Social Comparison Theory: How Our Social Media Habits Make Us Unhappy

We all compare ourselves to others. And if you say you don't, you're a liar.

Why do we do this? Why do we constantly pit ourselves against other people who aren’t us?

According to the social comparison theory, we determine our personal self-worth based on how we compare to others around us.

Sure, there is no harm in looking across the room and comparing your outfit to another person’s. But, when we add social media into the mix with the social comparison theory, we ultimately set ourselves up for failure.

We have become so dependent on social media for our entertainment and as a doorway into others' lives that we ignore the impact it actually has on our own lives.

Being Millennials and growing up in the Internet age, social media is as natural to us as breathing or drinking water. Often, our bodies and brains just can’t function without it.

They say ignorance is bliss, but is it really?

We have become so focused and so obsessed with creating the perfect digital versions of ourselves that we forget to nurture ourselves in the real, three-dimensional world.

So, what happens to our neglected selves?

Smiling Depression

Smiling depression means we appear to be happy, smiling and positive, but in reality, we’re miserable.

We try so hard to be seen as idealized versions of ourselves, and the pressure eats us alive.

With social media, people are able to focus on key aspects of their lives, highlighting the positive and putting a curtain over anything and everything they want to hide.

We’re so busy continuously scrolling — curious about what we’re missing out on and what everyone else is doing or looking like — that we neglect ourselves.

What does this have to do with the social comparison theory? Steve Furtick explains:

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

We don't stand a chance. Who stands a chance against someone who is almost perfect? And isn't that what everyone is basically doing online? Creating the perfect versions of themselves?

If it weren't, Instagram would have never given us 20 different filters to choose from. Don’t believe me?

Negative Results Of Social Media

Science Direct conducted an experiment using women and Facebook as its control.

Female participants spent 10 minutes browsing their Facebook accounts, a magazine website and an appearance-neutral control website before they reported the measures of their moods, body dissatisfaction and appearance discrepancies.

More plainly, the scientists measured women’s moods after browsing social media sites to see how happy or unhappy they were about themselves.

The results?

The scientists found Facebook usage can put women in a more negative mood where they make more appearance comparisons, giving them a greater desire to change their faces, hair and skin.

How can we escape this rollercoaster of self-loathing?

First, we need to remember the age-old saying my mother loves to tell me whenever I complain about people in my life: “They’re not you.”

No one is you, and no one will ever be you. You are you, and you will never be anyone else.

The more you compare yourself to others, especially via social media, the more negative headspace you create for yourself.

And while we won't log off our several social media sites forever, there are healthier ways to go about using them.

Instead of comparing ourselves via competition, we should try to learn from others and their accomplishments.

If we’re going to use social media sites, why not use them in a positive way rather than in a negative way?

Psychotherapist Daniela Tempesta states, “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.”

So, instead of logging off our accounts, the best way to counteract this epidemic is to change the way we approach it.

If it is impossible for us to avoid the social comparison theory, it’s time we focus on being the best versions of ourselves rather than the best version of someone else.