Social media can be such a tricky beast. One minute you’re enjoying a dance video and the next you’re wondering how your internet friend keeps her house so clean. Does she have help? Why does her skin look so amazing? Her kids seem so well behaved. Her body is incredible. She looks so happy. I bet if I exercised more like her I’d be happier and probably yell at my kids less. Are they renovating again? I wish I had more money for that. How does she balance it all? Are they on vacation AGAIN? Her marriage seems so perfect. How can they go out so much? I wish I had friends like that. And the list goes on and on and on. These are just a handful of assumptions/comparisons my IG community said they make while scrolling social media.
Social Media’s role in the comparison game
I was reading a Time article about social media’s affects on mental health, and I posted this snippet on my Instagram stories:
#StatusOfMind report states. “These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude.”
I asked my community for their thoughts about this in relation to social media, and the responses were a mixed bag. One person said, “Yes I feel it! 100% happy with my life but then Instagram can make me feel like I don’t have X.” Meanwhile another said, “Only for an insecure person or young impressionable mind. I find it inspiring.” While others said, “It all depends on who you follow!” And while I can understand all these sentiments, I don’t think it’s disputable how much social media can mold the way we think if we aren’t careful. And as someone with a growing public platform, I often think about what role I’m playing in all of this.
A couple months ago I had a fireside chat with a friend. She asked me, “What’s the one thing you would want people to know if you closed your Instagram account tomorrow?” And as much as I’d like to think people already know this, it’s that my life online can often be the best version of myself (and my home). I don’t want people getting lost in the pretty pictures, or the smiling faces. Be very careful with the assumptions you make of those on social media, as their lives are likely messier than you realize. I read a quote last year that stuck with me and it’s this:
Meaning, what you see online is only a highlight of someone’s life that they’re showing you. Don’t compare it to the holistic view of yours. It’s likely wildly inaccurate, but also, incredibly unhealthy.
Instagram is not real life
In an effort to use myself as a prime example, I asked my community for some assumptions they’ve made of me. And while most of the assumptions were very kind, they couldn’t be farther from the truth. My life is a mess, and just as imperfect as anyone else’s. People wrote things like “always happy,” “good mom who never yells at her kids,” or “fairytale marriage.” Others went on to say, “house and life always in order.” I also received countless mentions of “never has anxiety” and “super chill and laid back,” and a couple, “doesn’t worry about money.” Oh man, this girl sounds perfect, who is she?
Just because my page is filled with curated pictures and videos, it doesn’t mean my house looks like that on any given day. I rarely make my bed, we almost always have dishes in the sink, and our kids have toys and crap all over the house. And just because I go online smiling, it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with depression and anxiety off camera. I may appear chill and laid back, but I scream at my kids when they’re not listening just like any other parent. My marriage isn’t perfect, and neither is my life. And while I can’t speak for everyone on the internet, I can speak with the utmost confidence when I say, you rarely ever have the full picture of someone you see online. So be easy on yourself, the image you’re comparing yourself to does not exist.
One of my favorite quotes, that I’m sure you’ve already seen is:
Hits you like a ton of bricks, but is always worth repeating. It’s exhausting, it’s unnecessary, and in the case of social media, it’s not even reality.
Follow who sparks you joy
Call me naive, but for the most part, I think we’re all out here just trying to do our best. Most of the people I follow on Instagram are well-intentioned humans who show up to provide quality content on the internet. They don’t owe me, or anyone else, any part of their life they don’t want to share. And just like their ability to set boundaries, you too should control your online experience. I’ve made a conscious effort the past few months of unfollowing (or muting) accounts that no longer serve me, and following more accounts that truly spark me joy, and I encourage you to do the same. However, I hope this post serves as a reminder that no matter who you follow, even your favorite accounts, you’re only seeing a small snippet of someone’s life–likely the best part.
Love you, mean it.
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