In Social Psychology, one of the academic considerations is what is referred to as “Social Comparison Theory.” It operates on a simple principle. When you get a grade from a paper or an exam, one of the first things a Student does is go and see where his mark stands relative to others. The reason being is that a mark is meaningless unless it is held in the context of the class and the thing being marked. As an example, if you got an A it would likely be considered great. However, if everyone in the class gets an A what does it mean. Not much as you don’t know where you stand. You have no idea if you are better than or worse than anyone else. At the best, you passed but that’s it. The mark is meaningless.
The Importance of Grades
Say you want to be a lawyer, a doctor or what have you. Who do you choose to go into a limited program if everyone gets the same grade. It would be impossible to choose.
Our sense of self-worth and accomplishment, whether it is right or not, comes from such things a social comparison. It is important in career development. Without it, there would be a complete lack of motivation except with those who see doing well as a worthy endeavor. Yet, they would be short changed if their mark meant nothing more than the person who didn’t apply themselves.
Social comparison can either influence confidence or damage confidence but what it often does is motivate the person to try harder. Not everyone is meant to be an academic or professional. This is fine. There is a place in society for every kind of worker. In fact, Social Psychology or Sociology to be more precise sees often any job as just as worthy as any other job. As an example, if there were no garbage men we would die within he stench disease of a city. The act of what a garbage men does it is important.
The lawyer or the doctor might have years of training but this does not mean their job is anymore valuable. This article is not intended to pursue such a course but merely to point out the value provided when people saw purpose in Social Comparison when it came to academics.
The Click of Social Media and the Distortion
It is all too often to see especially young people who use social media platforms motivated by the number of clicks or likes they get regarding a post they make in a social media platform. Does such a platform provide meaning where it comes to purpose. Likely not but far too many lives are being run by exactly the click.
Many who use the platforms compare themselves to the idyllic presentation users make on these platforms. How real are these overviews. Not very. People tend to present the positive; the idyllic to which the reader has no appropriate awareness.
Further, if the person happens to be a good talker when what they are saying is truth or garbage – it just sounds good, they might end up initially getting a number of likes or clicks. To the person who is viewing this, they are seeing a distorted view. They compare to this distorted view and depression often ensues. They don’t feel they’re good enough and on it goes.
Why is this happening. Why Are people chasing the ciick or the like. Generally, it’s because people like positive reinforcement. What if that doesn’t come though. This is not like a grade and University. No one is editing the social media presentation for fact or truth. It just gets a number of clicks.
When using social media people naturally compare themselves to others. Frequently, what they are seeing is only the best side of a persons life. People aren’t inclined to put up the truth such as they’ve had a horrible day; this has been a rotten life; my parents abused me; I’ve suffered depression since the beginning and so on and so forth. Yet, this is the truth for many but this isn’t what people see.
They see the idyllic or silly or sometimes outright stupid things someone might do but not the deep truth. If one is comparing oneself to this it often leads to a sense of failure and possibly depression over time.
The other thing people love to focus on is how many friends does so and so have; how many likes to something or other and how clicks. If they say have 2 million views on Youtube and you have 100 does that make the video at 2 million better. Not necessarily. If you look at the tech reviewers on Youtube how many are able to do real analysis around something. In fact, how many don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. They are viewed because they talk well and have a topic someone is interested in but that can be absolute mush.
Fun but Dangerous
Considering Social Comparison theory as presented in Social Psychology this tendency is normal. It makes sense at school where marks are rated hopefully objectively and based on facts. Social media can be fun but dangerous as who edits the material and determines its validity or truth. The basis for someone who gets depressed while using such a platform may not be the result of an objective reality.
Technology is with us and is embedded well within the fabric of society. There’s no turning back. There is though an ability to properly direct something with deleterious consequences.
As an example, Facedbook and Mark Zuckerburg are under fire and for good reason. This is all about Capitalism at its worst; at its most extreme; a buck at any cost to society. If someone walked into a corner store and robbed someone of a hundred dollars possibly to feed their family (just as an example) they, if caught, would likely go to jail. Zuckerburg has been caught but somehow we debate this robbery of our minds and possibly even our lives.
The above might sound extreme but the facts are not bearing this out and this is why Zuckerburg is in front of congress and Facebook is bleeding from a backlash. Technology will continue to progress and the good that can come from it we do not know other than we have just tapped the beginning. The dangers are there also and this we must be aware of.