For parents, social media can be a great way to connect with other moms and dads, find playgroups and kid-friendly community events, seek support and advice, and keep our far away family and friends updated as our kids grow—but there’s undoubtedly a darker side to social media. At worst, Facebook, Instagram and other social sites can shine a light on our insecurities about parenting, particularly when we are faced with an endless stream of seemingly “perfect” moms and dads who seem to constantly be taking amazing vacations, creating handmade Halloween costumes, and posting selfies at the gym five times a week.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best: “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and social media fosters comparison on steroids. In fact, the University of Copenhagen conducted a study that found many people experience “Facebook envy,” while people who don’t use the site reported they felt more satisfied with their lives.
Here’s how to ditch toxic social media comparison:
Minimize your time on social media.
Quitting social media might not be realistic as many parents use it to strengthen their ties with local communities, but staying in the know on the best storytimes in town doesn’t require checking Facebook and Instagram multiple times a day. Take steps to minimize the negative effects of social media comparison by keeping your usage to a minimum. Try these simple hacks:
– Just say no to home screen notifications. That ding or buzz can elicit an immediate reaction to open social media apps no matter how unimportant the update is. Turn off notifications and you’ll almost certainly see a drop in the time you spend scrolling.
– Set boundaries around when you use social media. You could do this based on time of day—maybe you check it once in the morning and once in the afternoon—or consider removing the apps from your phone and only check social media from a laptop or desktop computer.
– Curate your feeds. Unfollow or unfriend connections that you have strong negative reactions to. Leave toxic groups or just turn off notifications so you’re less tempted to check the latest thread.
Refocus your attention on what really matters.
Social media sucks us in and can be a hard habit to manage, but the truth is, we’re often missing out on what’s happening in front of us when we’re busy scrolling through our feeds. So start by figuring out what is important to you: Write down what your priorities are—your kids, your health, making time for your partner, having meaningful experiences—chances are, being privy to the contents of Johnny’s bento box for school lunch tomorrow doesn’t make the cut.
Once you’ve made your list, write down a few activities that focus on those things and then take action—book a sitter and plan a date night with your spouse; start researching your next family vacation; find a volunteer opportunity for you and your kids; get to that new workout class you’ve been meaning to try—the possibilities are endless. The more you engage with the world around you and the things that matter most to you, the less time you’ll have to spend on social media.
Get real about social media.
Think about it: Are you posting videos of your toddler’s daily morning tantrum as you attempt to get out the door? Or the argument you had with your partner over household chores? Probably not. So get real about what you’re seeing: Those moms are hustling just as much as you are. They’re exhausted from staying up late to set up a creative Elf on the Shelf scene. They’re hitting the gym during their lunch break and racing back to work to make their 1 p.m. conference call. They’re upset they yelled at their kids for flushing an entire roll of toilet paper yesterday. And they are questioning their parenting and wondering how everyone else does it just as much as you are.
Remember: Social media is not providing a behind-the-scenes look at the messiness that is every parent’s life—it’s our best moments. Be honest about what people post and don’t fall into the trap of comparing up your “behind the scenes” to anyone else’s “highlight reel.”