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The Downfall Of Social Media: Social Comparison

How social comparison on social media can impact our lives

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Social Comparison on Social Media: What is it?

When we use social media, we tend to socially compare ourselves to others. We compare our looks, number of friends, relationship status, or general quality of life. We can make downward comparisons, where we feel more positive about ourselves and lives in relation to others, but on social media we use more upward comparisons, which is when we make more negative comparisons about ourselves and our lives. This results in negative consequences for us (Vogel, Rose, Okdie, Eckles, & Franz, 2015). This is because people on social media typically post positive events and present the most positive aspects of themselves (Chou and Edge, 2012). Therefore, when we are making these comparisons, we are not making accurate comparisons because we are only getting a glimpse into the positive aspects of someone’s life, yet we still experience negative consequences as a result of these comparisons.

1. Self-esteem effects

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Most people only post about positive aspects of their lives, which causes us to believe that others are happier and have better lives than us, and in turn effects our self-esteem (Chou and Edge, 2012). Research has shown that simply viewing another profile can lower our self esteem! What is worse is that when we are looking at profiles and pictures of people who we find attractive, we tend to feel more negatively about ourselves and our bodies (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011; HaferKamp & Krämer 2011).

Friendship effects

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One of the main ways we compare ourselves to others on social media is by looking at the number of friends we have in comparison to others, and this can lead to jealousy because we often view social media as a popularity contest (Fox & Moreland, 2015). Related to this, when we do not get a lot of responses to our posts on social media, it leads us to feel like we have less friends (Lee, 2014). We can also experience the common phrase FOMO (fear of missing out) and become jealous when we see our friends living better lives than us (Chou and Edge, 2012). Even worse, negatively comparing ourselves on social media can make us feel like we are not as good at maintaining our friendships as other people.

Past & Present Romantic Relationship Effects

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At one point or another we have all experienced falling into the deep rabbit hole of social media that is either our partner, or ex-partners, social media account. When going down this road it can create jealousy and self-esteem issues. We can be jealous and compare ourselves to our partner’s ex which makes us feel bad about ourselves, or we can be jealous and compare ourselves to our ex’s new partner (Fox & Moreland, 2015). Social media allows us to ruminate, or reflect and dwell on, past relationships . This leads to us to experience higher levels of depression , longer emotional recovery, and lower levels of general well-being (Feinstein, Heisenberg, Bhatia, Latack, Meuwly, & Davila, 2013; Fox & Warber, 2014).


Chou, H. T. G., & Edge, N. (2012). “They are happier and having better lives than I am”: the impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others' lives. Cyberpsychology, behavior, and social networking, 15(2), 117-121. doi:10.1089/cyber.2011.0324.

Feinstein, B. A., Hershenberg, R., Bhatia, V., Latack, J. A., Meuwly, N., & Davila, J. (2013). Negative social comparison on Facebook and depressive symptoms: Rumination as a mechanism. Psychology of popular media culture, 2(3), 161-170.

Fox, J., & Warber, K. M. (2014). Social networking sites in romantic relationships: Attachment, uncertainty, and partner surveillance on Facebook. CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17, 3–7. 10.1089/cyber.2012.0667.

Fox, J., & Moreland, J. J. (2015). The dark side of social networking sites: An exploration of the relational and psychological stressors associated with Facebook use and affordances. Computers in human behavior, 45, 168-176.

Gonzales, A. L., & Hancock, J. T. (2011). Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall: Effects of exposure to Facebook on self-esteem. Cyberpsychology, behavior, and social networking, 14(1-2), 79-83. doi:10.1089/cyber.2009.0411.

Haferkamp, N., & Krämer, N. C. (2011). Social comparison 2.0: Examining the effects of online profiles on social-networking sites. Cyberpsychology, behavior, and social networking, 14(5), 309-314. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0120.

Lee, S. Y. (2014). How do people compare themselves with others on social network sites?: The case of Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 253-260.

Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Okdie, B. M., Eckles, K., & Franz, B. (2015). Who compares and despairs? The effect of social comparison orientation on social media use and its outcomes. Personality and individual differences, 86, 249-256.

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