Social media can be pretty awesome. It’s home to support groups, food blogs, and Mindy Kaling’s Instagram account. Being exposed to different images, places, ideas, and people through the lens of apps such as Facebook and Snapchat can inspire us and broaden our worldviews, but social media can be a double-edged sword. The cost of inspiration and entertainment is often the curse of comparison; social networking apps can create unrealistic standards and make us feel less confident in ourselves. That trend can hold true when it comes to our relationships too. We chatted with Bianca Rodriguez, a licensed marriage and family therapist, about ways to curb the habit.

A woman sits on a swing as she sadly reads her phone

“The most important thing to remember when you are scrolling through social media is that it is fiction loosely tied to real events,” Rodriguez says. “It’s a highlight reel of socially acceptable activities and achievements with a sprinkle of fairy dust and Photoshop.” A picture might be worth a thousand words, but even a thousand words don’t make up an entire story. Most of us know that social media isn’t reality, but Rodriguez encourages her clients to consider just how unrealistic social media can be at times. “No matter how perfect that family portrait looks online, there is a messy story behind it,” Rodriguez reminds us. “And what’s ironic is that it’s the mess that makes it so valuable because we have to fight for our relationships and work through the challenges.”

Therein lies the key: Most of the time, the mess behind the picture is beautiful too. We can’t possibly expect ourselves (or anyone else, for that matter) to air their dirty laundry and insecurities on public platforms. There’s a reason people choose to put their best foot forward online, so it makes sense that our online personas (and relationships) are a shinier, more perfect version than the real thing. The trouble comes when we stop assuming the same of others.

If you feel caught in this cycle of comparison, Rodriguez recommends looking inward at your own insecurities and desires. More specifically, she recommends that “you investigate what feelings are surfacing, allow yourself to experience them, and then devise a solution that supports your well-being.”

In this process, it might be helpful to consult a good friend or even your partner. For example, if looking at pictures of couples who travel the world together makes your relationship feel boring in comparison, your feelings might be telling you that you crave more spontaneity and adventure in your relationship. No matter what social media makes you feel about you and your partner, unpacking your feelings together might help you both take steps toward an even better relationship.

In addition to some reflection, Rodriguez recommends a social media hiatus — even if it’s only for a day. Taking a step back from those triggers will deepen your understanding of your own insecurities and desires about your own relationship, and will allow you to focus solely on your connection.

How do you curb social media comparison? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)