The new pandemic: social media

The dangers of social comparison in a post-COVID-19 world


Lucas Rubenstein / Talon

It’s your run-of-the-mill Monday morning. 

Yes, school is in an hour (and you were definitely up too late texting friends again) but, as always, you still make time to check your phone and receive updates regarding your online social platforms. It is more so a reflex than anything else — something we all do, which we have all become reliant on. 

It is safe to say that social media is as easily a part of our lives now as is drinking water or even breathing. It’s become essential to our humanity. We wake up to it, exist through it as we go about our days, and make it the last thing we observe before we go to sleep. 

Where then, is the disconnect between our lives on our phones and our lives in the real world? 

Comparing yourself and your life to others holds a level of insidiousness unlike anything else — it strips us of our ability to exist without worrying that we are coming up short, in one way or another.

The chaos of a world dominated by a ruthlessly vicious pandemic drastically changed  the dynamics of our lives. One of the biggest impacts, as it goes without saying, is our increased reliance on social media and the internet in its many forms. 

Many went from spending Friday nights in bustling movie theatres to creating poorly-designed pillow forts splayed across our couches; home theatres became a must, subscriptions to television streaming services skyrocketed and suddenly we as a global community were more addicted to the Internet than ever before. 

Even more of this can be said about the average American student — the extremities of our tumultuous year of distance learning, when combined with the amount that we already spent on our phones and laptops, quickly became the essence of our waking lives. 

Social media is a steady stream of perfect-seeming lives to the extent that it has become  increasingly easier to stray from the idea that we all endure hardships which warp our self worth at times. On the internet, almost no one is presenting their problems to the world; we suck out the best-looking moments we experience, and paste those up as though it is our normal way of living. 

These are all things that have undoubtedly been preached at you before — we have all experienced the stuffy cyberbullying assemblies and the social media oppositions on monotonous repeat until the essence of the argument is completely stifled in the eyes of students. The important thing to note now is the expedition of these effects now as a result of COVID-19 — whether we are aware of it or not, there are two sides to every individual in not only our school, but globally now: the in-person side, and the side that lives behind our screens. 

Social media is essentially the highlight tape of the lives of those we virtually surround ourselves with. This, alongside the habitual routine of reliance on online platforms, is an overall recipe for unnecessary self-deprecation and insecurity.

COVID-19 and all of its implications shut down our entire globe for essentially a year. It is no wonder, then, that we have developed habits, both negative and otherwise, in terms of how we compare ourselves to others. You have undoubtedly seen media depicting the idea that “social media is fake” — whether it is referring to body image or someone’s lifestyle, this has become prevalent enough. 

The gravity of this concept is immense. However, do you actually allow yourself to remember that idea as you scroll daily? 

As things finally begin to open up across our country and world, it is undeniably crucial that we remember the vast differences in the lives of everyone on this planet. Whether that means financially, in terms of freedom versus stricture, or myriad other things, the fronts that individuals put up for themselves are hardly a representation of what their lives are truly like.

 The pandemic itself is, as recent events have shown, is not nearly over. However, many people, post-vaccination, are heading back towards a semblance of normalcy, re-entering life to enjoy it once again. To see someone going on an exotic vacation while your family is struggling to get by as a result of losses is not an easy thing to face. The real struggle, then, is finding contentment with your life despite a general feeling that others have it much better than you do.

In an age so completely dominated by the presentation of our lives on a virtual scale, one of the most beneficial things we can remind ourselves is to keep things in perspective. That perspective may often be the determining factor between how we hold ourselves up in social situations and even feel about ourselves internally. Remaining inside for the better part of these last years has done anything but alleviate those damages. 

We have experienced next to nothing for so long, that seeing people suddenly start to re-enter those opportunities can weigh heavily on those that are unable to. Because of this, holding onto that perspective is becoming more important than ever — in order to keep peace of mind, to establish even rudimentary amounts of self worth, and to allow oneself to live the life they have been presented with, regardless of how it might look on paper next to someone else’s.