Social Comparison and Its Effects

Social Comparison and Its Effects
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 31-03-2023

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Google says, “Comparison is a consideration or estimate of the similarities or dissimilarities between two things or people.” But do you know what this mere comparison does to the human mind?

Comparing oneself to others is human nature, whether favourably or unfavourably. Favourable comparisons enhance self-esteem and make people feel better about their circumstances in life, while the constant negative comparison of yourself to others may have the opposite effect.
Whether done by self or by others, negative comparison can bring about drastic changes in thinking patterns, behaviour, the personality which could lead to an unknown mental pressure on the person. This is known as the theory of social comparison and it states that people are constantly making self and other comparisons across a variety of different attributes such as beauty, wealth, intellect and achievement.

There is a strong correlation between the desire to seek information on social comparison and low self-esteem, depression and neuroticism. Unfortunately, there is a common temptation with the widespread availability of social media to skim through posts from several other people and try matching yourself with others. Social comparison and mental health may be more of an issue with modern technology than ever before.

A modern term associated with the use of social media is a problem known as "smiling depression" in which an individual seems to be happy, smiling and positive, but is actually sad and lonely in reality. People on the internet are trying to create perfect representations of themselves, and the pressure to maintain the illusion of happiness can lead to depression. Many choose to mask the negative aspects of their lives and yet equate these moments behind the scenes with other people s highlights and reels online.

Although not comparing yourself to others in the modern world can be difficult, it is important for people to understand how detrimental social comparison can be to our well-being. If we could somehow find different ways to view social media and our natural social comparison tendency, it can help to reduce problems of self-esteem and depression.

When it comes to comparisons in life or on social media, a good approach is to look at the positive characteristics of other people as an example or something to learn or get inspired from.

It may be too difficult to avoid social comparison entirely since it is an instinctive psychological activity that allows us to assess our own self-worth. But discovering new ways to reduce and manage your comparison with more positive and constructive activities can help minimize the damage to your psychological health that this might cause.

Taking time out of every day to feel grateful is a perfect way to manage social contrast and depression. Creating in yourself feelings of appreciation for all the opportunities you have can make you feel better

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