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Social Media Comparisons

Social Media Comparisons

Having pride in, or the lack thereof, who a person is illustrates their self-concept. Self-concept entails an individual’s physical traits and role in society, and it develops during interactions in society (Adler et al., 2020). A person’s self-concept is susceptible to being affected by others, which in turn, affects a person’s self-esteem. When people compliment something about an individual, be it their appearance or occupation, the individual feels ecstatic, and their self-esteem improves; however, when criticized or ridiculed on the same, their self-esteem deteriorates. This not only happens during face-to-face encounters but also on social media platforms. Social comparison, which is the individual evaluation compared to others in addition to a reference group, also influences self-concept resulting in low self-esteem and depression in some cases. Despite these negative effects of social comparison, people keep practicing upward comparison for many reasons, including self-knowledge, motivation, and inspiration.

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One significant reason why people still practice social comparison is for self-knowledge. Social comparison affects self-concept by promoting self-knowledge. When people compare themselves to others, they may see aspects that they would or would not want to manifest in themselves based on similarities and superiority to the person they are comparing themselves to. Self-knowledge posits not only the likes and dislikes of a person but also their feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and desires, which may also point to their mental state. Self-knowledge or perception is constantly changing and changes from numerous effects of roles in society and others, especially through interactions (Meyer et al., 2019). Social comparisons promote self-knowledge by helping people learn more about themselves from others, as it would be difficult to know more individually. Accordingly, it is difficult to quit social comparison as it helps develop self-knowledge, creating room for motivation.

Another significant reason why people still practice social comparison is for motivation. Social comparison presents positive (downward comparisons) and negative comparison (upward comparisons) effects (Diel et al., 2021). Upward comparison, whereby a person compares themselves with someone who they consider to be in a better position than them, would result in negative emotion, which would cause low self-esteem and depression; however, this comparison could be a source of motivation promoting the investment of effort (Diel et al., 2021). Motivation has several facets, including self-enhancement, improvement, and assessment. When a person is motivated, their self-esteem is raised, and their mental health improves, in addition to promoting self-regulation. A person will get the motivation to initiate changes by establishing discrepancies. Accordingly, it is difficult to quit social comparison as it motivates people to do better and become better in comparison to the reference groups, they are comparing themselves to.

Another significant reason why people still practice social comparison is for inspiration. Just as social comparison leads to motivation, it also promotes inspiration as reference groups become role models. Reference groups obtain an inspirational role when the achievements or parts of their life they post online inspire others who compare themselves to them (Diel et al., 2021). The inspiration promotes self-regulation through the creation of standards from the comparison promoting self-worth. Consistently, it is difficult to quit social comparison as it inspires people to achieve accomplishments similar to those of their reference groups.

In conclusion, social comparison has diverse impacts depending on the comparison type. Upward comparison leads to low self-esteem and depression; however, in some cases, social comparison yields positive effects. The positive effects entail being a source of motivation for individuals, gaining self-knowledge and being an inspirational source of role models. For these reasons, despite the negative impacts of lowered self-esteem and depression, people will continue to practice social comparison because it pushes them to be the best versions of themselves that they can be.


Adler, R. B., B. Rosenfeld, L., & F. Proctor II, R. F. (2020). Interplay: The Process of Interpersonal Communication (15th ed.).

Diel, K., Grelle, S. V., & Hofmann, W. (2021). A motivational framework of social comparison. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 120(6), 1415–1430.

Meyer, M. L., Zhao, Z., & Tamir, D. I. (2019). Simulating other people changes the self. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(11), 1898–1913.


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Social Media Comparisons

Social Media Comparisons

The authors state that social media comparisons can lead to lowered self-esteem and even depression, yet many of us can’t help these comparisons. Why?

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