chiseled abs of Beyonce, and I may never feel as comfortable in a bikini as the cast of Love Island are, but I have achieved many things I am proud of and I am happy with the life I live.

We all post the very best moments of our lives on social media. It’s very rare for someone to post something more candid or showing the less than perfect moments in their lives. Which is why scrolling through your feed should most definitely be done with a pinch of salt.

That’s not to say that I’m not going to continue liking curated content from my favourite celebrities, or putting fire emojis under my besties selfies (I mean, she slays!) but it does mean that I am going to be more ‘awake’ to the realities of social media and stop letting it make me feel like I’m not achieving enough.

Last month I did an unfollow session on my Instagram account. I’d seen a post by Jameela Jamil’s iWeigh account about unfollowing the accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. And actually, it was incredibly helpful for my future social media experience. 

Now, instead of juice cleanses, posts preaching about the next fad diet or z listers trying to flog their ‘promo codes’ for merch I don’t even want, I wake up to positive news about what women are achieving in STEM, I see posts from anti-diet culture accounts spreading motivational and body-positive messages, I see women that look more like me… people I relate to, that I see myself in and that inspire me every single day. I follow celebrities that are keeping it SO real. (I’m looking at you Ashley Graham and Chrissy Teigan!)

You should be in control of the type of content you’re exposed to on a daily basis, and you have the right to a good experience whilst scrolling through your social media accounts. No social media content should leave you feeling down about yourself, if they do, it’s time to hit the unfollow button!

“The art of what makes life awesome and interesting is learning from the talents of others. Instead of trying to be as good as or better than others, focus your energy on being the very best version of yourself.”

– Elite Daily

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t upload mirror selfies or dinner pics. I’m known to post a selfie or two, especially once a Boohoo order has arrived! It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to share your achievements on your feed or share insight into your personal life. But it’s just so important to forget comparing yourself to others and to do you. After all, there is only one you.

On the flip side, you should accept that someone may not want your updates on their feed for this very reason. You shouldn’t take it as a personal insult. Your feed should be a happy and positive place to spend time and you should pick and choose what accounts flood your feed in order to achieve this.

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