Social Media and The Temptation of Comparison

(#social media #self love #gratitude #comparison)

My screen time was up 15% last week, for an average of 5 hours, 5 minutes a day.  

According to health authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, this amount of screen time significantly exceeds the recommended 2 hours per day limit. However, with the growing abundance of social media platforms, it comes as no surprise that the average screen time keeps increasing. There always being two sides to one coin, escalated social media use has its advantages and disadvantages. We get to satisfy our boredom and interests, but we also become more vulnerable to a major pitfall of such platforms — comparisons. 

Thomas Mussweiler, a professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, once described comparison as “one of the most basic ways we develop an understanding of who we are, what we’re good at, and what we’re not so good at”. We compare ourselves to others to see where we lie on a spectrum made up of other people we choose to include in our lives. Humans are also social creatures, and so a sense of belonging is paramount. Being isolated has been proven to negatively affect us, as Hartgerink et al. (2015) showed how social exclusion led to lower moods and self-esteem. Therefore feeling like the odd one out and not being able to follow the trends depicted by our peers can lead to negative emotions and habits. 

In my opinion, one phrase that explains the reason why comparisons arise is “seeing is believing”. Through seeing people’s success and celebrations, you start measuring your own, which become a cruel cycle of comparison. You see your friend post about their acceptance to an Ivy League school, whereas you got rejected from one a few days ago. Seeing the caption and picture is enough to make you think, “Wow, she’s so smart” and “Why didn’t I get accepted?”. For me, the moment I started questioning myself marked the beginning of the never-ending cycle of comparison. I saw a famous influencer post a picture that showed off the “perfect” body, but I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t see the same one. “I wish I had her waist” — I started to set unrealistic expectations for myself, forcing myself to meet them. When I didn’t, I deemed myself a failure but continued to try and meet that goal, no matter how destroying it was. 

The way I eliminated this cycle was by shifting my focus from others to myself. 2021 is the year of self love, and if this blog resonates with you, this is your calling to “stop-start”. STOP comparing yourself with others and START pouring more love into yourself. One of the most powerful ways to begin is by practicing gratitude. Psychologist Robert Emmons (UC Davis) showed how writing out moments you’re thankful and grateful for can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction. Start by writing one thing you’re grateful for and add to the list each morning. Not only can this help you start practicing gratitude, but when you feel down, the list can remind you of all the blessings in your life. Through acknowledging all these blessings, the act of self love starts to come naturally, because one of the blessings in your life is none other than yourself. 

Gratitude is merely one of the many steps you can take to start practicing self love. By prioritising yourself and knowing your self-worth, you can reduce the negative impacts of comparisons. .


American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Public Education (2001). American Academy of Pediatrics: Children, adolescents, and television. Pediatrics, 107(2), 423–426.

Hartgerink, C. H., van Beest, I., Wicherts, J. M., & Williams, K. D. (2015). The ordinal effects of ostracism: a meta-analysis of 120 Cyberball studies. PloS one, 10(5), e0127002.

Ways to stop comparing yourself with others

Psychologist Robert Emmons (UC Davis)