If you scrolled through Facebook or Instagram recently, you probably saw friends, acquaintances or strangers showing off new homes, basking in the sun on the beach, attending amazing events, eating out at nice restaurants or smiling brightly surrounded by perfectly behaved children—basically living an awesome life, right?
Do these pictures or updates ever leave you feeling inadequate? How often do you find yourself comparing your life, your home, your car, your clothes, your vacation, your partner or your kids to the digital representations of life you see online?
Compare and Covet
Often when we look at others, we are reminded of what we lack or what we wish we had—now this doesn’t just mean material possessions, it could be a certain body type, a close relationship or the ability to sing. Whatever it may be, it can quickly shove you into a slump or cause you to feel negative emotions about yourself or someone else.
A study done by two German universities, Humboldt University of Berlin and Darmstadt University of Technology, found that one in three people experienced negative emotions while on social media and generally felt worse about themselves after social media sessions. Many participants reported feeling envious or resentful which left them lonely, frustrated or angry. The researchers found that people felt the most envious over vacation photos or the social interactions of others (meaning how many “likes” others had in comparison to their own).
Shaking Off the Social Envy
Breaking the habit of comparing yourself to others—or pining for what another has—will welcome you to a more peaceful, satisfying and happy life. Try these tricks for taming your negative thoughts or emotions about yourself and others:
Love yourself! If you don’t like yourself, why should anyone else? Everyone has plenty to offer and if you acknowledge and appreciate your own good qualities, you’ll be less likely to resent someone else’s.
Trade envy for admiration. Share the joy by congratulating others on their big promotion or new house. It does absolutely nothing for you to gripe or grumble over someone else’s fortune—except add extra negativity to your life. And remember, when something good happens for someone else it doesn’t mean something bad happened to you!
Look within. What’s making you jealous? Why are you comparing yourself? Do some soul-searching and find out where you feel you are lacking—and make a commitment to positive changes. Make this your mantra: “The only person I should try to be better than, is the person I was yesterday.”
Get grateful. Practice replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Each of us has different sources of happiness and enjoyment in life, find yours and focus on it.
Do a reality check. People create personas when they’re online—and they do this by only sharing snippets of their life. Most of us don’t share when we’ve just had a big fight with our partner, missed a mortgage payment or lost a job; we highlight the good and downplay the bad. Remember: a picture is not always worth a thousand words—you never get the whole story.Unplug and get real
If checking social media is bumming you out, take the obvious step: log out! Instead of checking Facebook the second you wake up, start your day with something positive, like a quick 10 minute workout or positive affirmations. And take breaks from your social pages—the longer the better. Challenge yourself to sign off for an entire weekend and get out there for some quality, real, interaction with friends, family, pets and the great outdoors.