We all know the obvious question to be asked following news of a friend’s recent break-up. No, not "How are you holding up?" or even, "Rocky Road or Peanut Butter Chip?"
The question is: "Did you unfriend him yet?"
While some of us are gluttons for punishment, many new members to the Lonely Hearts Club recognize that they just don’t want to be faced with daily updates about their lost lover’s latest escapades. Photos of him with his hot new girlfriend drinking pina coladas in Riviera Maya? Hardly a self-esteem booster.
So we unfriend him.
Image: Rawrkidrawr via Flickr
But what about all our other happily coupled Facebook friends? Are we ready to be faced with over-exposed photos of newly-placed diamond rings or our cousin gushing about the romantic anniversary dinner her partner cooked up last night?
For some, social media like Facebook and Instagram can become a minefield of social comparison traps.
For the record, social comparison is a 100% normal human process. The theory, established in the 1950s by a psychologist named Leon Festinger, says that it’s a natural drive to try to establish accurate self-evaluations. To do this, we compare ourselves to others, either in an upward or downwards pattern.
Facebook and the like create the perfect platform for such comparison. We sometimes use our newsfeeds to help boost our own sense of achievement (“Look at all these bums taking the weekend off. I’m such a hard worker!”), while at other times it becomes a source of embarrassment or even shame (“Everyone has plans for Valentine’s Day except for me. Even my grandma!”).
Facebook doesn’t cause the problem in and of itself, but some of us are particularly vulnerable to such comparisons. If our self-esteem is already rocky, being faced with daily reminders of our inadequacies can be too much for our fragile sense of self to bear.
Technology doesn’t have to be all bad. If we can learn how to take in the information thrown at us on social media sites, we can sometimes preserve our self-esteem while still getting to partake in all of the great qualities of these sites — like an increased sense of connection and an exposure to new and interesting information.
Here are three tips to doing just that:
1. Remember that people post their greatest hits, not their blooper reel. While some friends do share their trials and tribulations with their whole Facebook networks, most of us avoid posting things that are truly embarrassing or distressing. Instead, we share our vacation photos, our successes at work, and our kids’ “adorable” (to us…) antics. We choose the photo that makes us look best, not the one with the crappy lighting where we look like we need a brow wax and to see the colorist. Keep in mind that the friend posting that photo likely chose between 20 similar ones. She didn’t look that great in the other 19.
2. Go ahead and hide that status. If you’re not ready to commit to unfriending someone, it may be useful to utilize the hide function for those certain friends’ statuses. You know who they are. The ones that seem to have an endless supply of money, time, and joy. If it’s too much to revel in their constant paradise, you don’t have to. Hide their statuses and rest assured that if you feel up to commenting on their latest trip to Maui, you can visit their page.
3. Limit your online time. Facebook is a time-suck, no doubt. It’s easy to find yourself scrolling through hours of status updates with a blank stare and drool running down your mouth while simultaneously muttering about how much you hate this site. That might be your cue that it’s time to re-enter this other, pretty amazing world. It’s called reality. As much as the virtual world tries to imitate it, it’s not the same as actually living life. If you feel addicted (no joke, "facebook addiction" is googled more often than "cigarette addiction"), try setting a daily time limit for yourself.
How do you manage to keep your social comparison and self-esteem in check when it comes to social media?
Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
More from living