Your Instagram feed is an endless parade of weddings, babies, vacations, six-packs and expensive outings. You’re not a jealous person, but you find yourself stuck at the office or not engaged or on a budget… and suddenly descending into the spiral of envy, loneliness and self-loathing that social media has been shown to cause.
It seems like everyone’s lives are more interesting, more privileged and less stressful than yours. They have more friends or better plans, bigger adventures and less worry, more self-confidence and less self-doubt.
We all know what this feels like.
Social media is a tricky minefield to navigate, especially if you truly are interested in what your community is up to and want to share in their joys. While it can be a great way to stay connected, it’s also an easy way to compare your lot with others’… and if the adage of the grass being greener elsewhere is true, we will always find a way to covet what we don’t have.
Instead of letting social media get you down, here’s how you can adjust your lens to get what you need, filter out what you don’t and perhaps even disconnect altogether to enjoy your real life this summer.
Acknowledge that social media is like a theatrical production
You know it because you do it. Everything posted on Facebook, Instagram, etc etc is carefully crafted and filtered to be just so. No one posts the selfie where they have a double chin. We all you untag ourselves in photos we think make our arms look weird. We only share pictures of our interesting [expensive, healthy, enviable] meals – no one posts their too-darn-lazy-to-cook-so-I-had-cheese-and-crackers-on-the-couch dinners.
Everything you see online is theatrical: you’re meant to see what you see and not meant to see what you don’t. Social media shows us the effect of the magic (not the apparatus behind it) and says “This is all real!”, when, like a play, we know it’s not.
When you take a step back and acknowledge it for what it is – not bad, just what it is – you can separate the self-judgment: your real life isn’t actually a play, so why compare it to something it just isn’t?
Don’t assume everyone is having more fun than you
Does it feel like everyone has something exciting, novel or adventurous going on? Perhaps it seems like your friends are always out without you. They’re not. They’re just not posting all of the mundaneness of their day-to-day. What we see is skewed.
And keep in mind: if it feels like they’re making plans without you, ask about it! Who knows… they might think you’re really busy (and unavailable) based on what you share. Have a true IRL moment and make plans. IRL.
Acknowledge the good stuff you have going on
It can be tough to remember all that you have to be thankful for if you’re constantly worrying that you’re lacking something someone else has, or that you’re having a less worthwhile existence than the rest of the world. (Familiar? Yeah, pretty heavy existential nonsense given these little apps in our phones are meant to be entertaining.)
Rather than focus on what you feel you don’t have, take a hard look at what you do have. A great group of girlfriends? A stimulating job? A supportive family? Good weather? Trees? Your dog? Reminding yourself that you are indeed connected – and important – to people and things that aren’t pixels in your phone can be really grounding. Acknowledge your joys before you dwell on what you perceive to be missing. You may find you have more than you lack.
Take a social media break
Feel like you’re spending every spare minute scrolling through your News Feed? Put your phone down. My mom used to say, “If it’s not making you happy, put it down and go do something else.” Make a concerted effort to disengage from the thing that is making you feel badly about yourself and go find something that makes you happy. It might be spending time with friends in person. You’ll probably feel less envious when you’re reminded they’re in the same boat you are.
Plus, it’s really freeing to not have to worry about which photo will most accurately capture your trip to Starbucks. Just go to Starbucks. Be in the moment while it’s happening and let yourself enjoy it.