In generations past, young people have always struggled with comparing themselves to others – their looks, their spouse, what they wear. Comparing ourselves helps us understand where we are on the social strata and determine new goals we may want to pursue. Unfortunately, comparison can create new concerns and increase self-criticism and envy. Young people today face the same challenges, but it’s becoming increasing difficult to not be so self-critical due to social media. Photo filters and status updates have become a way of life for many. In pursuit of the perfect look, we’ve sacrificed an emotional connection to our real selves.
We’ve not only wasted time trying to create a self we can love on social media, but we’ve wasted time envying others. In psychology, this process is called the “comparison trap.” The time we spent scrolling through our feed and taking the right photo to post could have been spent developing our own interests and relationships.
Most people using social media are affected by comparison traps. We’re human, and we all have some anxiety, insecurity, and fear about ourselves. But when you choose to constantly compare so you can perfectly mimic someone else’s clothing, speech, interests, and goals, you’re losing touch with yourself. How can you help yourself to get in touch with the unfiltered you?
Begin a social media cleanse. This isn’t optional – it’s a necessary decision. People report lower rates of anxiety and depression when they take time away from their social media. Practice by taking off one afternoon a week and then increase to one whole day per week.
Don’t be seduced by social media. Photoshopping or filtering every photo you post will make you believe you’ll be more popular if you look better. In real life, we don’t actually want to be with the “perfect person” (who doesn’t even exist). We want to be with someone who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and, in return, embraces our imperfections.
Reassess your values. What we value determines what we do. Time away from social media can help you determine what you value. Is it money, fame, popularity? All of these things are superficial, coming and going with the times. What really matters are your loved ones and what you want to be known for while you’re here.
Practice gratitude. Let’s face it – we all have good and bad days. Some of your bad days are someone else’s best days. Learn to be grateful for what you have and appreciate that you are enough. No matter how influential or famous you are, everyone struggles with insecurity, pain, and fear.
Share with care. In reclaiming and learning to love your real self, surround yourself with people who inspire you, challenge you, and encourage you to see the best parts of you and others on and offline.
The more technology we develop, the more we’ll be challenged to use it responsibly. Depending on your past insecurities, you may find yourself more critical of how you look, what you wear, or who you’re seen with. When your time on social media becomes a way to emotionally disconnect and escape unmet needs, it’s time to make changes and reclaim your true self.