Facebook depression: The danger of social comparison

Theodore Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy”. Well said I say. I guess there’s always some mug who’s doing better than you so you’re always lusting after the achievements, lifestyle or possessions of others. Once this starts, it infects your psyche and, for some, you’re no longer able to simply appreciate what you have.

I guess we feel as though we’re missing out when we upward compare ourselves to those with more in life… especially if they’re of the same age. Pop culture has coined this the fear of missing out or ‘FOMO’. Not as eloquent as our friend Roosevelt but similar in the sense that we’re referring to that joyless feeling of thinking that you should be doing better.

The reality is that envy, jealousy and social-comparison are all toxic activities to engage in. Whenever we look outward for satisfaction, we’re guaranteed to get disappointed.

Now, of course, the problem is social media. We now have a platform that breeds FOMO and overtly encourages upward social comparison on a daily basis. Like digital peacocks, we flaunt our virtual plumage through holiday photos, posts about new jobs, check-ins at cool parties and more.

Photo credit Al Margen – https://www.boredpanda.com/satirical-drawings-al-margen-pagina/

Facebook has turned social comparison into an epidemic where we scroll news feeds constantly (even subconsciously) comparing our lives to our friends’ exaggerated highlight reels. LinkedIn is probably even worse with people outwardly flaunting their expensive education, certifications and career achievements.

You see, we’re all digital marketers now. Marketers of our own digital personas that we present to our audience… Are we loosing our authenticity and sincerity? It’s as if we’re now ‘photoshopping’ our own lives ensuring that we smudge out any stains or wrinkles and present only the very best (wildly inflated) version.

Photo credit Al Margen – https://www.boredpanda.com/satirical-drawings-al-margen-pagina/

Surely this constant barrage of smiling dickheads on beaches and in bars around must have a long-term effect on our own self-worth? I’ve been guilty of some horrendous Facebook gloats. There have been recent studies into what’s known as ‘Facebook depression’ recently, however, all they’ve really done is blown some more dust off the old ‘correlation doesn’t equal causation’ debate.

The reality is, humans are jealous creatures. We’re constantly upward comparing ourselves with those who have more in our eyes and downward comparing with those we deem as having less. No prizes for guessing which one makes us feel better.

The problem is, everyone now gets a chance to edit their lives before streaming their week to their friends so it becomes difficult to ever downward compare to the glossy, pouty, duck face, wide blue-eyes on tanned faces on the beach.

In real life, there are likely people you downward compare to and, as a result, feel better about yourself. But even these people’s social media profiles are so well-polished that you can always find something that pokes your inner FOMO with a rough stick.

Our consumerist society teaches us social comparison from a very young age.

There is some correlation between depression and Facebook use, however, these studies usually call out these correlations only in people who have existing ‘neurotic tendencies’. Apparently ‘these people’ tend to care more about what other people think.

But really, let’s cut the bullshit. Everyone cares about what other people think… Yes, even you. Even you reading this thinking “I don’t give a shit what other people think…”… You do. It’s just that people care on varying degrees.

I think that social media is making us all a little neurotic to the point where even the most level-headed of us can experience Facebook-induced neurosis which is a natural effect of newsfeed exposure! My point is that this modern-day social disease of upward social-comparison is something we can all relate to.

Now, in what could only be seen as Facebook’s attempt to make us feel even worse, they’ve introduced these incessant ‘on this day’ reminders. These narcissistic virtual time hops serve up ‘memories’ in the form of photos reminding you what you were doing on the same day 1 year ago and so on.

Sure, this can be ok if you were broke and living with your parents last year and now you’re a millionaire in your own beach pad… Good for you I say. However generally, life’s inevitable ups and downs mean that, at some point, you’re going to fill pretty shit about yourself. Why? Because you’ll get served up a memory of a time when life was ‘easier’ or somehow ‘better’ than it is now and you’ll ask yourself… “what happened?”

The problem is not only the ups and downs of life but also the psychological fact that often, life seems better in retrospect. As if it wasn’t bad enough that we’re forced into social comparison with our friends, we’re now upward comparing ourself with our past self! Someone hand me a Xanax…

I guess none of this is really new. Adverting has been playing on social comparison tendencies (and insecurities) for years, flaunting outrageous lifestyles on glossy magazine pages whispering seductive and subliminal messages that suggest you too could have the lifestyle if you buy their product.

The issue now is that the same principles have crept into our personal lives in a way like never before in history. It’s made us insecure and feeling unworthy of other people’s news feeds.

But, the thing we need to remember is… we (VERY) likely have a completely distorted view of our friends’ lives. Just like the glossy magazine pages, it’s all a marketing campaign to present the best version of a lifestyle. It’s not real.

We don’t see the bad day behind the posts… (Well, unless your friend is one of those emo Facebook posters)…. normally, we don’t see the crap in people’s lives. The struggles, fights, financial and emotional difficulties and more.

So, we need to avoid the tendency to compare our lives dullest moments with our friends’ highlight reels that showcase their most monumental life achievements. Don’t let the lifestyle propaganda infect your own self-worth and remember we’re all human and all struggling with the daily ups and downs of life.

We’re all chasing happiness on all levels despite what we already have and until you look inward and understand what’s happening within inside, you’ll likely often feel like crap everytime you start scrolling. You need to honestly ask yourself why you care so much about what other people think. If you don’t confront social comparison or hide behind a bravado of “I don’t care what other people think” then you’ll always be lusting after a fake lifestyle you’ve deemed better than yours.

You’ll view the lives of others through a digital lens of ‘the grass is always greener’ or…. “why is their newsfeed better than mine?”… If this is happening… it’s time to unplug and get back to living life and enjoying the small things. Get back to appreciating the raw consciousness of life and not the edited, digitally spoon fed highlight reels of others.



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