“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt
People are quick to dismiss social media as a vain and pointless distraction, but recent events have shown us how powerful social media can be in times of societal disconnect and loneliness! That being said, loooong before COVID was ever a thing, millions of mums have already experienced firsthand the value of connecting with others online.
Sometimes Facebook and Instagram feels like your only social lifeline when you’re spending days on end at home alone with a cranky baby. In fact, there may be months on end where it may be the only thing keeping you company in the hours of the night when you’re up alone nursing a bub, or the only thing keeping you sane when your kids are sick and up all night throwing up.
Sadly, despite the wonderful connections we make on social media, too many of us fall into the ‘comparison trap’ where we begin to compare our lives to other people, and start to believe we fall too short. That’s when you start to feel the negative impact on your self-esteem and mental health – not a great place to be at all.
I’ve been consciously trying to create a social media experience which doesn’t make me fall into this comparison trap, and I want to share the tips that worked for me in case it may help you too! So read on if you want to escape the comparison trap and create a social media experience that is positive and inspiring instead.
My own experience with the comparison trap
I started feeling quite frustrated and disillusioned with social media early last year. I realised that when I spent too much time on social media (especially Instagram), I would start to feel really bad about myself and the life I’ve built. The two areas where I felt particularly inadequate were my physical appearance and my parenting skills.
The thing is, I know that Instagram and Facebook are just everyone’s highlight reels. I understand that all the photos are filtered, edited, and curated to look good. I work in the social media world for a living, for goodness sake! But despite knowing this on a logical level, I still felt down on myself.
So after some soul-searching and discussions with my other 30-something friends who were all feeling the exact same way, I knew I needed to make a change. That’s when I began a very intentional process of creating a social media feed that is more positive, enriching, and interesting for myself.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way, on my journey of climbing out of the comparison trap. I sincerely believe they can help you too!
How to create a healthier social media experience and avoid the comparison trap!
1. Admit that there’s a problem
If you’re still reading this, you clearly already sense that social media isn’t feeling like a fun place for you anymore.
This feeling manifests in different ways for everybody. For me, it’s usually a mix of negative self talk (“I’m a terrible mum, I can’t even set up the playroom in an organised, play-friendly way”) and random coveting of things (“Hey, maybe if I’ve got the right shelves/storage system/totally organic collection of toys, I’ll be a better mum”).
No matter how your discomfort manifests, the key thing is identifying the negative feelings in the first place. You may be feeling insecure, or envious, or frustrated. Just know that those feelings are totally valid, but you also aren’t required to constantly feel that way when you interact with social media!
2. Imagine your ideal social media feed
This is when you’ll have to get your pen and paper out. Any new journey is a lot easier with a map, so consciously pinpoint the things you want to avoid, and list out the things you do want to see along the way.
This isn’t something you’ll complete within twenty minutes. In fact, in many ways I am still working on this list every day! But creating this initial list over the course of a week, really helped me identify what inspires me and makes me look forward to being on Instagram.
Here’s an example of what I envisioned for my social media feed:
Remember, yours may look completely different, and that’s okay! Your list will be uniquely you, so figure out what makes you feel bad, and what makes you feel good. That’s as good a place to start as any.
3. Unfollow accounts that don’t align with your vision
Now that you have a clearer idea of what you want your social media feed to look like, it’s time to take solid steps to make it a reality!
Start off by checking who you follow on Instagram and Facebook. Then, Unfollow the people/brands/groups that don’t fit the criteria you’ve developed in the previous step.
If you’re like me, and you follow thousands of accounts and are a part of hundreds of groups on Facebook (please don’t judge me, haha), you definitely won’t be able to get this done in a day! That’s totally fine. Be kind to yourself, and just chip away at it when you have the time.
Another thing you can do is just unfollow people during your regular social media usage, whenever their content pops up on your feed.
This happens to me fairly often. For example, Instagram just randomly shows me new content from someone I forgot I Follow, and I decide to check their account. If it doesn’t fit my criteria, bye bye! I click that unfollow button with no regrets. The same goes for Facebook groups or random acquaintances I’ve somehow Friended on Facebook.
What about friends and relatives that frequently share content that annoy, frustrate, or trigger you in some way? That’s when you click the Mute button on Instagram, or the Unfollow button on Facebook! That way you haven’t offended them by cutting ties completely, but you also won’t need to put up with their bullshit on your feed. That’s what I call a win-win!
4. Make sure your own profiles reflects your values
By now, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of your personal values. You know what matters to you, and the kind of people/brands/content you want in your life. So now it’s time for you to be the change you want to see in the world.
You can start by creating a social media presence that authentically reflects who you are, and what you stand for!
This doesn’t mean you need to constantly advertise your grandest ideals on your Facebook or Instagram (although that’s fine too). Just remember that you can still have fun with your social media. So keep posting memes just for fun or share that pretty photo you just took. Social media is still a place to have fun and capture joyful moments in your life.
No matter what, don’t forget to show up just as you are. Be real, be honest, be authentic. Believe me, that’s when something magical happens: you start attracting people who share your values too.
5. Focus on connection
On social media, it’s too easy to just talk at people instead of having a conversation with them. If you’re happy to take a backseat and just lurk on social media, then that’s okay. But if you’re on social media to connect with people – either to meet new friends or for professional reasons – then you have to make a conscious effort to be a part of the community.
Here’s a tip: start discovering new accounts on Instagram by following hashtags. I personally love following hashtags that are really really specific. So instead of following #interiordesign, I follow #habitandhome and #realhomes. It’s so refreshing to see things on my feed that reflect the reality of home decor and also discover brands and people that feel the same way!
Now this is the fun part – when you discover an account that really blows your mind and makes you happy, tap that Follow button! You can even take a look at who they Follow, and who Follows them. You’ll notice your Following list becoming a lot more curated and tailored to your tastes over time.
The key to an enriching social media experience is connection. So really start interacting with the folks that you Follow. I’ve made some amazing friends on Instagram from just leaving genuine comments and responding via DM to their Stories. I love connecting with people like this, and it’s so rewarding when it sparks a new friendship or professional collaboration.
6. Remember that it’s not a competition
You’re now well on your way to developing a social media experience that is more positive and uplifting, but that’s just one part of the equation. You also need a shift in your mindset so you can start viewing everything from a more productive and positive place too!
Here are other things you can do to remind yourself of your worth and avoid accidentally falling into the comparison trap again:
- Make positive affirmations a part of your daily routine – I promise it’s such an easy thing to do, but the shift in your mindset and attitude is incredible. (Psst: I have a FREE eBook you can download if you’d prefer having a list of affirmations to get you started!)
- Whenever you start to feel insecure on social media, quickly think of three things you’re grateful for in your life. I know quite a few people who write in gratitude journals every day, so consider that if you’d like to commit to gratitude a little bit more.
- If you come across content that is particularly inspiring or just plain beautiful, make sure to Save it. The next time social media gets you down, you can go to your Saved posts and get a big dose of the content that you enjoy!
- Lastly – know your worth. Your self-image is entirely within your control, and you have to live with yourself till your very last moment on this planet. Commit to developing a healthy self-image for the long-term – recognise that adjusting your social media feed is just one small part of that.
Social media can be a positive space if you make it that way
Despite what you may believe, social media is full of wonderfully creative, meaningful, and valuable content. There’s so much inspiration out there. There are heaps of amazing people putting in the effort to make social media more inspiring and uplifting. You’ve just gotta sift through the junk to get to the gold!
Remember: you can’t let other people’s highlight reel dictate how you feel about yourself and your life. There is more to our existence than what’s shown on social media. What everyone shows on social media is just a small part of who they are – there’s a real person, with a life full of highs and lows, behind every persona you see on Instagram or Facebook.
Looking for accounts to follow that make you feel good about yourself? I always make sure my social media accounts are a safe, supportive, empowering, and authentic space. Follow me on Instagram or Facebook if you want some of this positive content on your feed. And please send me a message to say hello!