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Social media is not real life.
I heard this online not too long ago and friggin’ loveloveLOVED it with a burning passion, similar to that which I lovelovelove pizza and Cabernet and ice cream sandwiches. Actually, I’ve heard it all OVER online – which is funny, because we still don’t take it to heart all of the time. It’s a “no duh” kinda statement that’s common knowledge at this point, yet we still tend to accept what we see online as if it’s 100% unfiltered real life. Social media is not real life – Instagram is not real life. Maybe it originated as more of a hub of moments with family + friends, like Facebook with more pictures and less talking. But today, it’s obviously not quite that anymore. Today, Instagram is a hub of everything from selfies with besties to highly curated, professionally shot images from around the globe. While it’s still just an everyday moment-sharing platform for some, for many, it’s an everyday source of creative inspiration, a place to shop, the way to discover what’s trending.
Lately, it feels like everyone and their mom is bummed about Instagram.
This dang algorithm, yo.
It changes every other week (or every other day…or hour…it seems), and we just can’t keep up. Couple that with the fact that everything is so hush-hush and no one reaaaaally knows what the heck is *truly* going on in the moment, and we’ve got ourselves one heckuvah pain-in-the-butt platform.
And then there’s the mental death trap that is comparison.
Ah, comparison. I know this feeling way too unfortunately well. In the past, it’s had the power to literally destroy my entire day. I’d let it overcome me, causing me to question myself, perform at less than my own personal best, AND resent whoever I was comparing myself to…an all-around no bueno combo. I’ve seen quite a few people chattering about this lately, since it’s been a “hot topic” in online communities for awhile now – and I’m SURE it’s something we’ve all felt personally at one time or another. We’ve all felt that pang of jealousy when so-and-so shares an unbelievable trip, or that new expensive bag, or the most picturesque proposal pic, etc. SO, let’s tackle it together, shall we? It’s no easy feat – I know that firsthand fosho. But it IS possible, slowly but surely, and teamwork makes the dream work. 😉 Here’s how to beat the comparison game on Instagram 101.
Call it what it is.
- Call it comparison. When you’re falling into the trap, acknowledge that it is, in fact, a trap. But remember: Every trap has a way out.
Purge who you’re following.
- But it’s not what you think. I simply mean go through your feed + unfollow anything that no longer inspires you or is otherwise relevant in your life (ie, your girlfriends whose content isn’t necessarily professional/inspirational to you, but is good cos of the relationship there!). Oftentimes, I see folks online say to just unfollow anyone who makes you feel badly about yourself. Someone’s got a more glam life and you’re stuck in a jealous rut? Unfollow. That globetrotter gal who drives ya nuts with her back-to-back, Instaworthy adventures? Unfollow. Feeling bad about yourself because she’s eating cheese fries on her Instastories and rocking the 6-pack on her feed, and you’re here just trying to not wear the same sweats two days in a row? Unfollow. It’s what so many preach nowadays. But I disagree with that. Simply eliminating something from your newsfeed doesn’t eliminate it from existence, nor does it eliminate the actual problem at hand. Jealousy isn’t a problem with her – #RealTalk + hard truth ahead – it’s a problem with yourself. Someone else succeeding, being a bossbabe, or making their dreams happen has ZERO impact on whether or not YOU can succeed, be a bossbabe, and/or make your own dreams happen. They’re two separate things with two separate people. Envy is a rotten thing, and it’s not a reflection of HER at the end of the day; the (totally) hard truth is that it’s a reflection of you in that moment of weakness. And girlfriend, I’m preachin’ from a place of #BeenThereDoneThat and still there, still do that sometimes. It can be oh so totally hard. But if you’re feeling bad about yourself from seeing someone else’s Instagram posts, you need to give yourself a lil’ #RealTalk and figure out WHY you’re feeling bad about yourself. Does her fitspo remind you of the fact that you didn’t make it 3 weeks with your New Year’s Resolution to hit the gym everyday? Are you subconsciously internalizing her relationship as being “better” than yours from her picture-perfect couple cuteness, while you’re over here in a fight with your man over who does the dishes (again)? If we sit back, we can *usually* connect the dots down the line and realize that it’s not ACTUALLY that individual personally offending or hurting us in some way. Instead, it’s making us uncomfortable because it’s shining a light on something not-so-rosy in ourselves, or something we wish were DIFFERENT about our own situation (or at least this is the case for me 99% of the time – can ya relate?). Here’s what helps for me (in case it’ll also help you): Figure out WHY it’s upsetting you, and then work on that. Use it to fuel you. Use it to inspire you. And use it to simultaneously identify the good in YOUR life and on YOUR Instagram that other folks might be seeing and internalizing negatively against themselves. Once you find your own weak spot, challenge yourself to blossom in spite of it. Grow around it. Grow THROUGH it. Find your own picture-perfect moments that might not be captured for the world to see on the ‘gram, and learn to appreciate them that much more, regardless of how many likes they may get. 😉
- Truth #1: Instagram is not real life. Truth #2: Someone having more followers on social media does not make them any better a person than you. Truth #3: You can both be successful/pretty/smart/talented/awesome. And that has nothing to do with follower count, either. Truth #4: In the words of Cady Heron, “Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.” Resenting someone you don’t even KNOW because of what you see them creating on the surface of Instagram’s newfeed is just silly. And it’s sad, cos it’s ruining the opportunity to potentially connect with someone great, or appreciate someone else’s greatness. Both of which are imperative (I think) to living a full, vibrant, grateful life of good vibes comin’ full circle.
- Especially if you’re prone to the comparison trap more often than not, it takes real intention to break outta it. I know, cos I’ve been there. Every single day if need be, remind yourself why it’s worth it to not compare, the damage it does, + how much better you feel when you’re living YOUR life on YOUR terms. First thing’s first: You’ve gotta be willing to do the hard work to see the good work. We tie so much of our self-worth nowadays to how many followers we have on Instagram or how many likes our latest pic gets, which is not actually at all related to our true worth as individuals. But it can be HARD to break outta that mindset, especially when everyone and their mom is fully invested in the Instagame. But if we’re willing to let go of the negative ish to make more room for the positive, good things will come.
Talk through the reality check.
- This involves a lot of the above, so I’ll try to not be totally redundant here. BUT. To continue on the same wavelength, once you’ve figured out why the heck someone/something is bothering you in the first place, it’s time to start working through a reality check of YOU. A healthy reminder of who you are, why you do what you do, and where things really stand in life. Reality #1: Instagram not real life. I’ve said it again for the folks in the back. 😉 Instagram is a highlight reel. It’s real to a certain extent, and the invention of Stories helps real-ify things a lot more, fosho. But at the end of the day, it’s not something following folks around day in, day out. You’re seeing a final product on your feed. An intentionally planned, highly edited, strategically curated product. Is there anything wrong with that? Nope, I don’t think so. There are those that solely use it as a social platform to catch up with friends and share life moments. And there are those that use it as a tool to create art + tell more curated stories. It’s totally up to you what you choose to share (or not share). Of course, as in LIFE, no one is for everyone. So as you work through Reality #1, decide whether or not the person you’re comparing yourself to is sharing EVERYTHING, or just SOME things. Chances are…it’s just some things. The pretty things, the “Instagrammable” things, the works. Reality #2: You do not know the backstory of every picture. That gorgeous street style shot? It’s one of 400 she took while dodging busy traffic, getting catcalled in the middle of Manhattan. And then her professional photographer edited it. The “goals” product flatlay of the “pretty things” she’s doing on a relaxing Saturday? She posted that because it fit her feed at the moment – behind-the-scenes, she’s in sweatpants with 5-day-old hair, cleaning up her baby’s spit up, dying for a moment of peace + quiet.
- Step back. Log off. Power down. Stop picking up your phone every 42 seconds. Newsflash: Nothing has changed. Or at least nothing noteworthy that the algorithm will pull above now-irrelevant tidbits from 3 days ago. HA. 😉 But seriously, get comfortable with detaching from your phone, where that curiosity doesn’t kill ya. I’m the WORST at this sometimes – the acutal worst. The second my mind thinks of something (or someone), I immediately have to grab my phone, tap over to Instagram, and snoop around. But really, we’re just fueling the fire here – fueling the addiction, making it that much harder to be truly fine without feeling in-the-know + in-the-moment 24/7. Practice logging off intentionally, and practice saying NO to yourself when you feel that curious itch come on where you just have to see that one thing…(and 2 hours later, you’re still scrolling + double tapping + dropping your phone on your face from bed).
The biggest mistake we can make is assuming that someone else’s story is better than our own because of what we see on an Instagram feed. I’d find myself down a rabbit hole of resentment + self-loathing after seeing someone’s edited, curated, articulated highlight reel – and what the heck good does that do?! (Answer: none at all). So I hope this serves as encouragement to any of y’all who might’ve felt the same feels at some point in life. It’s totally A-OK to step away from social media for a hot sec if/when need be. And it’s totally GOOD to be able to detach from it emotionally, where someone else’s successes have no impact on your view of yourself. Because they shouldn’t! You are you and she is she, and both are beautiful, special things that could/should be celebrated simultaneously – not pinned against one another. (More on community over competition here).
Be confident in your own ability to create.
Be confident in your own audience.
Be confident in your own story.
How do you beat the comparison game on Instagram?
What works for you + your own mindset? Would lovelovelove to hear your own helpful tips + tricks in a comment below – let’s help each other out + lift each other up.
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Thanks for reading, friends. You da real MVPs.