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High Speed Comparison: How the Internet Impacts Self Worth

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Mature woman sitting on her couch using her laptop computer

With the Internet at our fingertips, it’s tough to feel stumped. For every burning question or trivial inquiry, there’s an answer to be found online—provided you do enough digging. However, even the Internet gets frazzled when faced with more abstract propositions. After all, it’s difficult to find cold hard facts when you’re mulling over questions that lean towards the abstract and personal, things like Is my ex happier than me? or Do people care less about me than my friends? These thoughts aren’t uncommon. We’re social beings. We’re bound to wrestle with social questions from time to time. However, given the ever-increasing prevalence of social media, we find ourselves viewing other people’s lives with rising regularity, leading these questions to pop up more often. Although, instead of finding answers to the questions we want, assessing our self-worth via social media can often lead us down a path of unhappiness and imperfection. It’s a rabbit hole that is as bottomless as the Internet. Instead of indulging in an information overflow, it’s best to consider some key points before judging yourself through the lens social media provides.

The Internet is misleading. People are too quick to view social media as a direct window into the lives of others. Instead, it’s more like a curated gallery. You’re only seeing what people want you to see. No one is going to advertise the rough patches in life, putting it out there for everyone to see. As a result, social media is a place largely devoid of unhappiness. Looking only at the digital extensions of the people we know, we’re led towards believing in something that’s unnatural and lopsided. Everyone has bad days, but you’ll be hard pressed to find public declarations of life’s rougher edges on social media. If you’re single, it can be frustrating to scroll through a feed that leaves you up to your eyeballs in cutesy couple pictures. People are quick to broadcast their shared affection, but that doesn’t mean they’ve never been lonely. For every piece of polished perfection on social media, there’s a fair amount of unhappiness that has come before and will follow after. The key is knowing that even though private and not openly broadcast, unhappiness is as prevalent as the positive things people share.

Because people only put their best foot forward with social media, we consistently encounter idealized images. Beyond giving people the impression that things are always hunky dory, social media also increases our tendency to quantitate worth and compare it to our own. To that end, social media adds to the idea that beauty and worth are equal. We compare our own attractiveness to others and the response it gets from the community. People are careful to highlight high quality, touched up images, but they’ll shy away from unflattering photos. Many people, typically females, get the wrong ideas in their head. They compare their own photos and ‘Likes’ to their peers, feeding into the dissenting voice that all women already have to deal with. You’re bound to hone in on people that look more attractive, or seem to be aging better. We tend to focus on when people have more than us, losing sight of our awareness of when people have less. No matter how you feel your attractiveness stacks up to others, remember that beauty does not equal worth.

Along the same lines, nothing represented via social media bears any direct translation to worth. Instead of harping on what you’re exposed to via social media, it’s important to step back and wonder what is truly better. Is having more stuff better? Is having good relationships better? Why do we even feel the need to compare? Can’t we just be happy for others? These questions seem unanswerable because there is no answer. The Internet is wrapped up in 0s and 1s, but questions of happiness can’t be addressed with a binary. There is no good reason to view life through a ‘win or lose’ dichotomy. Instead, it’s important to be thankful for the things you already have. More often than not, realizing what you’ve got means stepping away from social media to get some perspective. Instead of constantly looking at what others’ lives are like, the keys to happiness with all social media are to be content with who you are and what you’ve got.