Social media has grown to be a part of the backbone of our society; a day-to-day necessity for millennials and older generations alike. This platform has grown in recent years and rooted itself in our daily lives. This outlet has become a crucial source for validation, information, and sharing one’s life. A soap-box for information; it promotes individualism, yet propagates negative social standards. This leads to a vicious cycle of constant disappointment. Being one’s self is thought to be admirable within social standards, however, when an individual admires what others have, the cycle of envy and materialism begins.
The basis of this cycle can be found in the fundamentals of the Social Comparison Theory, proposed in 1954 by psychologist Leon Festinger. This theory suggests that we all have an innate compulsion to compare ourselves with others. Dr. Festinger claimed, “The social comparison process involves people coming to know themselves by evaluating their own attitudes, abilities, and beliefs in comparison to others.” According to this theory, there are two types of social comparison: upwards and downwards. These two sub-categories are, for the most part, self-explanatory. Upwards is comparing ones’ self to another who is considered superior. Downwards is the opposite: comparing ones’ self to those believed to be inferior. He theorizes that upwards and downwards social comparisons can have positive outcomes, such as increased self-esteem, motivation, and ambition. However, the application of this theory has a darker sideーenvy and jealousy.
With media feeding the public poisonous messages, there is one that hurts our society the most: trends. It circulates the minds of youth and infiltrates those of more mature audiences. In a society thriving on innovation and expansion, it should not surprise anyone that the over-arching trend is to be fake. It plays into our human compulsion of comparison and our susceptibility to envy. An example of such is fake freckles on one’s face. Many find freckles endearing and cute, but those that have freckles are sometimes embarrassed by them. For those who lack these authentic features, they find comfort in editing their bodies because of their envy of those who are more unique. This article is not only about finding sympathy for those who are given natural looks and other personality characteristics that others find admirable, but it is also about the psychology that compels us to create their own fabricated selves.
According to Psychology Today, “What is the Difference Between Envy and Jealousy,” by Richard Smith, Ph.D., envy causes people to create a personal facade. Envy, not to be confused with jealousy, is a desire for something we lack that others have. Jealousy is a human reaction to character traits one admires in others and wishes to see in themselves. Furthermore, it is the fear of losing something one already possesses. Envy is a dark cavity that rests in the abyss of desires, dreams, and ambitions. In order to experience fulfillment, we follow trends. This envy stems from a seed of shattered confidence. With the nourishment of envy and comparison, this unattainable confidence grows into a tree with gnarled roots.
In the end, we all have our insecurities and flaws. We are all ingrained with biological predispositions. These are the things that make us human. These are not negative facts on their own, but the accompanying envy that arises can become the start of one’s personal demise. In all actuality, these indiscretions remain a fixture in the lives of adolescents for better or for worse.