THIS IS REAL LIFE…OR IS IT?
Bunny ears with a heart nose to show how cute we are? Sierra to give a glow of wholesome lightness? Low-Fi to highlight how green the grass is? I was born in the 80s, and I know I sound like I’m IN my 80s, but whatever happened to a picture being unfiltered? You know, like back in the day we’d have to get film developed and wait to see how they turned out. And if the whole envelope of 24 pictures had a thumb in front of the lens, there was nothing we could do about it.
Okay, that last part was never fun (and also a waste of $8.99). But we didn’t have the ability to filter, change, edit and trim the picture we took. It’s nice having the ability to do that now, but we have taken it so far…maybe too far. Because that ability has carried over into how we portray, and even view, our relationships.
Props to the peeps that can limit the amount of time they spend on social media. Thumbs up to the thumb scrollers who don’t do it nearly often enough to evoke potential arthritis. Cheers to the champs that don’t get sucked into mindless rabbit holes for hours on end. But if you’re online even close to the amount of time the average person reportedly spends looking at their phone (80-150 times a day, equating to SO MANY MINUTES), you’re seeing lots of lives through a filtered lens. Let me clarify by saying filtered doesn’t mean bad! But if you forget things are filtered, you can fall victim to the “comparison crisis.” Which is when we compare our lives to the lives we see online. And those thoughts creep into our lives, relationships, and how we live them.
FILTERS ARE FUN!
Let’s talk about that filtered life we see with every thumb scroll we complete. All phones come with the ability to modify every picture taken. Which is awesome! When my boyfriend and I took a cute picture, but the lighting was bad, I was able to edit the brightness, so we could be more seen. Sometimes people like a jazzy frame, a funny face, or drawing on their pics. How awesome is it to be able to make pictures better to whatever standard you prefer? Then there’s Instagram, my favorite social media platform, which offers 24 different filters and 13 editing tools. Let’s not forget that there are the countless apps that allow you to thin things, whiten things, de-wrinkle things, widen things, brighten things, and implant things. No judgment here! You do you, baby. Whatever makes you happy! Technology allows us that luxury.
The danger comes not in what people do with their photos from a filtering standpoint, but the mind trap we can fall into when we see the filtered photos. It’s easy to forget that they may have been altered, and instead of ‘liking’ it and moving on, you start thinking “why aren’t my teeth that white?” and “man I need to get back to the gym; my stomach doesn’t look like that.” That, my friends, is the comparison crisis.
The comparison crisis hurts my heart. It’s the opposite of self-love, which is so important not only for you, but for your relationship! When the comparison crisis creeps into your mind, not only are you impacted, but your relationship can be as well.
Beyond the impact of the comparison crisis for you personally as an individual, it’s very real for it to show up in relationships. How many times have you seen a beautiful picture of a couple kissing during a sunset and thought “why aren’t we that happy?” Or what about a picture of a couple hiking up to a waterfall; have you thought “why don’t we travel and take awesome pictures like that?” COMPARISON CRISIS. Relationships should always be evaluated to determine how to best meet each other’s needs, what the current circumstances are, etc. But in no way should they be compared to another relationship because:
1. Everyone’s relationship, circumstances, and situations are different!
2. What you’re seeing is likely the filtered version!
Regardless of whether the photo has been retouched, you are seeing what that person has chosen for you to see. You probably aren’t seeing the boring nights, moments just after an argument, instances of loneliness. It’s a filtered view. Which doesn’t make it bad! But when we see so many pictures and posts and forget it’s the highlight reel the owner has selected to put out there, comparison crisis can take over and we can be tricked into falsely thinking every moment of that life is more perfect, happy, beautiful, and better than our own.
Think about how that can impact your relationship. It can sneak into your thoughts, and mindset, in so many subtle ways. Let’s say you have a very typical week and uneventful weekend. You scroll through social media, and you see that many people recently had activities involving parties, friends, babies, family, concerts, travel, etc. You get a little jealous, which makes you a bit cranky. When your partner says s/he wants to stay in for the night and relax, you respond in an aggravated manner, and maybe even begin to complain you don’t do enough things – saying you’re boring! Your mind goes on a binder thinking about how your relationship must not be as good as so-and-so’s because here you are, having the most boring week ever, with nothing fun to share and post. Meanwhile your partner is wondering WTF, I’m just feeling tired and want to stay in tonight. And there is a bit of divide for the night because you are in comparison crisis mode and your partner is in the present moment.
Comparison crisis can also show up as it relates to societal timelines. For example: many of your friends get engaged. You and your partner have been together multiple years. You want to get married, have never been in a rush, but seeing all the engagement photos and perfectly Pinterest bridal showers has you a little envious. Use your imagination to think about how that plays out in a relationship! Resentment, jumping into marriage prematurely, subconsciously competing to keep up with the Joneses and be where everyone else is.
I admire the work of so many photographers, and when I see gorgeous pictures of my friends with their partners and cutie kiddos it gets me excited for when I have my own. I’m a little late to the game when it comes to having kids, but I let go of societal timelines a few years ago (which has made me SO MUCH HAPPIER). But this is also an example of when comparison crisis can show its hurtful face. You see these pictures and think “why aren’t my kids as well behaved as theirs?” or “why can’t we be as beautiful as this family?” or even “why can’t we afford to take these kinds of elaborate professional photos?” Even worse, the timeline factor. You feel behind compared to those around you. So in your relationship, that shows up in your clues and your comments – even if you had previously agreed you weren’t ready. Ouch. Those things don’t feel good in the head or in the heart. Your family, or future family, is wonderful, beautiful and perfect exactly where you are and what you’re working on.
Now that we know how this filtered life can take us into a mind-spinning cyclone, let’s talk about how to prevent it! Below are a few examples of what you can do to avoid falling prey to comparison crisis.
- “Comparison is the thief of joy” ~Teddy Roosevelt: You’ve probably ‘liked’ that quote on social media at some point! When you find yourself comparing your life to someone else’s, remember this quote. Don’t let what you see steal your joy!
- Gratitude is the best attitude: Know and be grateful for what you have in your life. Make a list if you need to (I love lists!). What do you appreciate about what you have? As a very happy person, I love this quote: happy people don’t have everything, they make the best of everything they have.
- Know your limits and triggers: If you know that following a particular account triggers feelings of comparison, unfollow them! If more than 15 minutes of scrolling is all you can take before you start taking things to heart, time yourself and put your phone down after ten minutes.
- Their outside isn’t your inside: What you see on the outside of someone’s life cannot to compare to what’s on the inside of you!
REMEMBER: You are exactly where you need to be. Appreciate where you are, what you have, and share what you decide to share! Filtered or unfiltered, be proud of and present for your life in these amazing moments!