Allow me to tell you a little story about Heba. Heba comes home every evening from work, feeds and settles her children to do their homework, finishes the house errands then starts scrolling her face book and Instagram new feeds to see what is new in the world.
Being a busy woman with a leadership position and a young family, she had little time to meet friends, so social media was a good alternative for her to keep up with what everyone was up to. She never posted anything herself because she did not believe in spreading the intricate details of her private life on social media, so she preferred to restrict her online presence to browsing her “friend’s” news.
Today, her high school best friend, Mona, posted an adorable video of her two-year old daughter playing in the garden. A colleague from her first job out of university posted a picture of her and her husband relaxing on the beach with the caption, “My husband is amazing. How lucky am I to be his wife for 15 years. Love you, sweetie!” They were celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary at a resort in Sahl Hasheesh. Her ex-roommate’s sister Amira had just been promoted and posted her excitement “Promotion today! And a raise! I feel so blessed!” her post read. Heba’s co-worker Gameela from accounting, a sweet woman in her early fifties, had a new profile picture with her son at his graduation from AUC. He looked so happy in his graduation outfit. One of her best friends, Rana, who had started up her own company three years ago shared her exhilaration at closing the deal of her first major account. It was all good news.
Everybody’s life looked spectacular and exciting. But that night, Heba didn’t cheer. She sat in front of her computer and cried. “What’s wrong with my life?” she thought.
She had no real reason to be down. Nothing bad in particular had happened that day, but what she saw made her reflect and compare. She was thinking of her own son who was struggling with his marks, her other teenage son who she was having a terrible time trying to communicate with, her husband who was not talking to her since yesterday over a silly argument, her manager who had just given her an unfair review that was going to sabotage her promotion in the next year!”
That night, Heba seriously considered her addiction to social media. She realized the constant peering into the online lives of people she seldom talks to, and some whom she hasn’t seen since graduating was not a diversion from her problems. Instead, it made her feel worse about her problems by suggesting that everyone else didn’t have any.
One of the most significant cultural shifts of the last decade is the extent and pace with which we can communicate and connect with an ever-increasing network of people – many of whom we never come in real life contact with. Research has shown repeatedly that comparing yourself to those you think are doing better than you in some way decreases your happiness. And, it seems we are often more likely to notice who has what we want than to pay attention to those who haven’t yet attained what we already have.
Have you ever felt worse after logging into your social media account? Are you comparing your living, breathing, beautifully imperfect, real-life human self to someone else’s controlled online content? What steps can you take right now to resist online social comparison? Please share with us your thoughts