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Beware the Compare: Avoid the Rabbit Hole of Social Media Comparison

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

I’m starting this post a little early this week, the day after Halloween (Monday). I’m writing now to capture the full emotion of what I’m feeling in hopes it will be helpful others.


You see, what I’m feeling is a mixture of anger, exhaustion, sadness, confusion, disappointment, and inadequacy. Yes, it was a Hell of Halloween!


I won’t get into all the gory details (pun intended) of what happened, but needless to say my son feels like I ruined the evening because I made an appointment for him. On Halloween. (Note: So, I'm already feeling a little beat up).


What he failed to grasp was that the appointment was made strategically to get him back in time to participate and celebrate in all the Halloween madness he could handle. But that point was missed.


You see, due to my son’s neurodivergent condition, he struggles with logical thinking and transitions from one situation/activity/task to another and his primary focus is fun. I try to mitigate this by planning in advance, providing reminders, justification and setting expectations for anticipated (positive) outcomes. Yeah, right, that works out. But I keep trying. We’ll delve into these types of issues in future posts.


Needless to say, he could not get past the appointment and see the Holy Grail of trick-or-treating that awaited him if he could just “suck it up” and get through it. An evening of arguing and bitterness ensued for us. (Queue the anger, exhaustion, sadness, confusion, disappointment).


Now you may wonder, how does social media comparison play into all this? Well, I’m glad you asked.


As I sat in my room trying to gather myself post-kerfuffle, and applying my best relaxation breathing techniques (which helped by the way), the posts started to come in. All the posts of the kids that were out and about and the proud parents of all the creatively dressed and made-up ghosts and ghouls. They were having so much fun.


And where was my child?


Downstairs complaining that I was the worse parent on the planet for scheduling an appointment on Halloween. Totally missing the fact that he could be putting on a costume and heading out the door instead of standing there trying to win this ridiculous standoff! As I scrolled, I started to compare.


“Why can’t my kid just get on with it?”


“Look how happy they all are!”


“It must be nice to have kids that listen to you and go out and trick-or-treat without a fight.”


Then I stopped.


I stopped comparing my situation with what I was seeing on the screen. Those smiling faces and happy poses where wonderful and I should have just left it at that.


And what was the story behind those posts? How many parents where actually feeling the same way I was because prior to the “pleasant” picture, they had been called every name in the book as well?


How many of those kids were feeling pissed because they had been forced to dress up and go trick-or-treating but really only wanted to hang at home? Maybe a few. Maybe none. But I was telling myself a story to fit my situation at the time.


The point is, whether it’s a Halloween post or a vacation post or a dinner post, you never really know what the meaning is behind it. You could be comparing your situation to something that is night and day different or cleverly disguised to divert attention away from the actual meaning, but you’ll never know. So don’t operate on a false assumption of what you are seeing because it can do you a lot of harm and that was happening to me.


Had I continued to assume that every picture posted was proof that I was the worst parent on the planet, things could have gotten even uglier. But I stopped, put down the phone, and accepted I was doing the best that I could. Even if I wasn’t, it was okay because at least I was trying to do the right thing. I should only compare me to me and my son to my son. No one else.


How many of us have gotten caught in the trap of comparing our job, looks, home, clothes, children, and cars to others on social media? It’s a slippery slope for sure. The pictures of abundance, adventure, and beauty can make us very envious. There’s a part of all of us that wants the best, to be the best, wants to be first, wants to be accepted, wants to be admired. However, it’s far more realistic and healthier to want to be safe, content and loved.


We’ve heard the warnings, too much social media use can lead to an overall decrease in well-being with issues like depression and anxiety, poor sleeping habits and low self esteem among others. Not to mention opening yourself up to negative comments that impact you as well.


I ended up feeling anger, exhaustion, sadness, confusion, and disappointment as a result of my interaction with my child but threw gasoline on it with the social scroll which led to the feeling of inadequacy. Immediately, I knew it was a terrible thing and shut it down.


For those who are struggling to shut it down, remember these key things:


  • Build boundaries into your social media experience and limit your time. Set a specific time(s) of day and time limit to your scrolling. Get on, get off. You’ll be able to catch up the next time around. If it’s important, someone will reach out to you directly with the details.

  • Practice gratitude for the people in your life and things that you have. Remember, someone out there is in worse shape than you are and would be incredibly pleased with what you have and the life you live.

  • Realize that social media is often not reality. You usually don’t have the full picture of what’s happened or what is happening in the post you see. When your brain tries to fill in the blanks the issues creep in.

  • Be aware of your triggers: notice which posts make you feel down on yourself and start the comparison trap. Consider unfollowing those sites/posters.

  • Increase your human interaction. Join a club, call a friend, plan a family outing, actually play with the kids (yikes! 😊).

  • Increase your internal/personal interaction. Pick up a hobby, take a walk, read a book, paint, wash the car. Idle hands (and brains) do the media scrolling!


Social media is here to stay, and it does have its benefits. However, the pitfalls carry serious consequences as well so caution should be taken.


Lord knows I’m not one for “over-sharing,” but I wanted others to know that there are times when we all compare ourselves to others and beat ourselves up a bit for not reaching or living up to imagined or unattainable social standards. No one is immune to this. Again, we have to remember that we are where we need to be and doing the best we can.


The mantra is “progress over perfection.”


I’ll be taking this one to heart all week.


Do you get caught in the social media trap? Leave a comment or tip to help support others if you do.



Take care and be well,

Courtney



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