For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Aug 28 2017
by Anne Marie Yurik

The Trouble With Comparison Culture on Social Media

By Anne Marie Yurik - Aug 28 2017

I was home alone eating way too many chips and rewatching New Girl when I saw that my timeline was full of people going out and doing adventurous things. I couldn't help but feel sort of bad that my time was being spent in a way that seemed less fun and exciting than what my friends were doing. 

Fast forward a few days to when my friend and I caught up, and they told me about what a wreck their day was a couple of days ago. I was shocked because I thought they were having so much fun. I had forgotten that social media is not a documentary, and it is not meant to tell the good, the bad and the ugly. It only shows the beautiful.

That's the problem. It seems real and true, but most of the time it isn't. That whole "it's too good be true" saying applies to social media too. However, we all fail to think of it in that situation because the people posting things are our age, our friends, and we would know if it was different, right?

I was stuck in a rut with social media my first few years of high school. I was new to the public school system and barely any kids from my middle school went to the high school that I did. I was starting over, and like any other impressionable young woman, I wanted to fit in. 

I was all over Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat, constantly comparing myself to the other "friends" I had online. I never post photos because I am not sure I want to commit to such a long term agreement by a photo of myself being online forever. Nonetheless, others did post, and I saw their posts and always thought, "why do they seem so happy, so fit, so cool?" and "why can't I be like them?"

It wasn't really until this past year when the whole moving on with life thing became a legitimate excuse to look forward at what I want MY life to be, versus what I thought it should be like right now. That is not to say that I feel totally confident all the time, but I do know that social media, while it is a handy tool, is also a platform for comparison and misrepresentation.

It is important to remember, especially freshman year in college, that what you see online is not always the entire truth. If you think that everything your friends post on social media is the complete truth, you are in for a shock.

I know that as impressionable adults, we are going to be constantly comparing ourselves to others; that's just how it is. And although social media doesn't always lie, it never tells the whole story, and it leaves plenty of room for us to add a little more speculation to and glamorize the lives of others. 

Our default is to think that everyone else is prettier, healthier, cooler and more fun than us. We see celebrities who are our age buying cars and living a wild life and we think "why can't I be like that?" Little do we know that we are comparing ourselves to the idea of someone else.

Some might think a camera never lies and a picture tells a thousand words, but the words the picture tells are your words and the truth you see is your truth. You created everything that is not explicitly in the video or photo, whether that be assuming that the people had fun, guessing that they're happy or believing that they're perfect. 

We create our ideas of perfection. Obviously media and our surroundings impact that idea, but, in the end, we choose what we buy into. Our generation has gone all in on the idea of social media, which is sort of terrifying. Why do we share our lives with a faceless audience? 

But it's not just one-sided sharing. Once we log off social media, we take with us self-consciousness and a feeling that we are not going out enough, doing enough or being pretty enough. We take all of that from one image or video or caption. 

We owe it to ourselves to realize the only thing we should be comparing is ourself today to ourself yesterday. This whole comparison culture we have dug ourselves into is a deep rut that only we can get ourselves out of. We don't want to see all these people who are way too happy, yet we refuse to delete our accounts. Why? Why do we want to compare ourselves?

The short answer is that we are still young, and that's, mentally speaking, what we do. Our parents at our age were comparing themselves to their peers and friends too. The difference is that these forums for comparison are everywhere nowadays. I am not asking you to swear off all social media and throw your phone into the nearest lake. I think social media is awesome and one of the coolest things ever. I'm saying don't put all your eggs in one basket. We are going off to college, which means that this whole social media thing will be even more important to us. 

We will want to see what our friends in other states are doing and we will inevitably compare ourselves. Now, though, you don't have your family under the same roof to assure you that you are the coolest person ever. You need to find that confidence in yourself.

I refuse to post regularly on Snapchat or Facebook (the only social media I have) because my motto is, if you really want to know what's going on with me, call me or talk to me in person. 

I like being able to see what's going on, but commenting on someone's post does not count as catching up with them. It shows support and love and interest in their life (shout out to my family and friends who comment on these articles, I love all the feedback). However, if you want to legitimately catch up with your friends and be an avid member of their day to day life, a text, Facetime or call is in order. (Who knows, maybe snail mail has still got it?) Because you are judging their life based on photos, which doesn't say anything at all. You don't know everything about what's happening. That's the straight truth.

Just give it a shot. You will be infinitely happier and ready to rock your next phase of life when you aren't comparing yourself to an unreachable ideal. You're already pretty great and only getting greater; so just keep that in mind.

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash

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Anne Marie Yurik - University of Pittsburgh

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