Geeks Vs Loneliness: social media tells lies

A few words about measuring yourself against postings you see on social media...

Welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our spot on the site where we chat about things that may be affecting you, or people you know. Across the selection of articles we run, we hope that we stumble across something of use to you. Inevitably, not every article works for every person. But that’s not going to stop us trying!

This week, we want a chat about social media, and in particular comparing yourself to others on social media as some way of measuring yourself. It’d be usual to give a polite, well structured argument as to why this is an unrealistic thing to do. But, if you’ll pardon our language just for a minute, we want to go a little further: it’s bollocks.

Felt good, that.

But it actually is bollocks. The image that people willingly or unwillingly put across on social media is just that: an image. That they give you a snapshot of their lives, very much through a filter of sorts. And what they don’t give you is a reflection of the day to day of every moment of their life. Sure, some people share more than others. But it’s still a snapshot.

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Anecdotally, we’ve spoken to people in recent months who have found themselves concerned to some degree about whether one person follows someone on social media and not them. Another has told us that they don’t feel successful, because they follow the Twitter feeds of people doing what they want to do, and they make it look easy. They get to do exciting things! They’re having lots of success! Their life is perfect, and mine sucks!

That’s not to trivialise those feelings and thoughts, genuinely. It’s impossible sometimes to look at someone’s holiday snaps on Facebook or Instagram, or news about an exciting new job on LinkedIn, and not feel the occasional pang of ‘I wish that was me’.

But we can’t say this strongly enough: social media does not given an accurate reflection of someone’s life. If anything, it tends to be a highlights and lowlights reel. That you get the most notable things on a day to day basis, rather than how most of the day was actually filled. And comparing yourself to that, and measuring your life against it, is like measuring yourself against a Photoshopped picture: it’s an ideal that doesn’t exist.

Life is tough enough with the inevitable pressure many of us feel to be more like this person or that person, and we’ve chatted in the past about how it’s a dangerous game to compare yourself to other people at the best of times. But through a social media prism? It’s arguably even worse, and an utterly unwinnable game.

Social media is what it is. It can be fun, diverting, nasty, moving, funny, ridiculous. But what it isn’t is the full story of someone’s life, yours or the people on your feed. It’s postings that land at the top of your screen courtesy of a digital algorithm, offering a glimpse, but nothing more, into another person’s world.

You, however, get to see your own life warts and all. That’s the only life you get to fully see in three dimensions, and every nook and cranny of it. That may be a good thing, it may be a bad thing, but at least it’s a real thing. Our simple, easy to write down, hard to do suggestion: try and do something that’s good for you, rather than dreaming of mirroring the brief look at what someone else has done.

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And stay awesome. Thanks, as always, for reading.