IN CASE case you’re wondering, there really is such a term. Social Comparison in the realm of psychology, pertains to the normal behavior strategy where we compare ourselves with others in “order to seek a better understanding of our status”. In a sense, it is that invisible gauge where we compare ourselves with other people in terms of abilities, opinion and many more for the purpose of knowing where we stand. As such, it is important to note that it, therefore, is natural and not inherently a bad thing.
However, according to several studies, there exists an upward and downward spiral in Social Comparison. An upward comparison is when we compare ourselves with people whom we see are better than us, either in terms of status or ability, and then formulate steps and ways so that we can attain similar heights or states.
This process of looking up to a higher seemingly reachable model and then formulating realistic steps towards being at par or going past that goal is a natural attitude in everyone.
For example, if one wanted to learn to play guitar like a classical master, it would be useful to note that while there exist various ways of learning how, the best method still would be to formally study (in the style of the master), as this will give a much higher rate of success. By far, this is the only realistic step at achieving the goal, in contrast to going at it without formal training.
The result of the latter would be a longer process, might lead one to feel inadequate, then ultimately leading to frustration…and possibly a segue to the downward spiral of comparison.
The downward social comparison is totally negative. It happens when we compare ourselves to others whom we perceive are not at par with us. The motive in this is to make ourselves “feel better about our abilities or traits, thus boosting self-esteem. Among people with this trait, the statement, “I may not be good at something, but at least, I am better than someone else.”
Psychology lesson or not, next time one reads through social media, Facebook, IG, messenger and Twitter, try to spot these two spirals. Especially look in those spiteful posts, which hint at putting down others and propping up oneself in a special stool for the occasion. They are as common as the memes of the day. That’s psychology enough right there.
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