Many of us can't help but strive to try and keep up with the Joneses, but this endless quest to keep up with others can quickly breed a myriad of negative problems in our lives.
Would you be surprised to find out that quite often it is our relative standing to others in society that influences how we think about how we are doing and our overall happiness, rather than our absolute wealth?
Joe could be making $60k a year, which is certainly something to be grateful for, and yet he might not be satisfied with his earnings if he thinks that everyone else around him is earning more than him.
One previous Harvard survey that was conducted with help from others several years ago, sought to investigate concerns about relative standing, and they included responses in their study from students, as well as staff and faculty.
The study had required the participants to choose between a world where they had more of a good than others, or a world where everyone's endowment of that good was higher, but they would have less for themselves than in the first world option.
For example, when asked if they would rather choose between making $50k per year, while everyone else around them made $40k, or the option of making $100k but everyone else around them making $200k, they would go with the first option of having less—but yet still more than those around them. Many would go with that option, rather than the 2nd which would technically give them more income than the first option. Researchers asked participants to choose between these scenarios for things such as education, attractiveness, intelligence, vacation time, and income.
Researchers admit that concerns for attractiveness were the strongest.
Instagram and other similar sties today have now boosted that opportunity for social comparison.
When we are mindful of our media habits, it can help us to have a different and hopefully more productive experience.
When viewing the lives of others on these sites, remember that we often are not given an honest picture of reality. Much of the content is heavily edited and of course we are only getting to see the highlights and it's likely not going to be the boring, sad, or angry moments being shared that others might experience. It doesn't paint a realistic standard for us to try and live up to.
By acknowledging what we are thinking while we spend time following and watching other people live their lives, it can help us to know whether the experience is guiding us in a negative direction. Then, we might be able to guide it back into another direction, transforming the experience into one that is more positive and beneficial for our lives. If scrolling through Instagram and other apps is making you feel bad about yourself and your life, then stop doing it. Comparing your life to others is a quick way to evaporate your happiness.
Spending too much time focusing on what others have and allowing that to influence whether or not we feel satisfied in our own lives, can be one of the easiest ways to fuel stressful and depressed thoughts. When we readjust our perspective however, to consider that many people in the world live in poverty and that countless people lived a much lower standard of living in the past, it might help us to realize that we have many things to be thankful for.