I thought about not publishing this story because I feel it is a bit of stating the obvious, but then I read Iva Ursano’s “I Can’t Read Your Stories Anymore” about how she feels when she reads about other people’s happy childhood stories. Apparently, she had a pretty miserable childhood, and feels conflicted about hearing tales of sunshine and roses related to how others grew up. She wants to read them. She doesn’t want to read them. It’s painful because of the inevitable comparison to her own experience, but she is also curious about what a happy childhood would have been like. Iva’s story reminded me that this type of social comparison is indeed very relatable.
Using social media gives us the illusion of being socially connected. However, studies show that spending time on sites like Facebook leads to social comparison that ultimately leads to feeling worse about our lives. Time is better spent engaging in actual social settings where we engage with people in real time.
There are countless situations where we become aware of only seeing highlight reels of other’s lives whether it’s on social media or in our day to day life:
You are waiting in the pick up line at school in your 1985 Honda behind late model luxury cars.
You’ve been trying to have a baby for years and see friends posting photos of their beautiful babies or their pregnant bellies.
You see 50 year anniversary parties and you just got divorced or your spouse died.
You see kids going off to college and your kid just became ill.
You see engagement parties and weddings and your boyfriend just broke up with you.
You see beautiful vacation photos and you just lost your job.
You are attending your child’s elementary school play as a single mother and are surrounded by coupled up parents.
You see party pictures but you have no friends.
In my own case, I see friends online going places they don’t invite me to go because I have a mobility challenge. Or at least I think that’s why they don’t ask me to go to festivals, concerts, or the beach. I don’t know, maybe they just don’t like me. I’ll acknowledge that there are definitely activities that just aren’t for me such as hiking and going to the beach. But I wonder if I am left out of more accessible events for fear of my disability interfering with my friends enjoyment.
This list could go on and on, but I think we all get it. We can’t help but compare our lives to those around us. There will always be someone who is prettier, thinner, richer, etc. Part of the trick is to spend less time looking at social media and getting out in real social settings where we may be less focused on the highlight reels of other’s lives.
Thank you for reading. :)