“It’s always better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than at the top of one you don’t.”
I read this quote on one of the many links posted on Facebook this morning of articles aimed at 20-something, soul-searching individuals like myself. Links like this are constantly floating around in my social networks—articles like “Why You Should Quit Your 9 to 5,″ “Reasons to Travel When You’re Young,” and “How to Make the Most of Your 20′s.”
I am definitely guilty of reading through tons of posts like these during my lunch hour—and I usually buy into what they are saying.
Which, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Until I end up day dreaming about traveling back to Italy, living abroad in Australia, getting a gig as a freelance writer instead of working nine to five, and a million other things. I start thinking of “what-if,” or “what-could-be,” and I begin to reevaluate my life based on the Facebook profile of someone I barely know.
For me, the inspiration from articles, posts, and images on social media—whether it’s to day dream, make a bucket list, or take action—is that it might help me take the next step in making my dreams a reality.
Maybe I’ll be inspired to work on my own start-up; buy that international plane ticket; or move cities. If people in my network are doing it, then I can certainly do it too.
Aside from the inspirational posts and articles, there’s a lot of other information on Facebook (and other social media realms) that influence my life evaluations and day dreaming sessions.
Right below an article called “Why You Should Buy a One-Way Ticket Abroad,” three different college friends announced their new promotions at so-and-so consulting or accounting or business marketing firm.
As I keep scrolling, I find high school friends who just got married, an acquaintance that’s raising money for his start-up, someone else who aced their grad school finals—and on and on.
While it’s fun to keep up with news on people from different chapters of my life, I’ve found it to have an effect on how I view my own life.
“Should I be getting promoted? Are there grad schools better than the ones I’m looking at? Am I running out of time? Why is everyone getting married all of a sudden? If they have money and time to travel then shouldn’t I? Why does everything they’re doing seem cooler than everything I’m doing?” I ask myself.
There have been scientific studies on scenarios exactly like this. The studies say that comparing ourselves to others via social media leads to depression and self-doubt. It’s called social media envy.
They also say that most of the stuff we see on social media isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—that the super awesome looking Instagram my friend posted of the sunset looks way more awesome and meaningful than her actual experience.
Despite this, I’m left feeling bad about myself.
Without context, viewing these posts and images can be dangerous.
I think we can all relate to the possible envy we feel by scrolling through our Facebook newsfeeds. I’ll see posts from some girl I met a few times and pictures from her fabulous-looking weekend in NYC with all her thin and fashionable friends—or whatever the scenario may be.
Comparing myself and my own life to that girl (or boy or person or thing or place or experience) by simply clicking through their pictures or reading their latest status updates, isn’t an authentic comparison and doesn’t help anyone.
“So, would I rather be at the bottom of my own ladder, or the top of someone else’s?” I ask myself.
When I first thought about this question, I interpreted it to be specific to my career path. But after letting it simmer, I think it can be applied to any goal, really. Especially to the social media envy situation.
The things I see in my Facebook ‘friends’ posts might involve bits and pieces of my own dreams, but I am not those people and I definitely don’t want the exact same things they do.
So, it doesn’t matter if so-and-so got a promotion. We’re all on different job paths. It’s okay that some friend from way back when is getting married—I am 20-something and don’t want be married anytime soon anyway.
Those may be their paths but I have my own. Maybe I’m not yet positive about where it will lead me—but I’m getting there. What I do know is that I would much rather be building the foundation of my own dreams than living out someone else’s.
I’d rather be at the bottom of my own ladder than let someone else’s seemingly fabulous life make me think I need to be climbing up to the same goals or lifestyle or career path as they are.
The bottom line is that it’s just as likely that people are looking at my life through the eyes of social media and feeling the same envy or inspiration that I feel when I look at theirs.
So, this is my vow: to focus a little less on what everyone else is doing and focus a little more on my own dreams. Otherwise I may just end up at the top of someone else’s ladder.
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Editorial Assistant: Brandie Smith/ Editor: Catherine Monkman