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Social Comparison

I am going to dedicate some time to compare my self-value with yours.

Why do we put ourselves through it?

One of the first things I reach for the moment after I opened my eyes is my phone. I launch my apps accordingly: Facebook and Instagram. In auto modus, I scroll mindlessly through each respective feed searching for something eye-catching and something for me to 'like.' This has become a ritual that I do every morning, and unable to shake. I am feeding my mind subconsciously with irrelevant and unimportant and sometimes, soul-destroying content. Does this seem a bit too dramatic? Well, studies (Vogel et al, 2014; Lee, 2014; Vries and Kühne, 2015) reveal that there is a high correlation between self-esteem and Facebook 'lurking.' We are thought to have the need to compare ourselves with others, in order for us to fulfill our sense of connection, self-worth and social status. This could be a healthy mean of measurement for development, for example: seeing your classmate bragging on Facebook about finally finishing the paper that you have been avoiding. Seeing that post may push you to get your butt in gear and finish that paper. On the other hand, it may have a detrimental effect of measurement, seeing your feed with a multitude of announcements of the latest travel adventures, new jobs, photos of nights out, and my personal favourite: it is the weekend (working in the customer service industry, I am painfully acquainted with there is no such thing as a weekend). May result in you feeling inadequate and a sense of failure.

So, the question is, how do we choose people to compare ourselves to and why?

Social Comparison Theory

In 1954, social psychologist Leon Festinger published a paper "A Theory of Social Comparison Processes." He developed a theory which explores the different levels of how we compare ourselves to each other. He classified two categorisations:

  1. Upward Comparison ↑
  2. Downward Comparison ↓

The upward comparison is described as comparing yourself to someone who you consider is superior to yourself, while in contrast, the Downward Comparison is comparing yourself to someone who you consider is inferior to you. Either one can stimulate problems with how we view ourselves.

It seems, whenever we are confronted with information about how others are, capabilities, achievements, failures, we cannot help but relate this information to ourselves. We measure our emotions, personality traits, opinions, capabilities, and self-worth towards the knowledge we have of others. Together with social media platforms, the act of social comparison has become a part of everyday life and taking place at an even greater rate.

Exterminate the Nonsense

If you find yourself dissecting every part of yourself in regards to others, then Google Chrome has the perfect tool: News Feed Eradicator for Facebook. This tool removes your entire news feed and allows you to only focus on chat without being bombarded with status updates.

The more I researched the concept of social media comparison, the more complex it becomes. A simple search on Google gave me over 300 million hits! Countless articles such as: "Why we compare ourselves and how to stop," "Stop comparing yourself with others, it's killing you."

“We should focus on the reality in front of us and not the false reality that can be found on social media.”

The amount of attention that given to this is unprecedented and a clear indication that we all need to just chill and focus on ourselves. We may not necessarily need to eradicate the Facebook feed, but rather our need for comparison. So instead of mulling over your friends’ "achievements," take a look at Buzzfeed's hilarious compilations of relatable Tweets—now that is a laugh for everyone.