How Social Media Makes Us Feel Bad About Ourselves

And why it doesn't have to

Posted Jul 01, 2012

Cristiano Betta via Flickr Creative Commons

Cristiano Betta via Flickr Creative Commons

I frequently have reminded my clients that they are comparing how they feel on the inside to how others look on the outside. Yet, we continue to judge ourselves according to our own biased perceptions.

With the proliferation of social media, we have even more opportunities to be reminded of our inadequacies. We see pictures of other people's idealized vacations, family outings, perfect children, busy social lives. We hear about their promotions at work, how they love life, how they are always eating fabulous meals.

When we look at our own lives, all we see are our frustrations and struggles, our imperfect families, and our frozen dinners. 

Facebook, by its very nature, pulls for people to share snapshots of the good moments.Hardly anyone is going to post that their kid failed a class or that they're struggling to pay the bills. Just as in real life, people have difficulty sharing things that make them feel vulnerable. And, if you think about it, it is quite appropriate not to share such information when you don't know who will see it.

Blogs may have a different focus. Since people can expand more upon their ideas in that format, they may write about deeper thoughts and emotions. However, there are problems in comparing our lives to those of these writers. Bloggers frequently share their insights after they have gone through their personal struggles and reflection. As they condense their thoughts into a post, we might not realize how long it took them to work through their difficulties. 

From an evolutionary standpoint, comparing ourselves to others is a survival strategy. We have to scan our environment to see how we fit in, to make sure we are safe. For those of us with social anxiety, our "radar" is very advanced--we are always seeing our areas of vulnerability, and we see them very clearly. 

For a more realistic view, we need to realize that others also have pain and vulnerability. And, you might be surprised to know the person you envy, also envies you.

Copyright 2012 Greg Markway