The way you talk about yourself doesn’t just effect you, especially when it comes to social media. Whether positive or negative, the way you talk about yourself can actually have a significant impact on the way others see and think about themselves. You are modeling and normalizing self-image for those that look up to you, but also for those that passively follow you on social media. The gift of social media has greatly increased our reach and our impact on our world, and we must be responsible with how we use it.
One of the most pervasive, negative uses of social media is body shaming, both unintentional and intentional. This can look like posting photos with captions detailing all of your imperfections and things you’re not happy about, but it can also look like a post about how happy you are to be losing weight. Before and after photo collages with captions about how hard work pays off are not necessarily bad, but when the after image becomes the sole focus and attaining fulfillment or happiness is linked directly to that, a seemingly benign post begins to hurt others. It may seem like, because you are only shaming yourself or a past version of yourself, it couldn’t harm anyone else, but this simply isn’t true. Your “before” picture may be someone else’s dream “after” picture, and what they take away is that they will never be good enough.
Body image is only one example, but we do this sort of thing in so many ways, not the least of which is only posting the polished, highlighted versions of ourselves and hiding our brokenness. This cultivates a culture of comparison as we compare our behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. The hypocrisy is in the fact that we only want to post our own “best version of life”.
Particularly among women, this leads to subtle, subversive competition, and we begin tearing one another down to make ourselves feel a little bit higher. “Healthy” and “happy” look and feel different for everyone. Height, proportion, genetics, and any number of other factors can be at play when discussing the body image each person may have of themselves. Fueling a culture of comparison, whether it’s comparing oneself to cultural ideas of “beauty” or simply comparing the numbers on your bathroom scale to the numbers on your neighbor’s Facebook post, always does more to tear down than it does to encourage.
Changing the Culture
We don’t seek out or intend to become a part of this vicious cycle (at least, let’s hope not!), but it has become a part of daily life for us. We are participants whether we like it or not, and we can either be active or passive in it. The first step to changing this culture of comparison is to recognize that it exists.
Acknowledge the Culture of Comparison
Like addiction, change begins by acknowledging you have a problem. Once you have that awareness, you are able to examine your posts or what you’re about to say, and practice empathy. Consider those that may see or hear what you’ve said, and how they might receive it. If there is a chance that it would cause a friend to think negatively about themselves, carefully weigh that risk with the potential reward of saying what you want. Chances are, the well-being of your friends is more important than that filtered selfie.
2. Think twice about your posts and their reception.
When we choose to examine ourselves and our social media usage in light of mindfulness and mental health, we begin to see that combating a culture of comparison is not only good for others, but it’s actually a step towards a healthier, happier you. You don’t need the façade or the mask, you don’t need the filters or the numbers to be you or to be valuable or to be loved. Honesty in real life will always trump the pseudo-life we get snapshots of on social media.
3. Be more authentic.
You’ve carefully crafted your Instagram photos to crop out the laundry or whatever imperfection was just out of frame, so you know other people do it too. If you feel comfortable doing so, try modeling genuineness on social media instead of comparison. This doesn’t mean that you air out all your dirty laundry on Facebook, but it could mean being mindful of how you post and whether or not that communicates what your life is actually like to your friends and family. The thing about genuineness is, it breeds more genuineness, just as comparison breeds comparison. If you have the courage to be real, others will see that and follow suit.
If you struggle with genuineness or just feel alone in this world of social media, I’d love to talk to you. Counseling is all about authenticity, and you have permission to be totally and completely yourself in my office. Let me provide you with a safe space for the real you. Call me at 940-222-8703×705 or email at [email protected], or just schedule an appointment online! I look forward to hearing from you.