Social Media: Our Ugly “Mirror On The Wall”?

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In the childhood classic “Snow White”, the evil Queen asks:

“Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who is the fairest of them all?”

And the looking glass loyally affirms her status as most beautiful in the land – until one day, it doesn’t.

The horrid mirror names her lovely, kind-hearted 16-year old step-daughter usurper to the throne… plunging the queen into chaos and heartbreak!

For many of us, social media is our own “mirror on the wall”.

We fire up our browsers, log on to Facebook or Twitter, WhatsApp or SnapChat, curious to see how our peers fared in the time since we last caught up.

  • Are they happier than us – or not?
  • Did they do cooler stuff than us – or not?
  • Have they been places more interesting – or not?

It’s become a new yardstick to measure our own worth… against an external standard.

Our social network.

We could use the amazing power of human community that’s literally at our fingertips to nurture and extend the “connectedness” which underlies every meaningful accomplishment of mankind (see this amazing presentation, ‘Miserable & Magical’).

Yet we are dragged, against our wills, to focus on contrasts between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

We could use social media as a “networking tool” to boost collaboration, cement unity and harness synergies.

Instead, we deploy it as a “comparison engine” that inevitably draws attention to where we lack or lag behind.

In “Smart, Successful, But Still Not Happy”, Dr.Raj Raghunathan talks of three tenets of happiness – mastery, belongingness and autonomy, and says:

“We attempt to fulfill mastery through seeking superiority over others, which leads us to engage in social comparisons – on talent, wealth, beauty, etc. Comparing oneself with others, findings show, is a recipe for misery.”

Social media makes this easy.

As easy as holding up a mirror!

Here’s the doc’s prescription.  “…there is another approach that doesn’t come in the way of happiness. This approach involves seeking mastery through the pursuit of passion.”

In a narcissistic selfie-driven culture, it seems a logical extension to use social media mirroring to evaluate one’s fame, esteem and influence. Unfortunately, that is also a step further down the path away from true happiness.

So the next time you feel tempted to ask:

“Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who’s the fairest of them all”

Listen for the REAL answer, which is…

You are, my dear. And you don’t need any damn mirror to tell you that!

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