We all know that social media can be…damaging.
Scroll through Facebook, Instagram, or any other social network and 99% of what you see is the idea of “perfection”: Beautifully dressed and made-up individuals showcasing their gorgeous homes or families or possessions. Usually, some sort of caption will accompany the post and it might say something like “so blessed to do life with my dream partner” or “we just bought our first home, can’t wait to fill it with joyous memories” or some other gushing, effusive language that is followed by a series of exclamation points and emojis.
There’s nothing wrong with this…except for the fact that, obviously, people’s lives aren’t as “perfect” as they seem.
Life is messy, but we don’t get to see that side for many people on social media.
This is true not just about life events, but something as specific as life with diabetes.
I think that our community has gotten a lot better about it, but I used to see so many posts that showed “perfect” blood sugar graphs and “perfect” A1c readings.
And I used to obsess over these posts.
I’d wonder why I wasn’t achieving the same levels of success as these other individuals. I’d convince myself there was something wrong with me, and that I’d never have blood sugar graphs or A1c levels that were “good enough” to share online.
Between diabetes perfectionism and real-life perfectionism (Why aren’t I married yet? When will it be my turn to start a family? What’s wrong with me that I haven’t met all the other adult goals that so many of my friends have met?), I was starting to drive myself insane.
Social media was breeding a culture of comparison for me.
I couldn’t log onto an account without immediately comparing myself to the images I saw and the stories they told.
So how did I start to unsubscribe to that culture of comparison?
For starters, I came to terms with the fact that I didn’t want to leave social media altogether. I like how it keeps me connected with family and friends on top of connecting me with individuals all around the world. I like how it functions as a support system when I need to consult my diabetes online community for wisdom and guidance.
But I knew that I needed to take a step back. So I started slowly and gradually: I removed the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone, telling myself that if I really wanted to check the feeds for either, I could do so using my Internet browser. I also spent less and less time scrolling, a habit that was addicting to me because I wanted to see as much content as possible, but also one that I recognized as damaging because more content meant more comparisons to others.
The most important thing that I did, though (and continue to try to do) is repeat a few mantras to myself:
This is just one page of this person’s story.
You don’t know the whole picture.
You don’t want to be anyone other than yourself because you truly do love the people and things in your own life.
It might sound silly, but reminding myself that social media is designed to show off the “best” parts of our lives really did help me come to terms with the fact that I needed to stop comparing myself to everyone. Just like I have plenty of bad things that happen in my life, I have a hell of a lot more good, and just because I don’t choose to showcase everything on my feed doesn’t mitigate the good.
And one last thing that I’m trying to do? I’m simply trying to be happy for others who revel in their successes and choose to share them online. I’m also trying to pay closer attention to those who are brave enough to showcase their failures online, diabetes-related or not. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to open up my Instagram app, scroll through my feed, and see the most “perfect”, straight-lined Dexcom graph followed by an “imperfect” topsy-turvy Dexcom graph. I’m training myself to react to the former graph not by comparing myself, but by feeling good for the person who posted it. And in terms of the latter graph, I also don’t want to compare myself to it (I’m not proud of it, but I’ve taken a look at “bad” graphs before and said OMG, my numbers are sooo much better), but instead offer words of encouragement or commiseration – because we’ve all been there.
The comparison culture is toxic. It’s taken time for me to realize just how much it was affecting me, but now that I have, I’m glad because removing myself from it will help enrich the relationships I have online and in real life. When it comes to diabetes specifically, it’s difficult enough managing my own, and that much harder when I compare how I take care of it to how other people with diabetes live their lives. Learning to appreciate our diabetes differences instead of stressing over them makes it so much easier to support and uplift one another when we need it most.