How to Manage the Stress of Social Media Social Comparison

Give Yourself a Break From Stressful Social Comparisons!

Envy and social comparison
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A very telling study found that women report involvement with the social media site Pinterest as being stressful. The key stressor here is the social comparison that they find themselves engaging in. There are so many amazing projects to do, crafts to make, and ways to look at life, women find themselves feeling lacking. As one friend recently put it, "It's the Martha Stewart Living of social media sites!" Some people find Pinterest to be so engaging that it can eat up hours in their day that they had not planned to devote to social media, making a busy schedule much busier. However, the main stressor with Pinterest is people feeling that they do not measure up.

Another trend that can be stressful for people is the phenomenon of people posting about their peak moments on social media sites like Facebook, but leaving off the negative events and drudgery—a somewhat common phenomenon that has been termed by one clever blogger as, "Facebooking." It is natural for us to want to share our best moments with others, just as it is natural to avoid "airing our dirty laundry" or "Garfielding" (simply complaining about everything inconvenient in life, including Mondays) for fear of chasing off our friends.

Time on social media lead to stress when people compare the exciting and blissful events they see in their Facebook feed (the highest moments in their friends' lives) with their own stressors (the lowest moments in their own lives).

Social comparison is nothing new—it wasn't invented by social media, to be sure. However, situations like social media sites bring it into high relief. How can we enjoy the benefits of social media—the bonding, the humor, the sharing of news—but avoid the stressors that come with social media social comparison and "Fakebooking"? Here are a few ideas:

Remind Yourself That This Isn't Real

Intellectually, we know that many people share their best moments on social media and keep their worst moments to themselves, but when all we see are the best of others, we can forget. It may help to remind yourself of this often.

Talk to Your Friends

It may also help to talk to your friends and be authentic; you may not want to post your personal challenges on social media for the world to see, but you can certainly talk to your friends in private and share your triumphs and your challenges. You can help each other this way. (And if most of your friends are competitive enough that they would rather share only their triumphs, find new friends who will share their challenges as well, and support you in yours.)

Reframe Your View

The technique of cognitive reframing can be quite helpful with stress. It can work well with sites like Pinterest as well. Rather than looking at the beautiful crafting ideas, clothing patterns, or workout plans on Pinterest as something you "should" be doing, view these "pins" as "inspiration," or "ideas for when life slows down." If you can get inspired by what you see, this can be a fun diversion; if you feel inadequate when you look at certain pins, either change your perspective or stop looking at those types of pins. (Here are some more tips on how to reframe your stress.)

Take a Step Back

If you find the stress of social media comes from the sheer time you spend using it, or the importance you place on it, it might be time to take a break (either cut down on your screen time for a while or take a few days off) and plug back into your life.

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