Social media,I think,  is one of the greatest distractions and greatest highways of thoughts that anyone can ever be exposed to because one minute we are grieving what happened to  George Floyd , the next minute we are looking at someone’s cute baby —Pastor Sarah Jakes Roberts

One of my morning routines is usually doing rounds on different social media platforms to check on what has been happening around the world overnight. In the media space, you need to have a glimpse of what is happening around you. Its actually something that we are all used to, especially during a season like this one. Depending on who you are and what you do, you will definitely go through the platform that you relate with.I mostly use twitter and a bit of facebook so I usually check them first.

On a typical day, on twitter , the first thing I come across is an eye-opening tweet on racism by a certain celebrity as protests around the world continue after the death of George Floyd . The tweet has over one hundred thousand retweets . The thousands of comments on the tweets are also aimed at fighting racism .Going through some of the comments , I completely sink into it. I feel the pinch of racism from my bed . Black Lives Matter and there is no going back with that to be honest. The tweet is so engaging that it eats up a few minutes of my time reading the comments

Below it , a football dedicated account is doing a poll on the best players in the world . I am a Lionel Messi fan and I can never let Ronaldo win such a poll so I do the necessary and vote for my ‘GOAT’. They have been doing polls Over the time I was asleep so I go back to all of them and cast my vote .I will also try to add my opinion on why I believe Messi is the greatest player ever . Football banter is quite fun by the way. You will always find something intriguing especially when the major European leagues are on. That is another piece of my time gone.

Once I’m done with football , I see a tweet by the Ministry of Health on the corona virus pandemic . They are rolling out a system of home based care for asymptomatic patients . There is a link attached to the tweet so I click it and I get directed to the whole article on the system . With the number of positive cases rising every day , our hospitals will probably get overwhelmed. The ministry is looking at only having seriously ill patients in hospitals .Apparently , about 80% of the corona virus patients in the country are asymptomatic.  I have to read more and do a break down of the system for my evening radio show .It is a serious matter.

There is someone selling some nice shoes below that tweet, a musician sharing their latest song, another one sharing memes and there will always be someone agreeing/disagreeing/ with someone’s opinion on something. It is how the platform is modeled. A flow of thoughts and opinions . You can go from a broken relationship to a happy marriage to divorce in a minute. From Donald Trump and the way he has been running things in the USA to your local MCA who is part of a group of other MCAs who want to impeach the governor. From Arsenal loosing in England to a dog in Australia that helps out in the kitchen to a river with colors in Colombia. The human mind can be such an amazing thing .

While social media can be a great space to acquire information , do some advertising, share content like this article , connect with people across the globe easily, it can fix us into different realities away from ours with how we are able to connect with each other despite the physical distance. . You get sucked into a hole of thoughts and opinions on what you are reading and before you realize it , 20 minutes are gone , for example. I have been a victim of this for so long until I made up my mind to actually regulate my presence on social media.

The Social Comparison Theory

In 1954,a  psychologist ,Leon Festinger suggested that people have an innate drive to evaluate themselves, often in comparison to others.We make all kinds of judgments about ourselves, and one of the key ways that we do this is through social comparison, or analyzing the self in relation to others. He believed that we engage in this comparison process as a way of establishing a benchmark by which we can make accurate evaluations of ourselves. That’s the origin of the social comparison theory that almost 7 decades later flourishes on social media. The process involves individuals coming to know themselves by evaluating themselves in comparison with others .  There are two kinds of social comparison theory and you probably have  experienced one of them.Or both

The upward social comparison takes place when we compare ourselves with those who we believe are better than us. For example , Martin is a graphics designer . He usually follows the best graphics designers on social media .He is always looking at their new posters , flyers etc as a way of assessing his skills. Sometimes he gets discouraged when he sees them working with the biggest brands for advertising jobs while he is still struggling to put his art together , but he somehow realizes that he can also achieve the same skill level if he keeps learning and practicing . In such a case, the upward social comparison has made Martin more motivated to be a better graphics designer .He might end up getting those big contracts just by comparing himself with others on social media.

Centered on making ourselves feel better about our abilities or traits, the downward social comparison is the complete opposite. It surrounds us comparing ourselves with those who are worse off than us .  We do this when we want to feel better about ourselves . A toxic trait? You can tell me. If Martin , the graphics designer, was among the best in the business and spends his time observing young designers and their skills , he will definitely feel better about his own skills majorly because they are just starting out. Their experience can’t match his. That is downward social comparison. 

Its safe to say that both the upward and downward social comparison theories happen mostly on social media in this generation.The trend is usually individuals posting their peak moments and leaving off their down moments. Someone called this Facebooking. Nice foods ,glamorous vacations, happy marriages and relationships ; Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are filled with them. The perception of perfection circulates here.

A study at Bond University in Australia looked at the relationship between self-worth, self-esteem and Instagram use in 237 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29.

It turned out that people who based their self-worth more on others’ approval tended to engage in more social comparison on Instagram, and that people who engaged in more social comparison on Instagram ultimately tended to have lower self-esteem. By the same token, how much people compared themselves to others on Instagram depended on how much the approval of others mattered for their self-worth – people who used Instagram more often tended to engage in more social comparison on Instagram when their self-worth was more contingent on other people’s approval.(Credits to https://blog.allpsych.com/)

The problem with social comparison is that it has no space for gratitude. Upwards sees us looking at other people , even though it may help us grow , we never appreciate our own journeys. We might put so much energy on becoming like the other person and loose ourselves on the way. The downward comparison is now the epitome of ungratefulness. While looking at those below our levels , we end up focusing on that too much , we grow full of ourselves and eventually get lost . Comparing ourselves to others , either in a good or bad way , is the war against gratitude. Gratefulness is the dose for comparison , complaining and other vices that stop us from experiencing life the way God wants us to.

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Social media can have its dark sides , away from the good. It can consume too much of our time , affect our thinking and end up making us less productive at work , school or at home . On the other side ,we get fooled into believing other people’s lives are much better than our own and we end up never being grateful. It is up to you to find the areas where social media is affecting you and work on them. If it means getting rid of them , then do it . I am actually in that process so you can always ask me how its going and in case you need any kind of advice.

Thank you for passing by.

MK

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