Social Media Is Making Me Miserable

And it’s about time we all talk about it

There. I said it.

I have just spent 7 solid minutes looking at some girl’s Instagram. She popped up on the explore feed (as they always do) with her beautiful makeup and incredible hair and well-lit photos and within 7 minutes I know that she lives in California, likes matcha tea lattes, has a very dashing boyfriend, prefers cats to dogs, drives a Range Rover, she goes to the coolest bars and restaurants, wears the nicest new labels, has a lot of money, is blessed with a permanent tan and radiates joy and beauty. Oh, and that my life will never be as good as hers.

A general summary of the sentiment:

Sure, that tweet hasn’t gone viral, but with 100+ likes and a bunch of replies and retweets, it’s a feeling that certainly chimes with a few people. It’s called compare and despair. Because who hasn’t felt that guilty pang of misery when we see somebody else succeeding, whilst we feel that our feet are stuck in cement and we’re going nowhere? I say the word guilty, because we know we know we knowwww that it’s It can happen when we look at our friends profiles, or that of a complete stranger, and despite the fact that I make a living partly by creating images that are most certainly an enhanced version of my reality – going to certain extents to construct my photographs just to get *the shot* – I still find myself engaging in acts of self-sabotage when I find that my life doesn’t compare to others on the internet. Why doesn’t my life look like that? Why am I not as happy as that? Why am I struggling so much? It makes me feel stupid. Because I should know better.

We’ve all had thoughts like this whilst checking out social feeds. And as humans, it’s totally natural for us to have a frame to assess, and reassess our own worth against to see how we’re getting on at the game that is life. Psychologists call it Social Comparison Theory. It’s totally normal – it was devised wayyyyyy back in the 50s, before nobody new what a Kardashian was, before anyone had come across a selfie Facetuned so strongly it looked like a cartoon. Social comparison theory is seen as the ways that we compare ourselves against others to help define and understand ourselves better.

We have long fallen victim to our ego’s need for affirmation. But social media – by way of Instagram updates and stories, Snapchat, YouTube videos, tweets and Facebook statuses – just gives us a wider, further-reaching, multidimensional and totally unachievable frame to assess ourselves on, that’s unfortunately pretty inaccurate thanks to it becoming an infinite, never-ending highlights reel of peoples lives. And if you’re the kind of person to compare yourself to someone else on social media, you’re more likely to feel depressed. You will always find someone to compare yourself to who’s doing better off than you, and if you go searching for it, you’ll find it quicker. So more often than not, we’re left reassessing ourselves so negatively against everyone else’s seemingly perfect lives.

And now, it’s coming at us from all different levels. Instagram and Facebook live, Snapchat stories. We’re connected to the internet at all times via our Smartphones – it’s relentless. What next? It presents a parallel universe, working by charading as, and part-reflecting reality, whilst simultaneously presenting a world so so different. And when we’re on our phones more and more often (most of us check social media 20-30 times a day), it’s easy to get blinded by the gloss we have on screen that leaves our own lives feeling, well, unfiltered.

I feel like I’ve tackled this subject in so many different ways, from my old post on Instagram and self-esteem, my post about success not being a race, and the one on the pressure to photograph and share everything. But I’ve never really properly addressed the fact that sometimes, social media makes me miserable. It’s practically embarrassing how much I bemoan social on my blog, whilst it’s the very same platform which has given me my career. But at the same time, it’s cause and effect: I live in this fantasy land for my job, and I end up feeling inadequate and worthless more often as a result.

And it seems that a lot of us are feeling super shitty about it. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues have risen dramatically in the past decade. From 2010, Google searches for things such as anxiety have almost quadrupled. So what happened in 2010 that *could* have helped trigger this? Instagram. About a billion studies go to show that the more young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. Okay okay, I can hear the collective eye roll of every other human who’s ever had  at least one social media account, being like “yeah, and?” It’s something we’ve felt and known about for ages, but the stats put the science to it. And it sadly comes as no surprise that the majority of people that share my sentiment of failure and misery are girls just like me – bloggers, influencers, and YouTubers – because we’re all using social media so heavily as part of our jobs. 
Inspiration vs Misery: Which Comes Off Top?  

So the Jekyll and Hyde sides of social media: I find it a source of endless inspiration, but also a mirror to endlessly compare my life, talents, job, and looks to, finding, more often than not, that my life doesn’t measure up and I’m left off feeling totally inadequate. And what’s strange is how closely the miserable side and inspiration sides of social media are so closely aligned, at times. One moment I’ll be fizzing off of the inspiration for interiors on Pinterest, getting over-excited on what things I could possibly buy to make my room nicer, all whilst having this sad nagging feeling that I’m so far off owning my own property, decorating rented flats is tough, and the rent is so extortionate here in London that I can barely afford baked beans from the reduced aisle in Sainsbury’s, let alone redecorate my room with all of these stylish furnishings. It’s a total waste of time. I look to others for style inspiration, but leave feeling like an unfashionable lardy blob with a credit card transaction worth £135 with Zara’s name on it and no place to wear the fancy new dress I bought apart from, well… Instagram.

Going all factoids on you again here, there’s been countless studies showing correlations between increased anxiety and decreased self-esteem with the use of social media. But one thing that’s changed dramatically is how we use social media these days. It used to be about connecting. Remember MySpace? Bebo? Old Facebook? These days, it’s more about building a ‘personal brand‘, using it as a business tool, or a virtual CV, with all our different social channels, creating a multi-dimensional movie for the lives we wish we had. There’s no surprise that we sometimes feel miserable and inadequate, given that in this disjointed and voyeuristic world, all we see of people is the highlights they choose to show off. When we’re living our own every day reality, we see the lows and highs. Example: I keep getting distracted from writing this by picking a spot on my cheek but I’m illustrating it with cute summery photos of me playing on my phone!

Just look at your own profiles, objectively for just a moment. As a snapshot, it probably looks better than the reality you’re living. Reality is way more balanced. Reality is me sitting here right now, in my pyjamas, having not fake tanned in two weeks with no makeup on. It’s not my best self – or at least, not the one that I think is. Social media gives us a view of reality that doesn’t exist – from filters, to editing apps like Facetune, to posting things shot several days or weeks before. As a blogger, I rarely post things on the day that I actually do them (might mess with the planned feed y’know!) but I’ll still find myself snapping away for ‘filler’ content to put on ice for when I’ve got nothing to post one day.

So seriously, what the fuck can we actually do because this is an actual problem?

1. Social media is just the new internet. It’s the way we connect with people, read news, promote ourselves, and learn. So we’ve got to see it for what it is: a source of entertainment. It’s the same way that people get angry at me for watching things like Made in Chelsea, saying that I’m stupid because “It’s all scripted! It’s not real!” and I’m like, obviously. It’s obviously constructed for our entertainment. And social media is a little bit of the same. It’s about shifting the mentality to see it not as reality, but constructed.

You’re probably thinking “I already know this!” – and truth is oh my god yeah, so do I. But we’re still here, reading/writing this blogpost, feeling shitty about our own assumed shortcomings whilst watching someone else nailing it on the net. That’s why you’re here? Isn’t it?

2. It’s harder, as a blogger, to just switch off when your life is social media. Some of my happiest friends have quit social media as much as they can, but when you live your life in it for a living, it’s a lot more challenging to create a separation. So if you find yourself less inspired and more miserable, minimise your time spent on it. Move the apps off your first phone screen so they’re not easy access, and only use it for uploading.

3. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad or don’t inspire you. If fitness accounts, super-successful fashion accounts, or anything of the like make you feel bad about your own life, then it’s toxic. They are triggers. Get rid. Sashay away! Instead, follow someone who’s all about health and fitness, but their posts don’t necessarily make you feel bad for not living the same way. If you’re bothered by one of your favourite bloggers who only wears designer now, then unfollow them. Follow someone who’s style you can afford and attain. If social media is creating this parallel universe, make it one that you not only want to be a part of, but that you feel you’d fit into, instead of feeling like an inadequate

4. But what about my good friends who’s successful lives make me question my own? If you’re friend knew you felt like this, they’d feel bad and tell you all the amazing things about yourself. So tell yourself all those amazing things you think your friends would say to you.

5. Know that we compare our weaknesses to others strengths. We all know the things we hate about ourselves – whether you’re not rich or smart or skinny or stylish enough or whatever – we obsess over them so much that they sadly become ingrained in our psyche. So we naturally look out for other people who have the opposite. It only makes the comparison gap so much wider and more painful. Recognise that you’re doing this, and be kinder to yourself. And don’t fall in to the trap!

6. Stay in the present. Stress, anxiety and depression that we feel when using social media all stem from the fear, panicking about the future and harshly reassessing our lives. It’s time to stick in the present, and stop worrying about the future so much.

So let this post be your egos affirmation that yes, you are doing okay. And yes, we all feel like this sometimes.

Outfit: Zara Jeans and Top, Guess bag, ASOS sunglasses

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  1. Okay first of all the outfit here is GORGE – the jeans, the top, the earrings, all of it. You look amazing.
    Secondly, thank you! I'm so glad someone came out and said this, because I am struggling to enjoy social at all at the moment and I hate feeling like my mood is tied to it because frankly that's pathetic. I'm definitely not surprised at the link between increased anxiety/decreased self esteem and use of social. I think I need to unfollow a few accounts and focus on staying in the present!
    Sophie xxx | Sophar So Good

  2. I could go on and on about this very same subject and how frustrated I can be with Instagram and also with myself for getting it get to me, so I won't…
    But I will say that I love your style and this outfit is simply wonderful!

  3. This outfit is so gorgeous. I think you make a good point that it does really get some people down. It kind of has the opposite effect on me. I really enjoy seeing all the perfect life images because it gives me something to aspire to but I hate anything that looks too 'real life' because it makes me feel depressed.

  4. I'm well jel that you can afford this beautiful Guess bag and that you can keep a white clean long enough to get out of the house without spilling foundation/jam/coffee on it, ha! Seriously though, I do get what you mean. I just tell myself that I'm sure if people looked at parts of my blog or Instagram they would be a little envious at certain points. Which obviously shows it isn't a real representation of everyday life. In fact if you look at the perfect people's post, you realise they actually don't post all of the time and are really choosy with what they do share, to create the desired vibe/brand. Xx

  5. Love this post! It's definitely hard when you're a blogger to switch off, but I always try and give myself days away from it all and I'm such a huge advocate for unfollowing people who aren't inspiring you or making you feel positive – no point forcing yourself to see something that makes you feel shit! xxx

  6. Wow thanks for speaking out about this subject in such an honest way.
    I see we're all the same when it comes to comparing ourselves, not that I thought I was alone but knowing that even you, who seem to have it all, do this… It shows that we shouldn't.
    Then, there are the comparisons with your old self, that is even hard to let go because you KNOW it was real, you were better, looked better, had a better life… I try to avoid old pics of me because it's a real pain in the ass and I haven't been on Facebook for months (thankfully, my best friend is there to update me if I'm invited to events because she knows I'm like scared of log in to fb).