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.

Graduates of 2018

Last Friday, I had the honour of graduating from Leiden University after four challenging, but incredibly rewarding years of studying International Studies. The ceremony took place in the Pieterskerk, a stunning church that had been built in the 17th century. The whole experience of us students walking in procession as the orchestra music bounced off the ancient walls, while family and professors watched us come in, beaming with pride, was nothing short of overwhelming.

unattainable life advice

Several members of the faculty were giving speeches that had dissapointingly little elements of surprise: Go follow your passion! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Make the best of any given situation! Meanwhile I wondered whether the advice they were giving actually got them to where they were today.

The most powerful speech I heard that day was actually not given by a professor, with years of knowledge and experience, but by a twentysomething graduate whom I shared a couple of classes with in my first year. Everyone knew her as an exceptional student, someone who was going to make it in their career and life generally.

Then she started talking about the challenges, self-doubt and confusion she faced while trying to find the career path that would make her happy. She was jumping from one incredible opportunity to the next, until she wasn’t sure that this was what she was ‘supposed to do’. She moved back in with her parents and spent some time trying to figure out her next steps as she worked a part-time job. Fast forward one year, she has made the decision to do another masters, to specialize into the one thing she is truly passionate about.

university student graduation dipoloma

Millennial eyes

Why did this resonate with me so much?

Upon graduation,  you suddenly get confronted with a whole new series of challenges. What are you going to be doing now? Surely you’ll do another Master’s program, right? What, you don’t want to pursue a career that aligns with your degree? What a waste! You’ll get these sorts of questions on a daily basis, and everyone expects you to have an answer ready. Cause you must have some sort of plan, right? This millennial life ain’t easy.

This brings me to why I’ve started this blog:

I’ve noticed that a lot of my fellow millennials (my friends, coworkers, and peers included) are faced by choice paralysis, job dissatisfaction, mental issues, a general lack of focus and so on. According to various media outlets, millennials are the most stressed-out generation to date. Recent Dutch research has found that 75% of all surveyed respondents (between the age of 18 and 34) has considered going to a psychologist. Burn-outs and depressions seem to become more and more common. What’s going on here?

We’ve grown up and have been shaped by a tumultuous history, characterised by rapid social and technological change. We are the first digital generation. We are social media addicts. We are snowflakes. We are creators of entirely new markets. For the first time in a long time we’ll have a lower salary than our parents. We saw 9/11 on television before we were old enough to make sense of it.

Is this what defines us?

Millennial Eyes aims to help millennials make sense of their lives, and how they’re living it. By creating a platform where we – the largest and most diverse generation in history – can share experiences and discuss everyday issues without judgement, we can start becoming more mindful of the context in which we’re continuing to grow (up). Whether you’re an ‘old millennial’ or a ’90’s kid’, we can all learn something from each other.

Join me in exploring what shapes the lives of Generation Y!

– Isla