It is extremely common for someone to feel like they have fewer friends than those around them or that they are in some way missing out on the fantastic lives lived by others. This feeling can be positive in that it motivates us to form new friendships and to improve our lives. However, sometimes this feeling becomes so severe that it can lead to the opposite—in order to avoid seeing everyone else living their amazing lives, we isolate ourselves.
NPR has done several stories on this and similar phenomena, often discussing how social media intensifies these feelings of isolation and inferiority (here, here, and here). In one of these, Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, says that social media “perpetuates the idea that other people are more social than you” because “we often fail to communicate when we fail.” In other words, the lives we project on social media are carefully curated to project ourselves in the best way possible. I think most of us are aware of this on some level—we know that our friends tend to only post pictures that make them look good or that show them doing something fun, often surrounded by friends. Yet, despite knowing this, we still often compare ourselves to these curated lives. This can be incredibly harmful to our own well-being.
An extreme example of this is Ben Stiller’s new film, Brad’s Status. In this film, the titular protagonist is constantly comparing his own real life to his college friends’ media presences. This causes him to not only constantly dwell on what is lacking in his own life and carry on a constant negative inner monologue throughout the whole film but to also forget what he does have in his life. And of course, since this is Ben Stiller, it causes him to do and say many painfully awkward things, often embarrassing himself and his son in the process. As a minor spoiler to a decent but somewhat boring film, Brad’s friends’ lives end up not being that great.
As you indulge in social media, try to refrain from comparing your own life to the perfect lives you are scrolling through. Make sure you take stock of your feelings as you use social media. If the platform you are using or the things you are seeing are not uplifting, try to use the filters on the site to see more things that bring you joy or make you feel good. If filters aren’t enough, take a social media vacation for a few days and see if your mood improves without the constant reminder of what others are doing. It can also be beneficial to have a bedtime for your phone. Set your phone to “do not disturb” after a certain hour and try to wind down before bed without exercising your thumb. When we do use social media it is important to remember that our “fear of missing out” or our constant comparing to others lives is not unusual. We are not alone in our feelings of inadequacy/jealousy/loneliness/etc and that others are probably scrolling at this moment having the same feelings.
Have you had the FOMO that social media causes? Let me know in the comments section or email me directly on my contact page. You can also sign up for my newsletter on the contact page and schedule a free phone consultation.