Research – Don’t Compare 2017-01-13T13:41:49+00:00

Research – Don’t Compare

Combating Comparisons

Christopher Pepping and his colleagues at Griffith University, Australia, suggest mindfulness training has a direct positive effect on people’s healthy, secure form of self-esteem, and in turn their overall life satisfaction. The practice builds a self-esteem that is not developed from comparing our successes to those of others. Instead, it helps individuals experience and recognise their own thoughts and emotions in a manner that is non-judgemental, nor self-critical and aids practitioners to sustain their attention to the present moment. Mindfulness addresses “the underlying processes associated with low self-esteem, without temporarily bolstering positive views of oneself by focusing on achievement or other transient factors”.

In one study, Pepping et al. found the levels of self-esteem and mindfulness in participants increased once they had completed a 15-minute mindfulness meditation, whilst there was no change for those in the control group who spent 15-minutes reading a story about Venus flytrap plants.

Here’s a link to their findings:

The Positive Effects of Mindfulness on Self-Esteem

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text from our footnote* into your browser top bar)

Morten Tromholt et al., researchers at the Danish think tank The Happiness Research Institute, found those who stopped using Facebook for a week were happier, more decisive, less worried, saw an increase in their social activity, felt more productive and were less lonely than the control group (who continued with their Facebook use as normal).

Out of the 1,095 Danish participants, 94% of them claimed to visit Facebook as part of their normal daily routine. Nearly seven out of ten admitted preferring to post pictures of great things they experience and 61% prefer to display their good sides on Facebook. The group who took part in this version of a digital detox saw their self-reported happiness rating go up from an average of 7.56 to 8.12 after just seven days away from the social media site. The results have been attributed to the tendency of users to compare as whilst seeing “a constant flow of edited lives which distorts our perception of reality”.

Download the full report and find out more on the Happiness Research Institute here:

‘The Facebook Experiment: Does social media affect the quality of our lives?’

Other scientifically backed techniques to help you tackle your negative emotions when comparing yourself to others will be revealed throughout the 21 Days to Happiness package.  

Negative Effects of Social Comparisons

Alexander Jordan et al. advocate that “people may think they are more alone in their emotional difficulties than they really are”. From three studies, the authors found their university student participants overestimated the positivity in the lives of others and underestimated the negative emotions experienced by their peers. This is the case even though they themselves had reported they are more likely to keep their negative feelings private and concealed than their positive emotions. Those who misinterpreted the prevalence of negative and positive emotional experiences in others predicted greater loneliness, rumination and lower life satisfaction.

Access the original report here:

Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others’ Negative Emotions

Judith White et al. found people who reported to make frequent social comparisons such as attractiveness, intelligence, wealth, physical fitness and personality to others were more likely to experience envy, guilt, regret, and defensiveness. They were also more likely to lie, blame others, and have unmet cravings.

Extending the research to a group level, in a second study, police officers who more frequently made social comparisons were more likely to show ingroup bias and be less satisfied with their jobs.

Find more here:

Frequent Social Comparisons and Destructive Emotions and Behaviours: The Dark Side of Social Comparisons

The Role of Social Media

Edson Tandoc, Patrick Ferrucci and Margaret Duffy found many of those engaging in “surveillance use” of Facebook – quietly comparing themselves to their peers by focussing on posts such as those about recent purchases, holidays and relationship statuses – experience feelings of envy, which in turn lead to serious symptoms of depression. In the study of 736 US university students, those who used the site simply to stay connected with friends did not experience these negative effects and, when feelings of envy were controlled, Facebook use actually lessened depression.

Find the 2015 study here:

Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is Facebook Depressing?

Mai-Ly Steers, Robert Wickham and Linda Acitelli found the more time students spent on Facebook, the stronger their depressive symptoms were. These depressive feelings were particularly associated with the amount of time the participants spent comparing themselves to others, even when they made positive comparisons such as “Wow, I’m doing so much better than him”.

Find the research here:

Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is linked to Depressive Symptoms

Ethan Kloss et al. analysed the Facebook use and psychological experience of 82 users in Michigan, USA. The study involved text-messaging participants five times a day at random times for two-weeks with links to surveys probing into their current emotional state, the time spent on the social networking site and the time spent interacting with others face-to-face or over the phone. The results found the greater the Facebook use then the worse participants felt in the moment and the more their life satisfaction levels declined over the two weeks. This concludes that Facebook use may undermine the well-being of users, rather than enhance it.

Read the full report here:

Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults

Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge, behavioural scientists, examined the use of Facebook by 425 undergraduate students at a Utah university to measure how people’s perceptions of the lives of others is impacted by their social media experience. The analysis indicated that those who had been using Facebook the longest believed others were happier and agreed less that life is fair. The more time spent on the site weekly the more the participants believed others were leading better lives than themselves. This was particularly so for those who had a greater number of Facebook “friends” whom they did not know personally.

Find the study here:

“They Are Happier and Having Better Lives than I Am”: The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others’ Lives

Moira Burke, Cameron Marlow and Thomas Lento found the well-being of social network users was affected differently depending on how they interacted with the sites. Activities that provided direct interaction with others were associated with greater feelings of bonding and lower levels of loneliness. However, those who consumed greater levels of content reported increased loneliness.

Read more here:

Social network activity and social well-being

Reflections on Body Image

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image conducted an inquiry open to online, public consultation and heard evidence from witnesses representing organisations with an interest in or association with body image, to better understand the causes of body image dissatisfaction and to explore how to tackle the problem.

Almost 75% of respondents to the consultation believe media, advertising and celebrity culture are the main social influences on body image. Whereas, it is estimated that fewer than 5% of the population could ever realistically attain the body ideals as presented by these sources.

Access the full report to learn more about how this unrealistic body image is impacting young people, how we are mis-sold the idea and what the implications are for our physical health:

Reflections on Body Image

Footnote*

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text below relating to the article you wish to see into your browser top bar)

Christopher Pepping
The Positive Effects of Mindfulness on Self-Esteem
http://instituteofcoaching.org/resources/positive-effects-mindfulness-self-esteem

Morten Tromholt et al.
‘The Facebook Experiment: Does social media affect the quality of our lives?’
http://www.happinessresearchinstitute.com

Alexander Jordan et al.
Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others’ Negative Emotions
https://timewellness.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/jordan-et-al-2011-misery-has-more-company.pdf

Judith White et al.
Frequent Social Comparisons and Destructive Emotions and Behaviours: The Dark Side of Social Comparisons
http://people.hss.caltech.edu/~lyariv/papers/DarkSide1.pdf

Edson Tandoc, Patrick Ferrucci and Margaret Duffy
Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is Facebook Depressing?
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214005767

Mai-Ly Steers, Robert Wickham and Linda Acitelli
Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is linked to Depressive Symptoms
http://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/jscp.2014.33.8.701

Ethan Kloss et al.
Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0069841

Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge
“They Are Happier and Having Better Lives than I Am”: The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others’ Lives
http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2011.0324

Moira Burke, Cameron Marlow and Thomas Lento
Social network activity and social well-being
http://cameronmarlow.com/media/burke-2010-social-well-being.pdf

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image
Reflections on Body Image
http://www.ncb.org.uk/media/861233/appg_body_image_final.pdf