10 Tips for Self-Comparison in a Digital Age

Pete Hardesty May 6, 2021

The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate, but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains..[turning us into shallower thinkers].

Gary Small, UCLA professor of psychiatry [59]

YouTube is the second-most-visited site after Google. Two BILLION users login to YouTube every month. YouTubers upload 500 hours of new content every minute, and viewers watch over five billion videos every day. This equates to over 82 years of new video daily, which is more than the programming total of the first 20 years of TV!

Pre-pandemic, the average adult in America spent more than 11 hours per day looking at some type of screen: a computer, TV, phone, or tablet. Some of this is for work, but most is after hours. 

Part of our role in being involved in Young Life is to help the kids we support have a healthy relationship with social media. This is difficult to do when most of us don’t have health in this arena. Let’s get healthy!

The Right Type of Comparison

Let’s say I follow 730 people on my favorite social media platform, which is Instagram. Most of us follow more. This means that every day of the year my account would theoretically show me photos from two people who are having the best day of their year (730 people divided by 365 days = 2). We usually post more if we’re having an incredible experience or a phenomenal trip, so it probably means more than two posts. It also means that every day of the year, 61 of the people I follow are having the best day of their month (730 divided by 12 months = 61). So when I look at Instagram every day, my feed is flooded with images of people who appear to be having their best day of their month, year, or maybe even their life.

How can I not feel like my life isn’t measuring up?

We have front row seats to peoples’ best days—every day. Exotic locations, special someones, and everyone looks like they are laughing really hard at all times. Not many people post sad or lonely posts; I know I don’t. People have said to me, “Pete, you lead such an exciting life!” I usually laugh nervously and mutter something about not posting when I’m often home alone on a Saturday night. Maybe I should. 

At the end of the day, we should only compare ourselves to ourselves. This self-comparison is not a thief of joy but a key to growth. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Compare yourself to who you were last week, last month, last year. Not to anyone else. Are you growing? Are you challenging yourself? Are you improving as a person?

How to fight back: The Top 10 Tips for Healthy Social Media Use

  1. Schedule social media time throughout the day where you consciously choose to use social media. Only use it during these times – 15 min blocks work well. Be “uninterruptable” during the rest of the day. You can limit social media using Rescuetime (for laptops/desktops only), Break Free, Moment, or a similar app.
  2. Utilize the airplane mode button early and often, or put your phone on silent and set it out of arm’s reach. Check your Screen Time in your weekly evaluation.
  3. Turn off all social media notifications. This is a game-changer and you won’t miss anything I promise. 
  4. Engage your social media with purpose and gratitude. Be grateful for blessings in loved ones’ lives. Use other posts for inspiration and motivation, not comparison.
  5. Become a person of pause. Pause before posting or replying to a post. Are you edifying and building people up or are you tearing people down?
  6. Make your bedroom a “social media free” zone. Don’t look at social media for the first two hours of the day or the last hour before bed.
  7. Move social media apps off your home screen and into a folder where they are more difficult to access. Then move them to the second page of that folder. Title this folder “Playtime,” “Amusement,” “Wasting time,” or “Recess” to remind yourself of its true purpose.
  8. Have a regular time of “fasting” from technology. Fasting is abstaining from something. Start with a day and go from there. Shoot a bullet before a cannonball.
  9. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Remember that in most posts people are carefully curated and it is not reflective of real life. 
  10. Delete all social media apps off of your phone. I knew someone who did this and only used her web browser or her laptop to look at social media. She still posted from time to time, and said her life was ten times better. She reclaimed her life.

For most of us, massive, ruthless, drastic action will be needed around social media because of the grip it has on our lives. What action will you take to have a healthy relationship with social media and show the kids you are investing in to do the same? 

A large portion of this article is taken from the brand new book: 

Adulting 101 Book 2

Written by Young Life staff Pete Hardesty and former YL leader/staff/committee Josh Burnette.

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