It seems as if various social media apps have consumed much of our time spent nowadays. Whether we’re on the go or at home, we as humans love to swipe through different social media apps on our mobile devices. We all have our different purposes for using different apps. You might check Facebook to stay updated on what other families are doing, check Twitter to see news and relatable tweets with memes, or Instagram to see what photos or videos pop up on your feed from different friends/celebrities you are following. There are also plenty of other different reasons to check those apps as well. Don’t get me started with Tiktok either, the most random content will appear on your “for you” page.
Notice a common theme between all of these apps: it involves seeing other people’s posts, thoughts, lives, and several other aspects. The problem with this is, we can become very vulnerable to comparing ourselves with other people.
Now if you are wondering how this is even coming to my mind, let’s backtrack to a few months ago. During the spring quarter, I’m at home watching one of the lectures that my professor posted. Specifically, it was for a Theories of Communication course I was taking. The lecture topic was about the Social Comparison Theory, which basically discusses different circumstances where people compare their own self to others.
The one part of the lecture that caught my attention was when these two specific terms were mentioned and explained: Upward and downward comparison. I knew it had a possible correlation with social media, so here is some information on both.
Upward comparison is when you look up to other people or even a role model. Downward comparison relates to when you look down to/towards another person or group.
Although these are two simple terms with easy meanings, their effects can positively/negatively carry out a strong connotation towards individuals.
With upward comparison, let’s make an example where you enjoy playing basketball. You always see this other top recruit on your social media feed, posting all of his crazy highlights and pictures. Basically getting influenced by his lifestyle. Seeing this can benefit you as the top recruit can serve as a role model and motivate you to improve at basketball to be as good as him. That’s one way of taking it.
On the other hand, this could be taken another way. If you constantly compare yourself to the top recruit by always seeing him on your feed, you might always feel less than them just because you don’t have their skillset. In order words, one may always feel less than another when comparing themselves to someone that they may feel is “better” than them. Worst case scenario, it could lead to some type of depression.
In downward comparison, imagine a scenario where a notable Youtuber with 1 million subscribers has three other close friends that post on Youtube as well. The three other close friends all end up hitting 500k subscribers, so they post it on Instagram to let their followers know. The notable Youtuber sees the post, and immediately feels good about himself because he has way more subscribers than them. This is benefitting him/her because his self-esteem is increased as they’ll feel way ahead of his peers.
But once again, the cost of this becomes that if the Youtuber continues to make a downward comparison with his friends, he/she will never evolve. Think about it, if you are always comparing yourself to people/competition that are worse/lower than you, you won’t make progress. There is always someone out there doing better than you.
Final thoughts: If you’re wondering whether we should keep getting involved in these types of comparisons on social media, no one can answer that question but yourself. Ultimately, I think it is something that’s inevitable and will continue to leave people susceptible to comparisons with continued social media use. Everyone has a different mindset and feelings than others, so it is important for us to assess these comparisons and see how it attributes to ourselves. #stayinyourownlane