I love Instagram as much as the next person. I love posting, attempting to be punny with my captions, and being able to keep up with my friends and see what they’re up to when we’re not nearby. However, I know that I’m also guilty of getting sucked into jealousy and comparison.
“I didn’t get very many likes.”
“My life seems so boring compared to everyone else’s.”
“They have more followers.”
“They look like they have their lives so put together.”
“They’re relationship goals.”
“Why won’t my boyfriend post sappy pictures of me?”
“They’re happier than me.”
“She’s prettier/thinner than me.”
And if we want to take it a step further, then it starts getting personal.
“Whose pictures is he/she liking?”
“They saw my story but aren’t replying to my texts.”
“They didn’t like my picture.”
It’s ugly. I watch myself do it and I absolutely cannot stand it about myself. I watch people post and like through a tiny phone screen and I honestly let it dictate how I think others see me; and even worse, I let it dictate how I see myself.
And why? Sure, sometimes life really is great and we want to brag about it to the world. I know I love to brag when life is going great or my makeup looks good. But I also know that there have been several times when my life feels like it’s falling apart and that I post to try and maintain the facade that I’ve got it together or that if I get a lot of likes it’ll make me feel better about myself (which is incredibly flawed thinking, by the way); and more times than not, we rarely ever have it all together. Nothing is ever really “picture perfect.”
So many people post pictures of their relationships – a lot of them are probably honestly very happy. But I can speak from personal experience that things aren’t always what they seem. I had pictures posted with my ex-boyfriend with comments from friends of us being “relationship goals” or us being “so cute” written left and right; but what they didn’t see was that for the last few months of our relationship, we weren’t all that happy – we smiled for the camera, we tried to smile for ourselves, but neither of us recovered from a discussion gone south.
And what about those physical comparisons? Especially over the summer when people go on these magnificent tropical vacations and girls are posting pictures of their bikini bodies and sun-kissed skin. How do I compete with that? I mean, I don’t have a bad body, but I definitely love tacos and margs (amirite, ladies?) I find myself scrolling through the popular posts page out of boredom, but feel my head fill with insecurities and thoughts saying “you’re not as pretty,” “you’re not as interesting,” yada yada yada.
Literally five seconds before, I was happy with myself even in my slouchy t-shirt and with my hair up in the top-knot it’s been in all day. I wasn’t questioning myself worth. But all of a sudden, in a matter of seconds, my world is flipped entirely upside down because of a stranger’s bikini picture. Are you joking? This is honestly the world we live in – that in the click of a button and flick down a news feed, we can feel completely different about ourselves. We use social media to creep and lurk on our crushes or significant others to see if they’re on social media instead of replying to our texts, liking someone else’s pictures instead of ours, liking pictures of that guy or girl we can’t stand… and all we get in return is the cold rush of envy and bitterness surging through our veins that may or may not even be warranted. Next thing we know, those negative emotions start seeping into our relationships and driving wedges between us.
Some people are blessed and really don’t give a rat’s booty about who posts and likes what. They’re certainly much better off than I am, that’s for sure. But for a lot of us, Instagram becomes more like Insta-anxiety. I ran a poll on my Twitter to see what my followers thought about the correlation between social media and self-esteem. I only received 20 responses, but 85% of them agreed that our self-esteem is plummeting because of the world of comparison we have available right at our fingertips. Heck – the app is designed solely to see how many likes you can get.
So what do we do? Clearly it’s a lot easier said than done to not care, to not look, to not feel. Instagram and other social media sites really are good for so much – staying in touch with out-of-town friends, staying up to date on current events, documenting and sharing cherished moments… but as social media continues to engulf our days, I believe it grows harder to not play the comparison game. I watch friends start their dream jobs, get engaged, get married, get puppies, start families, take great trips – and here I am: 23-years-old, single, newly graduated, incredibly far away from where I thought I’d pictured myself being at this point in my life and painfully unsure of what my future holds. It becomes so easy to see what I don’t have versus what I do have.
I can’t count how many times I have considered deleting my Instagram app, at least for a while to try and reset my mind. But the next problem with social media is that it truly has become an addiction. We absolutely have to know what’s going on. Sometimes we are so willing to let ourselves feel uncomfortable in our own skin for the sake of being in-the-know.
Comparison really is the thief of joy, my friends. I wish I had some sort of incredible advice to make it easy to avoid the trap, but the truth is that I am just as human as the next person… and maybe one of these days I’ll have the willpower and self-discipline enough to get off Instagram for a while and document my experience. All I can say is that you truly are unique – no one else can be you and that in and of itself is something to be valued. To put a spiritual spin on it, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. God did not design you to be like everyone else – He specifically designed every inch of you and didn’t stop until He saw you as perfect in His eyes. Your physique, your talents, your struggles, your story is what makes you capable of doing what other’s aren’t. The comparison game is simply the enemy’s way of distracting you from your bigger picture by getting you to fall captive to the lies that say you’re not good enough. And truthfully, you never know who sees your posts and wishes they could have what you have, whatever that may be.
Social media has a way of making it seem like everyone else has everything you don’t, but you don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. Count your blessings, focus on the positives, and remind yourself you’re a bad-ass. You are not defined by the number of likes you do or don’t get – rather, you are defined by the Creator that sees nothing but the good in you and all the potential you may not even see within yourself.
What are y’alls thoughts on the impact of social media on self-esteem? I’m curious to hear your opinions!