The comparison game. We all get caught up in it. We find ourselves envying the lives others are pretending to live online. We start desiring something, and working toward something, that doesn’t even exist. And what’s worse, we start to discredit and remove ourselves from the miraculous reality we’re already a part of. We need to learn how to avoid the comparison game online.
The tricky thing about this game is that we all know its fake, yet it somehow continues to trick us. We know that what we’re posting isn’t what our life looks like in its entirety, and yet its so hard to remember that that’s true for everyone else who is posting and sharing pieces of their lives online.
The truth is, what we’re doing is filtering our realities. Each of us is doing this. We are taking our real lives and presenting them online with a veil of perfection. Because why not? I’d much rather show a picture of me smiling on vacation than me crying in the shower because I’m PMS-ing. Both are equally real parts of my life. But one I’m excited to share with the world, while the other I’d prefer keeping to myself (plus no one really wants to see that).
The thing to remember is, that behind each of those veils of perfection is real life. Each of us has our own multi-faceted, confusing, thrilling, happy, exhausting, miserable, beautiful, REAL life. With crying babies and messy kitchens and boring weekends and cellulite.
So, how then do we navigate the online landscape and show up to do our work without constantly getting derailed by the comparison game? How do we use the Internet and social media while taking full advantage of all their resources in order to reach the people who need us? How do we create content that works online without falling into the trap of manipulating our actual realities in an attempt to look like what we’re seeing “works” online?
How to avoid the comparison game
We need to separate the reality we share online from the reality we live offline.
And the best way I’ve learned to do this is by setting boundaries, or mental reminders, to keep myself from falling down the rabbit hole that is the online comparison game.
My fiance has a 16 year old niece. There is only one tiny decade sitting between her and I, but the faster technology is advancing, that gap between generations is becoming an ever-expanding chasm. To her, and other digital natives, social media is just another extension of her existence. It’s not a tool so much as its another mode of communication. Like AOL Instant Messenger once was to us.
The other day, she explained to me that she has a fake Instagram account to share pictures with her real friends. Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me either. But she let me know that this is actually quite common. Basically, she has a separate account where she posts pictures of herself doing normal 16 year old things like making silly faces and having sleep overs and being in high school.
What, then, is on her “real” Instagram account? Well, for one thing, thousands of followers. But also buzz-worthy pictures of her doing more exciting things like attending concerts and going out on boats and wearing trendy clothes with her friends. You see, those things are still a part of her reality. They might not represent her day to day, or the majority of what she does with her time. But they’re the pretty, perfect, shiny, exciting highlight reel. So why not share them?
One thing I think we can take away from all this is her firm understanding of the separation between her actual reality and the one she shares online. When she explained her “fake” account with her “real” friends, she did so with such matter-of-factness. She knew exactly what she was doing, and had a firm boundary in place. Is it time-consuming? Sure. Is she still doing things just for the sake of taking pictures? Maybe. But, our generation will never fully understand or relate to the ones who come after us and we shouldn’t try. They know something we don’t, just like we know something our parents don’t.
I just want to encourage all of us, myself included, to know the difference when we’re sharing our lives online. Let us post our content knowing that we’re posting the highlight reel. This will help create that instinctual boundary. For her, social media is primarily another form of communication, like the telephone once was to talking.
For us, as online business owners, social media is a platform to get in front of people who need our services.
In order to do that, we must first understand how social media works. The highlight real grabs their attention. And when you’re posting content to attract an online audience, their attention is too small not to be grabbed immediately. The market is grossly over-saturated, so you need to be mindful and consistent about the content you’re sharing in order to be seen and followed.
Another important thing to remember is that your highlight reel isn’t fake. You aren’t manipulating your reality, you’re just choosing to share a certain glimpse of it. JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Because no ones want to see the vacation picture where your thumb got in front of the lens. We don’t have time for that. We all want to see each other’s highlight reels.
Our mission then is to REMEMBER that. I think that by constantly reminding ourselves that our own social media content is simply just a snippet of our actual reality, it’ll be easier to remember that’s true for everyone else. So when we start feeling jealous or wanting the type of life someone else is sharing online, we’ll very quickly snap back to our own reality and remember how silly that is.
Below is a replay of a live video I did for my Loey FB page about how to avoid the comparison game as a blogger & online entrepreneur. Check it out!