Dec 31, 2016
By Rebecca Aptekar, PsyD
This is particularly relevant around the holidays, as people have more time and spend it on social media. The tendency to compare yourself to others on social media is overwhelming. When comparing our life to the lives of others, or what we thought our lives would be, how can we experience joy?
Comparison takes us out of the present moment and gives power to something outside of our own control. Although this festive season feels like it “should” be the happiest time of year, there is often an increase in depression and many people dread the holidays. How can we effectively cope with social comparisons?
For starters, we have to notice when we’re comparing ourselves to others, and nowhere is this easier to see than on social media tools like Facebook. When we catch mere glimpses of others’ lives via social media, we’re missing the bigger picture of a complete person who has both the joy we see them publicly celebrating, and also pain. Our society doesn’t promote vulnerability, so we rarely see a balanced picture of a real life. It becomes easy for us to create stories of what our lives “should” be — like his! or like hers! so much happier! — and to become chronically dissatisfied when our lives aren’t as picture-perfect as others’ seem.
When we notice we’re comparing ourselves to others, we can take power away from the comparison so that it doesn’t rob us of joy. We can do this by asking ourselves: Is this helping or hurting me? Being mindful in those moments makes a big difference in how we experience our lives. By figuring out whether our thoughts are helping or hurting us, we relate to them differently, and we can think better about what to do next.
A values-based approach to social media use is a mindful one. When you log in to a tool like Facebook, ask yourself why you’re visiting. Perhaps you are logging in to stay in touch with friends and family, to share in people’s joys, or to learn something. Social media apps, in general, can help you to achieve your values, but that’s less likely if you are you using them to disconnect from reality. While using them, ask yourself if you are able to be present with what’s happening in the moment. Be aware of whether or not Facebook is helping you achieve that value of staying connected versus triggering a negative mind-train that compares and leads to depressed thoughts.
If using Facebook or other social media makes you feel depressed or anxious, you have the power to defuse these unhelpful thoughts. You can challenge them, unhook from them, and watch them like they are on a stage or like words on a karaoke screen. Your thoughts are not facts. And you always have the option to decrease your use of these tools until the point at which you feel like you are achieving your values of connectedness without experiencing a downside.
Take your time off-line to reflect on what, to you, makes up a meaningful life. There will always be richer, better-looking, smarter, more successful people, but even those folks have problems. Competition via comparison is an un-winnable game. Can you drop the rope in the tug-of-war of trying to be like others and focus, instead, on what you actually want for yourself?
A new year is right around the corner – and it’s a great time to become aware of your struggle with social comparison, your feelings of loneliness, and your stressful thinking patterns. Lyra can help you get through it, as we will connect you to a therapist who can help you change your relationship with painful thoughts and feelings. You can learn to develop a transcendent sense of self, to live in the present, and to take action, guided by your deepest values, to create a rich and meaningful life. If Lyra is offered by your employer, you can get started today. Sign up now.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rebecca Aptekar, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in using acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and other evidence based therapies. At Lyra, she manages clinical programs, develops content for workshops, and conducts therapy for high-tech employees.