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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 19 December, 2014

Column: We need to stop comparing ourselves to our ‘friends’ online

I have come to realise that although I don’t have the perfect partner, dream home or even have a car of my own, my life is just fine, writes Angharad Williams.

Angharad Williams

THERE WAS A time, not so long ago, you might have stopped for a moment and thought about an old school friend and wondered what they are up to. You might have imagined their life, who they married and what their career path they followed.

But 10 years ago Facebook entered the world and we can now follow the highlights of the lives of everyone we have ever met. This includes people we might not have seen in person for over a decade and some we have only met once or twice, but we stay connected thanks to the magic of social media.

Some of those online friendships enrich our lives but others are having a negative effect, although we might not realise it.

Seemingly perfect lives

I have looked up old school friends on Facebook and have never come away feeling good about life. I’m often left feeling like a bit of a loser thanks to their seemingly perfect lives with their perfect homes, perfect families and perfect friends.

But it seems I’m not alone. Research conducted in Germany questioned people about their use of social media. Of those questioned 20 per cent admitted that they experienced feelings of envy while using Facebook. A third said they experienced mainly negative feelings like frustration after using social media, while further questioning found that this frustration was mainly caused by envy.

Today, we have access to the lives of other people in a way that we have never had in the past. Without social media the only way we’d hear about a friend’s holiday was over coffee – and we’d only hear a few selected highlights.

Without social media we wouldn’t experience every moment of a baby’s life, including its sleeping patterns, trips to the shops and family visits. Without social media we wouldn’t know what our friends have for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or what they’re listening to, reading, watching … the list is endless.

So it’s easy to understand why we get envious from time to time. We’re constantly taking in little moments from other people’s lives and it’s difficult not to compare their lives to our own.

I have caught myself feeling disheartened while through photos of parties I wasn’t at, holidays I wasn’t on and awards I wasn’t receiving. But the truth is, if I look hard enough there is always going to be someone prettier, wealthier and more successful than I am.

We need to step back, stop comparing ourselves to others and take a look at our own timeline. We should try taking a look through objective eyes at our own pictures and updates. Perhaps we are ourselves are guilty of posting the very updates that make us angry when we see them on other people’s walls.

We should compete against ourselves and our try surpass own achievements rather than trying to outdo others. Look at ways you contrast rather than compare with other people, and realise that by comparing ourselves to others we forget our own achievements.

Ultimately we should never to forget that social media outlets like Facebook are designed to highlight the high points of our lives, and never was that more evident than in the recent ‘look back’ videos. While some friends went from graduation to marriage to starting a family, others went from party to holiday to more partying. Neither life has more value, they are just different. But even if you don’t feel happy about your video, you can now edit that too.

I have come to realise that although I don’t have the perfect partner, dream home or even have a car of my own, I’ve had some great times and great friends. If I find myself typing in an old classmate or colleague’s name into the search bar I stop myself and drop a good friend a message. Looking at my own timeline I’m starting to appreciate that might not be such a loser after all.

Angharad Williams is a half Welsh / half Irish freelance journalist living and working in Dublin. She has written for titles including the Metro Herald, The Sunday Times, Woman’s Way magazine and The Irish Sun. She is a fluent Welsh speaker and a regular contributor to the Welsh language radio station BBC Radio Cymru. Website: www.angharadw.com Twitter @AngharadW

Read: In a bad mood? Chances are your social networks are to blame

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