I scroll through the beautifully curated pictures on Instagram at least several times a day. Smiling faces, white bright rooms (seriously, does anyone even use colors in their house anymore?), beautifully shot women wearing gorgeous clothing, delicious desserts on display, and the list goes on and on. For a minute I think "I need that!" "Why doesn't my house look like that?" and I go down the spiral of self doubt and yearning for whatever those pictures have in them. Not only do I wish that my house or closet had what they have but I often go down a rabbit hole of "why is their life so beautiful and seemingly perfect?" Over time, I have been able to continue to remind myself that their pictures are only half the story.
A beautiful and hardworking Vanderbilt student began the #halfthestory movement after realizing how much of a disconnect occurred between what she was actually experiencing in real life versus what she was displaying on her social media accounts. Underneath the glamorous pictures of New York Fashion Week and hip clothing, she found herself exhausted and struggling with anxiety, depression, and feelings of inadequacy. With this realization she began a social media movement using the hashtag #halfthestory and really began addressing real issues that we all struggle with at some point in our lives.
It's such a breath of fresh air to have someone point this out so that all of us who struggle with self worth or value see that even the most coveted Instagram page has a real person behind it who has real struggles.
Research around social media has shown that it can be linked to an increase in depression and anxiety. A study completed by the Royal Society for Public Health found Instagram to be the most detrimental social media platform. The author of the study, Matt Keracher, even went on to say that it "encourages young women to compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered, Photoshopped versions of reality."
When I take on new clients, I almost always check in with them about the extent of their social media use. If it is extensive and they spend hours scrolling, we talk about ways to slowly back off and why. Together, we try and come up with ways that it could be hurting their own core values and beliefs about how they view themselves and the world.
Psychology Today recently ran a story in their December magazine highlighting how comparison can be harmful to our mental health and self worth. One picture they included was of a woman holding a baby with a mess all around her - laundry, toys scattered, food on her leg, and her wearing slippers. The only part that she includes in her "selfie" is what looks put together - her cute baby with a cute top and her hair and makeup looking perfect. She fails to show the realness of what is outside the picture she puts on display on social media.
While comparison to others can often be harmful, the story points out that comparison can be positive if we use "upward comparison", meaning we use what we see as motivation to better ourselves or try harder. Being mindful of how these comparisons or perfectly curated social accounts affect you is the first step in ensuring they don't create more issues internally. If we can connect with the person online (comment on their picture or say hello) or spend more time in gratitude for our own blessings then we may find that these social media "Debbie Downers" can have less of a daily impact on our self worth.
Information for this post drawn from this CNN article (http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/06/technology/culture/half-the-story-larissa-may/index.html) and the recent Psychology Today December 2017 publication story "Escape the Comparison Trap: How to be Happy Just as you Are" by Rebecca Webber.