In the past year, an old acquaintance of yours has toured Europe, launched their own successful business, and had a luxurious destination wedding.
You know all this because you’re friends with them on Facebook, and they have documented every picture-perfect moment with scores of photos that inundate your newsfeed almost every day.
And they’re not the only one on your friends list who seems to be having the time of their life.
Meanwhile, this past year has been more than a little rough for you, and the more you scroll through Facebook and Instagram, the crappier you feel about your own life.
Many of us have paid a visit to this “social media hell”, including yours truly.
One German study found that up to 40% of Facebook users report feeling frustrated after visiting the platform, with envy making up nearly 30% of the reason for that frustration.
The study also reports a correlation between social media envy and decreased life satisfaction.
But social media is here to stay, so being able to cope with these negative feelings is crucial to your well-being.
Here are five practices to lend you perspective and self-empowerment the next time social media envy strikes.
1. Remember That You Only See What Others Want You to See
Recently, there was an immersive art event near my city with a lot of hype around it. For weeks, people flooded their Instagrams with selfies in front of colorful and impressive-looking exhibits.
Everyone looked as though they were having a blast.
But look up the reviews and you’ll find that these same people have left complaint after complaint about over-priced tickets, long wait times, and underwhelming displays.
Apparently, the place was neither as fun nor immersive as advertised.
Hey, I’m not immune to projecting illusions either. A few years ago, I went to the salon with the idea of dying my hair a trendy “rose gold” color right before a vacation. Long story short, my colorist majorly screwed up and I left the salon looking like a Cara Cara Navel.
So what did I do? I posted a selfie on Facebook to flaunt my bold coral locks.
My photo yielded tons of likes and comments about how hip and pretty my hair was, etcetera etcetera.
Meanwhile, I hated the color, and later cried about how much money I’d spent on it. Then I spent the next five days compulsively washing my hair with sulfate shampoo in an attempt to fade my vibrant roots.
Case in point: Pictures are deceiving. Almost everyone wants to project that they are successful, happy, or busy having fun adventures. But the reality is often a far cry from picture-perfect.
So take all those glamorous photos with a grain sack of salt.
2. Practice Gratitude
A lot of people hear the word “gratitude” and think it’s a little woo-woo. But there is solid research to suggest that systematically practicing gratitude can improve not only your mental well-being, but your physical health as well.
Aside from being more impervious to envying your friends’ adventures on Instagram, you’ll also enjoy other fringe benefits including better quality sleep, fewer aches and pains, and higher energy levels.
There will always be people who seem “better off” than you, but it’s all too easy to take everything you do have in life for granted.
So how does one exactly practice gratitude?
It can be as easy as keeping a “gratitude journal” and jotting down a few things you’re grateful for every day. This simple habit can increase your overall feelings of well-being by 10%!
Another proven way to flex your gratitude muscle is to spend a little time volunteering.
Serving those less who are less fortunate is not only a good way to feel gratitude, but you’ll also benefit from a sense of community and happiness from helping others.
3. Stealth-Unfollow If Necessary
The internet has given us, for better or worse, a much more intimate glimpse into the lives of our acquaintances and friends. But we can exercise some control over how much or little we see of it.
If you find there are one or two people who are constantly in your face with updates about how great their life is, consider removing them from your social media feed. What you can’t see can’t bother you!
If you’re worried that unfriending or blocking these people will hurt feelings or make things awkward, there are stealthier ways to go about it.
For example, on Facebook there is this magnificent feature called “unfollow” that blocks that friend’s updates from showing up in your newsfeed, but you still remain Facebook friends and that person will be none the wiser.
Instagram has a similar feature called “mute”, which allows you to stop seeing content from that person without needing to unfollow them.
They get to keep posting selfies on the Swiss Alps, and you get to keep your sanity. Everyone wins!
4. Limit the Time You Spend on Social Media
Even if your social media usage does not cross over into the realm of addiction, most of us could stand to use more time away from it.
Taking the internet with us everywhere we go is a bit of a curse, because the temptation to pop onto social media has become a way for us to kill time whenever there’s a lull in the day.
But maybe scrolling through social media is not what you need to be doing while you’re in the doctor’s office waiting for test results, or standing in line at the DMV.
Try to substitute these sessions with something positive and productive. You can even still use your phone! Download the Kindle app and read, or listen to a motivational podcast. (If you aren’t listening to podcasts yet, get on it!)
If you struggle with willpower, using an app like (OFFTIME) can help enforce your breaks from social media. The app even provides analytics and reports of your social media usage to help you track your habits and how much time you spend perusing it.
5. Transform Envy Into Positive Action
Taking action to better yourself is one of the most mature and compassionate things you can do for yourself. Harness that envy and transform it into motivation!
But you will need to consciously shift your mindset to do this.
Reflect on what it is about your friends’ posts that are making you envious. Do they seem to have more friends? Are they more successful in their careers? Do they get to travel and see new places all the time?
Write down the answers to those questions in a journal. Then transform those answers into goals.
Start with the goal that’s most important to you and put an actionable plan in place. You’ll find that even a small step towards your dreams can be incredibly empowering, and create even more motivation to continue growing.
The Bottom Line: Success and Happiness Are Subjective
Envy has been around long before the internet and no matter how much or little you use social media, there will always be moments in life when you envy your neighbor. Feeling occasionally envious is just one of the many joys of being human.
The good news is, you can control what you do with that envy.
Remember that social media is not a metric for success.
You get to define what success and happiness mean to you. Use this empowering knowledge to shift your perspective and create your own joy!