How Social Media Envy Affects Us All

Quiz time! For what reason are you active on social media?

  1. To connect and keep in touch with people

  2. To be in the loop and inform myself

  3. To look at pug videos all day

  4. To manage and control the impression I make on others

You probably never even considered answer D to be the reason why you just love broadcasting live updates of your Sunday brunch on Instagram, right? Even if you hardly post on social media, you’ll be likely to treat your followers to a picture-perfect version of whatever it is you share.

Social media envy from Instagram
My personal feed. Cue party pics, milestones, showing off my friends, #instatravel…

Getting lost in this constant influx of images and content is way more than our brillant bean can take. Especially when we get bombarded with the creme de la creme of content. It makes us feel like we should be (or have been) there. That we need that product to look stylish, or fit in. It makes us wish that we could have the same body, boyfriend, or bank account.

social media Jealousy vs. social media Envy

Although envy and jealousy are often used interchangeably, there is a subtle yet important difference between the two. Does the idea of other people sliding into your lover’s DMs make you feel like you should punch a wall? You’re jealous. Envy is scrolling through Instagram, seeing things you want and feeling bad about not being able to have it. In a way, FOMO (fear of missing out) is also a form of envy.

So, jealousy is when you worry someone will take what you have, while envy is wanting what someone else has. Although social media jealousy definitely a problem that should be explored further, I’ll be focussing on social media envy, and the eternal struggle for the pursuit of happiness.

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Feeling envious, or comparing yourself to others is a very real thing, and you don’t have to be ashamed for it. In fact, we all experience it. Plus, it’s been around forever! The only difference is that it didn’t happen on a tiny screen. Today it’s all about the Kardashians, but a decade or two ago we were all keeping up with the Jones’es.

We wouldn’t feel like we were missing out on life just because some blond babe across the globe livestreamed herself swimming with sharks: we simply didn’t have access to her life. Instead, you would throw a tantrum because your frenemy from third grade got this awesome Tamagotchi, and you also wanted one. Similarly, your parents would be making snarky comments about Mr. Jones’es new shiny Ferrari parked on the driveway, right next to their Ford.

Being envious of one person in your direct circle is already harmful enough. Imagine seeing hundreds of those envy-evoking images on your Instagram feed. Every. Day. Sometimes it can feel like someone else is living your dream life. You’d almost think your own life isn’t fulfilling enough.

Social media envy makes us feel like we're not living our best lives
Social media envy makes us feel like we’re not living our best lives

In the latest podcast of The Minimalists, author Rachel Cruze explains how social media platforms have completely transformed our sense of relativity. “We now carry around something in our back pockets that offers us a window into everyone’s life”. But this life of theirs isn’t real. Like we can inject our lips with botox or get butt implants, we can ‘cosmetically’ – or rather, technically – alter, distort, and filter our life online. As a result, we’re all set up with a bunch of unrealistic expectations that we consider to be the new normal.

It’s time to come to the realisation that offline, even Alexis Ren looks like she got hit by a car sometimes.