The Social Media Trap That We Can Learn to Avoid
“The Social Dilemma” documentary had neglected a crucial element: The comparison that has been amplified through social media and is debilitating us all
“I will not reason and compare; my business is to create”.
In the summer of 2013, I was standing on the brink. Not a dramatic one, but definitely the kind that requires a decision that will affect me for years: Should I join the social media?
I disliked the idea that my life would be exposed to anyone on the internet, I wasn’t happy thinking about different people from the past who will “show up” online and I’ll be obliged to approve their contact request, and I mainly didn’t want to spend too much on those platforms, which seemed quite addictive when observing some of my friends.
But I had two big pros pushing me to consider joining social media:
First, I just finished an international program and headed back to my home country, knowing that probably the only way (other than emails) to stay in touch would be through Facebook.
Second, I was planning to start my own business for the first time in my life, and was advised by many to join the crowd since without social media handles — no one could hear about what you do, and “your new business would be doomed to remain in the shadows”.
I decided to dip my toes in the digital pool. But I did it carefully under strict agreements I signed with myself: I joined just Facebook, logged in for a very limited time a day, and only confirmed people I knew well or that could be professional collaborators (work-related interest).
To make sure that the world knows I wasn’t caving in, I added a bold sentence on my website: “We need empathy, we need concern, we need more people taking action and engaging face to face instead of more Facebook ‘likes’.”
Seven years later.
I’m constantly active on Facebook and Linkedin, my followers’ number on the later grew to over 9K, most of my book’s copies were sold thanks to social media, and I launched some of my most successful social change initiatives through those platforms, while those projects expanding globally.
Had my view changed? Not really.
I’m still scared as hell. But for different reasons.
A known secret we preferred to ignore
In September 2020, a Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” had exploded.
I’m not just talking about an explosion of views and commentaries made over — you guessed correctly — social media, I’m also talking about an explosion of the prevalent mindset.
For the first time, people have not only understood how the algorithm works and the potential power of manipulation that it holds, but also how we all were and still are subjected to sub-conscious influence that may alter our opinions, decisions, behaviors, and actions, all the way to the extreme.
Yes, the kind of extreme that costs people’s lives.
But the reason I was personally scared of the most, is one angle that was presented only briefly in the documentary, and mainly touched upon body image, but I see it as a wider problem and one of the biggest triggers of harmful behavior: The comparison that is being amplified through social media.
In 2019 I published my first book, which focuses on Burnout Prevention. Simultiounasly, I co-founded Enkindle Global, an organization that is dedicated to supporting leaders and organizations in burnout prevention and cultivation of wellbeing.
The irony was eye-opening: While addressing the connection between comparison and burnout in my book, I’ve experienced it first hand.
Every single day throughout the past year — I had to force myself daily to avoid comparison to other authors and entrepreneurs.
- Do they have more readers than I have?
- How did they get more book reviews?
- How do other organizations manage to find their first clients so quickly?
- My team and I are pouring so much value and effort into our work — how come that others are more financially successful?
- Who is considered a “social media influencer” and why?
Those are the type of questions that I had to constantly push aside, in order to keep focusing on the work that I do, instead of falling into the trap of comparison. And that trap is still open, waiting for me to walk right into it.
It’s literally within a hand reach — on social media! I don’t have to go far in order to watch how someone else is more successful than I am — I just need to open my feed and scroll down.
Fortunately, as someone who had researched and spilled a great deal of ink on how comparison might lead to emotional anxiety and eventually burnout — I had the warning signs ingrained in my mind, and I managed to avoid the harm. At least in most of the days (I myself am not totally immune to comparison).
But how do most people manage that? How do people who are doing an incredible, valuable, and impactful work throughout the world, are able to pause the comparison and not fall into the victim mentality of “I’m working so hard, why on earth do others more successful than I am?”
Pausing instead of eliminating comparison
“Change your perception. Growth is not only about the numbers; it is also about how well we perform our job, how fulfilled we are while working, and how happy we tend to feel while at work. But remember to be realistic: No one is constantly happy, no matter how it looks like on social media.”
~ ”Burning Out Won’t Get You There”
Can we eliminate comparison?
Not really. Not fully.
Comparison is part of human nature, and the more we are socially evolved, weaved, and connected — the more we are subjected to multiple social influences.
Therefore, the first step for hitting the pause button of comparison is to question some of those influences and their results.
Examples for such questions could be:
- What is considered a success?
- What does success look like to me?
- Is there a gap between the two, and if so — how can I bridge that gap?
The next step would be to read on social media through personal filters, clarity, and focus.
Examples for such filters could be:
- What kind of materials (posts, articles, images) am I interested to read, why, and how can I bring those into my feed?
- If I’m coming across a post that contradicts my needs or values, am I able to ignore and move on?
- Can I treat my media feed with a collaborative perspective, with an open mind, and with knowing that it’s just part of a bigger picture — instead of treating it as a competition, the only place that counts, or a fighting arena?
Lastly, to pause comparison is to explore the concept of self-worth.
Examples for such self-exploration could be:
- Gratitude (in any format that works for you)
- Practicing positive self-talk
- Exercised such as appreciative inquiry.
The minute that our self-worth is detached from the need for external approval and instant gratification — is the exact moment in which we let go of comparison and its ripples.
I can count a long list of social media advantages and another list, as equally long, of its disadvantages. Both seem to be widely discussed at the current moment. My addition will be just the following:
Pause the harmful comparison that is being enhanced when using social media in the wrong way.
Let go of the urge to position yourself in relation to others, as they are being mirrored on this media, which is one-dimensional.
You do you. And let that impact ripple.
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