Understanding Social Comparison on Social Media
Social media use across platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.) has increased drastically in the last decade. Humans are intrinsically social creatures, so the opportunities for connection offered by social media have made it especially popular. Connecting with others and scrolling through posted content are two of the primary uses of social media.
Researchers are starting to better understand when and how it helps mental health and connectedness, as well as when and how it hurts these areas of life. One of the primary discoveries is the role that social comparison plays in our social media experience. The tendency to compare ourselves to others is natural, but in this case, having the tendency to notice people on social media who we judge (subconsciously or even unconsciously) as being better than us in key ways, often has a negative mental and emotional health impact.
Next steps and getting the help and support you need
Social media by itself isn’t the cause of these issues. Low self-esteem, poor body image, and being vulnerable to mental illness often make people more likely to seek out validation and community through social media. As we said earlier, positive interactions and self-expression through social media are beneficial. However, predatory advertisements (e.g. “thinspiration” and detox programs), idealized lives from influencers, and cyberbullying are the main culprits within social media that lead to comparison and negative outcomes: increased depression, anxiety, disordered eating, suicidal thoughts, etc.
If you or someone you know just can’t kick your social media habits despite it making you feel worse, or is struggling with your mental health separate from social media, the most important thing you can do is ask for help or get them help. Depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and suicidal thoughts should never go ignored.
If you or someone you know needs help right now:
- Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
- Text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.
- If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.