We thumb through people – swiping, faving, liking, unfollowing – like they’re disposable. They hardly exist. They are on the receiving end of someone else’s notifications, requests and pings. But that’s all. We aren’t concerned with who they go home to, what causes their frustration and whether they showered today. So we click, x-out and scroll until we find people living better versions of our lives.
That’s how we end up bookmarking travel blogs. It’s how we know the middle name of someone’s ex-girlfriend’s sister. It’s why we pin meals we will never make and print workout charts we don’t actually want to follow.
Because everyone, it seems, is doing better than we are. Everyone is younger. And even if they aren’t younger, their skin looks better. Or they’re thinner. Everyone is doing exactly what we should be doing, but they did it first, and they did it better. They did it with more ease, more style, more followers.
People are going to restaurants we should’ve tried, putting out content we should’ve thought to make, taking chances on relationships we pushed away and getting in shape while we watch. They are making choices, and getting ahead in ways we aren’t.
And whoever we are lusting after, whoever does our lives better than we do, has the same complex. Except they’re scrolling through the feed of someone who’s the step above them, or has something they want. We’re all doing the same thing to each other, hungry for what we don’t have. It’s a circle game where we unknowingly make each other feel bad, and pass on the feeling of inferiority like recycled plastic.
It’s easy to focus on our shortcomings. We latch onto identity— what we are, who we are, what our personality traits say about our love lives. But we also latch on to what we aren’t. It’s just as much of an identifier and it’s so readily accessible. What we aren’t is a click away. What we aren’t is all the people we can find who are living lives we could’ve had.
Instead of building ourselves up, we’re tearing ourselves down over images of people who only exist in our world to make us feel less than. We click on other people’s triumphs to examine our faults and be reminded what we are without. We’re over being disillusioned, we’ve passed that. And we’re still using other people as scales for perfection. We’re worked up over other people rather than excited about what we have.
We become people we deign to be, instead of people we want to be. Because after following our dreams, finding people we love, and experiencing success, it’s still not good enough by comparison. It doesn’t measure up to the standards we’ve set based on everyone else’s lives. When we can look at other people’s perfection any time we want, our reality will always just seem ordinary. Plain. Without the validation of 5k likes.
And we’ve read, and been told over and over and over again, to not be phased by the things we see on social media. That no one’s life is ever as good as it looks on Instagram. We know it. We’ve always known it, but we’re still going through these motions. We’re still making ourselves feel like less than we are. We’re still using the time we should be using to better ourselves to thirst after someone else’s life.
If we can’t coax ourselves out of this cycle completely, then the most we can do is be more aware. Acknowledge every time we are just lusting after someone else’s life and slowly break the habit. We need to be more aware. Be more honest. Be kinder to ourselves. Be a little more focused on what we actually want, and what we already have, rather than talking down to ourselves because of everything we aren’t.