Resisting the Social Media Comparison Trap

by | Apr 13, 2020 | Healthy Parents, Parenting

Eagerly I pried the lid off the can of paint. Finally the walls would be the colour I envisioned for them. I laughed remembering the first tour of our home. I’d been happy to see a bright, well laid out basement and hadn’t even noticed the colour of the paint.

How quickly things change. Our initial walk through of the home had been quick — we caught the highlights and knew that it checked off our “must have” boxes, but we’d missed so much. The peeling laminate on the drawers, the chipped door frames, and the pink hue on the walls that became particularly strong in the evening light. When we live in something every day, the realities of it become a little more clear.

Social media can be similar to my initial home tour. We log onto Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest and catch the highlights of friends’ lives: the smiling children, the perfectly crafted party favours, the husband with a bouquet of flowers.

It’s fun, entertaining, and often inspiring.

But there is a flip side. It can also be discouraging, frustrating, and even soul crushing, particularly if we’re in a hard season.

If we don’t hop online with intention or evaluate what we’re seeing, we can end up comparing others’ best day to our every day. We compare the greatest achievements of someone’s child to our child’s worst moment that particular day. We see their spouses’ best moments and weigh it against our spouse’s grunts at the end of a long work day. If we’re not careful, we can easily get caught up in the comparison — feeling jealous of perfect lives that don’t even exist.

So how do we find balance? Is it even possible to do without cutting out social media completely? Here are a few ways I think we can stay out of the comparison traps.

Imagine Beyond the Picture

The Salvation Army has a campaign to shed light on the various faces of poverty. Initial shots are of a stereotypical family Christmas card. However, with a click of the mouse we are able to view the space the picture was taken in. Very quickly a different picture of the family emerges. Impoverishment is clearly present but had been carefully cropped out of the Christmas card image.

I try to consciously do the same on my social media accounts. I imagine beyond the cropped picture and carefully selected words. When I post a picture of two of my kids laughing together on the couch, I know what is beyond. It might be a basket of unfolded laundry, the remnants of lunch, or the missing third child tantruming on the floor. I remind myself — other homes are probably much the same.

Perfection is Not the Goal

Nobody is perfect. We know this and yet we often strive so hard to achieve it. So why are we threatened and unsettled by visions of others succeeding in areas that perhaps we haven’t mastered? I have to remind myself often that perfection is not the end goal. I endeavour to be the best that I can be — as a wife, as a mother, as a well rounded person. But that doesn’t mean perfection. That can never be achieved this side of heaven.  

My best might not stand up next to my friend’s best and that’s OK. My best is what is important. Let’s face it, some days my best might be downright ugly — but there is grace for that, opportunity to seek forgiveness if it’s needed, new mercies given daily, and chances to try it all again the next day!

Celebrate, Appreciate, and Move On

Laura made an amazing cake. Jenny has five children coordinated and corralled for family pictures. Mike brought his wife wine and chocolates last night. All of it is incredible and worth getting excited about!

Take time to celebrate with friends/family/acquaintances. Remember, these are the things that bring them joy. These are the moments that are important to them and they’ve made the choice to share them.

After doing that, move on. We can choose to:

  • Have a good laugh at the expense of our own Pinterest cupcake fail and remember the amazing dinner served the night before.
  • Embrace our free spirited children in their uncoordinated glory.
  • Take time to appreciate our spouse — maybe they cleaned up when the toddler had an accident all over the floor, remembered to grab groceries on the way home, or simply were there when we needed a shoulder to cry on.

None of these may feel worthy of social media sharing, but they are important, nonetheless.

Step Away from the Screen and Engage

With three young children, a full schedule, and a husband that often travels, online connection is simple and convenient. But it also means it’s easy to disconnect, walk away, and keep connections limited and shallow.

We are made for relationship, not just limited connection, and although it can be hard — stepping out and seeking deep friendships beyond our screen is critical for keeping perspective.  

It is in these relationships we discover the everyday, the real, the unglamourous. Not only do we experience the highlights with these friends, but we see their home the day before laundry day, we see their kids in the midst of epic tantrums, and we are there when marriage might be difficult for a season.

Finding a healthy balance is possible — intentionality is key. While social media done well can be a meaningful addition to our lives, done poorly it can lead to discontent, disillusionment, and relational breakdown. Let’s be sure we’re using it as a positive in our lives for the sake of our marriages and families!