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A Tool for Connection or a Comparison Game?

May 12, 2015

Is it possible to have a conversation about the dangers of social media if you found this article through social media? Is that too ironic?!

Let’s give it a shot anyway.

I read an article over the weekend – it was a tough piece about a gut-wrenching subject (trigger warning: the article explores the suicide of a young, gifted college student). In the midst of it, some commentary by the journalist grabbed my attention, when she said…

“Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self.

Hundreds of years ago, we sent letters by horseback, containing only what we wanted the recipient to read. Fifty years ago, we spoke via the telephone, sharing only the details that constructed the self we wanted reflected.

With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered.

In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.”

This may be the understatement of the century, but social media can fuel a spirit of comparison within us. We often use a medium designed to connect us to compare ourselves to each other instead. Without awareness and intentionality, we can be overcome by fear which whispers to us “I will never measure up” or “I cannot compete with them.”

Comparison hurts us, making connection even harder and less likely.

If all we see and know lead us to turn our fears to 11, comparison will crush any sense of hope we obtain. If we’re looking to overcome fear with courage, then we have to defeat comparison.

Comparison, as I heard a friend say recently, leaves us empty. We compare our behind the scenes footage and the monotonous moments to someone else’s highlight reel, the collection of everyone’s spectacular moments. Social media is often the “best of” collection of our best and most attractive moments, instead of the moments that haven’t been Photoshopped, re-taken and filtered.

Is it any wonder depression and dissatisfaction rise and grow in a Facebook world? Studies continue to show over once you’re online for a certain amount of time, social media use makes connection harder and isolation easier.

The article I reference above continued

“Checking Instagram is like opening a magazine to see a fashion advertisement. Except an ad is branded as what it is: a staged image on glossy paper.

Instagram is passed off as real life.

Yes, people filter their photos to make them prettier. People are also often encouraged to put filters on their sadness, to brighten their reality so as not to “drag down” those around them. The myth still exists that happiness is a choice, which perpetuates the notion of depression as weakness.

Life must be Instagrammed — in more ways than one.”

Even on a blog like this, I’m tempted to present a great front for you. To tell the stories that make me look better, more knowledgeable and even authoritative. I’m tempted to make my voice sound like it is worth listening to, in an effort to gain a subscriber or a share of this post.

I’m dared to edit the truth, instead of telling you I have no idea where this post is going. I’m exhausted from the 4am wakeup call my 9-month old son gave me. I fear I’ll never be as successful a writer and blogger as the others whom I read and to whom I compare myself. If I was truly honest, I’d tell you how I’m writing this post because I made a commitment to write a post each week, on days when it was easy and on days when it was hard. There are a lot of days where I write driven by the feeling, not the commitment. But today is the latter and not the former.

You want to know the crazy part about this whole battle? It’s actually the raw, honest stuff which attracts us to each other the most. We post our filtered photos and scroll through our friend’s highly-edited statuses, when in fact, it’s the unfiltered moments and unedited updates which connect us to one another. Sarah Cunningham recently wrote, “We’re often tempted to hide our vulnerability, but it is often the tool that most helps us relate to others.”

As a speaker, I’ve found it’s my rawest and most transparent moments which have been most memorable and impactful. And that terrifies me. It is much easier to write about safe ideas and share safe stories than it is to go out on a limb with no guarantees. It is easier and safer to share a general illustration than it is to tell a risky one. Yet, which one grabs the reader? The “me too” moments.

In life, all of the good stuff is on the other side of courage.

However, we regularly find fear and turn back, settling for less. We are bored and discontent, pulling our phones out to scroll through posts which only pour lighter fluid on the embers of our irritations.

Whatever your story, I believe we all need to consider if we’re connecting with one another or simply comparing ourselves to each other. In my opinion, to borrow the concept I use in my ebook, Greater, connecting > comparing.

Think about it – when was the last time you were scary vulnerable? Like heart-pounding, pulse-racing, sweat-inducing transparent? Those are the moments when we can be rejected and crushed or accepted and loved. We feel most alive in those spaces where the outcome could go either way.

I enjoy sharing my writing online and I love reading much of what you share too. I’m grateful when someone responds positively to what I’ve written and shares it those they know. But I’m also more sensitive than I let on when it comes to my “success” and the outcomes of my work.

But with all the benefits of social media, we would be dangerously naïve if we ignored the dangers.

As we scroll, post, tweet, comment, like, share, retweet, favorite and reply today, let’s pause long enough to consider what we’re sharing (and not sharing), to think about what we’re looking at and what we’re looking for. Let’s turn down the fear by acting courageously, even if it only looks like a simple honest text message, email or status.

Remember…

All the good stuff is on the other side of courage.

For a great treatment of this subject, read Shauna Niequist’s article from Relevant Magazine, Instagram’s Envy Effect.

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