Getting to the bottom of our comparison issue starts with being honest about ourselves.
“Distracted from distraction by distraction.”
— T.S. Eliot
Every now and then we ponder on where we want to be in life. We mark down our goals and prepare to embark on a new challenge that stretches us. Eventually, we end up looking at where we are right now.
There’s nothing wrong with self-evaluation. But what if where you want to be isn’t necessarily where you need to be?
What if those desires were simulated in your mind because of the constant consumption of other statuses and other pictures online?
There comes a point where we have to start evaluating the way we evaluate ourselves. It can and should be an eye-opening experience for everyone.
Connecting to Disconnect
For the past two years, I was caught in a steep trench of following “the line.” This line consisted of people who were earnestly trying to be successful in life, trying to make a name for themselves and build a solid reputation.
What I didn’t realize, though, was that these individuals were pursuing what they wanted merely because of something they saw. They had defined success by what their eyes came in contact with.
Then I thought, Hey, I’m one of them.
I wanted the big bank account, the fancy car, and the best clothes. Because that’s what I thought success looked like. But the more I lived, the less those things mattered to me.
The reason they mattered so much? I was constantly consuming the popular idea of success, not the real meaning of it.
In reality, I had no business following a trail that ultimately made life miserable for me. There was no joy in it from that vantage point. Even now, I’m glad I shifted perspectives for the sake of a better reality.
Social platforms make it so much easier to compare yourself with other people. In one split second, you’re witnessing the glamor of someone else’s story, wondering why you aren’t in their shoes.
Then, the people around us aren’t as “cool” as those flaunting their fame to the rest of the world. That selfie is never good enough because of imperfections (which all humans have, by the way).
All of a sudden, the beauty once precious and obvious to us becomes obscured behind the lines of a social construct made to connect but is instead used to perpetuate the comparison syndrome.
Instead of being themselves, people aim to mimic another, a more apathetic individual with virtually no care for them. Likes and retweets become the standard of validation.
No longer focused on authenticity, there are more clones than ever before. And it’s creating a disconnect from ourselves and others.
With all of these points in mind, you can start to see why so many are depressed. In their minds, they just don’t measure up to someone else’s standards.
They aren’t pretty enough. They aren’t smart enough. They aren’t rich enough. They aren’t them enough.
Let’s face it, we all want to feel loved. The desire to be valued is there. But the source for approval and love is misconstrued behind a virtual veil.
Without a large number of double-taps, there remains this emptiness dwelling within, longing to be filled.
Genuine, face-to-face connectivity is undervalued.
Even when people get together, phones and screens are seemingly more important. A notification of approval holds more weight than a meaningful conversation more often than we’d like to admit.
And rather than speaking to a close friend or relative about concerns and worries, people are more inclined to send a tweet, go picture-surfing on Instagram, or scroll down their Facebook timeline.
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. Social media is not perpetuating these kinds of realities. We are.
A place to share has become a place to compare.
The Pressure to Filter Yourself
It’s easy to look at the good side of social media, isn’t it? It’s one of the best ways to communicate to a mass population within minutes of updating, even seconds.
But few are brave enough to address the dark side of this familiar utopia.
With this ever-increasing push for the advancement of social platforms comes the pressure of hiding the real you.
The smoke screen of looking happy in front of everyone takes precedence over talking to someone else about how you actually feel.
I don’t come at this from the perspective of a person who has never used social media. This became a serious issue in my life as well, one that I had to address before it got any worse.
It was changing me into the person I didn’t like but insisted on imitating. It caused anxiety and stress that resulted in a few health scares. All because I imagined life to be the same as the one I witnessed on social media.
Think about the last time you were able to independently think about a creative idea without it coming from someone else’s tweet.
A moment where something just clicked. And before you knew it, you were jotting down a thought with the potential to change your life and the lives of those around you.
This kind of thinking is missing today. It isn’t completely dismissed, but it is far from where it needs to be for a healthier society.
We are becoming more and more competitive instead of trying to stand out from the crowd and doing things differently.
Truth has become whatever someone with a ton of followers says. Beauty has turned into the ideal photo with more than a million likes, envied by so many who crave the same attention.
Not the kind of statements you would expect to hear from a twenty-something-year-old millennial, right? Yet, it remains true.
People are hiding behind their social accounts, neglecting to intrinsically be themselves.
Out of fear of rejection and pushback, they settle for perpetuating the norm. And they miss out on the impact they could’ve made elsewhere. I don’t believe this concept was intentional, however.
The social prowess of virtually all platforms was designed to connect the world for the better, as former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya, points out.
But it has turned into something altogether dangerous.
We don’t realize it while we’re checking the status of a post, but we’re becoming a uniquely divided society because of our unhealthy consumption of social media platforms.
Hear me out: the problem is not simply because we’re using them. That’s far too vague and much more of a false assumption to make. Instead, the issue lies in the amount of time we spend on them.
Spending Our Time Better
If we were honest about it, we’d admit that apps like Facebook take up so much of our time. Chances are the dishes aren’t cleaned, the laundry isn’t completed, or that assignment isn’t finished because of these distractions.
“It takes discipline not to let social media steal your time.”
— Alexis Ohanian
This used to be a recurring theme in my life just a short time ago. Ah, I forgot to send so-and-so that important email. Oh well. At least I got 100 likes on that tweet I posted earlier today.
To this end, it’s even harder to lessen the amount of time you spend on social media because of how ingrained the sensation of using them has become.
That’s why I deleted every single social app from my phone. Not hiding them in the corner of my home screen with a title like “Don’t Touch,” knowing I would just check them anyway.
Deleted. Gone. No longer visible to my eyes.
And man, that was tough.
I fully underestimated my addiction to these platforms. All I could hear in the back of my mind was, You know you’re bored right now. Why don’t you check Twitter? There’s always something going on there.
In a real way, I felt like I was being bullied. The pressure was so heavy it was scary. So much of my time had gone into skimming through current trends and events that I was lost without tapping on those icons.
But after replacing those gap times with reading, exercising, chatting with friends and family, and writing my thoughts down on a regular basis, the cold-turkey experience began to fade.
I was able to identify my weaknesses because I was no longer searching for them in others.
I was able to think independently because I stopped looking for the popular consensus.
Of course, I still use them but not on my smartphone. The logic of sharing amazing content on well-known platforms with such a large reach isn’t lost to the abuse of social media’s availability.
I only tweet on my desktop via social media managing tools like Buffer and Hootsuite. This basically eliminates the possibility of being distracted by other posts and updates I may come across.
Instagram is now similar to an old middle-school friend from a town you no longer live in. We talk every now and then, but we’re not that close anymore.
In the end, I didn’t allow this bully to continue the intimidations, the demands, and the taunts.
But you have to be honest about your current consumption of other peoples’ lives. You have to wake up to the condition you’re in right now, or it will intensify over time.
And when you’re done, go do something awesome.