Things are pretty tough for most Australians right now.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has dominated our lives for almost two years, has been immensely detrimental to our mental health. The quite rational and debilitating fear of illness and death combined with the dearth of social contact thanks to lockdowns and social distancing has been a hell of a one-two punch. Stats from the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare are rather sobering.
It doesn’t help that the inconsistent nature of lockdowns domestically, which have seen some states/cities enjoy freedoms whilst others are restricted, has added to the toll. It gets even worse when you look overseas. Europe and North America might have far higher COVID case numbers and deaths than Australia, but people are enjoying more freedoms – with scenes of blissful summers streaming directly into our devices.
Social media has been both a blessing and a curse during this pandemic. While it’s been crucial for people to stay in contact during these periods of uncertainty and isolation, social media has also done much to spread misinformation and fear around the virus, as well as impacted our mental health by showing us scenes of freedoms we can’t enjoy.
It’s why this piece of advice, shared by Steven Furtick, an American pastor and mental health advocate back in 2011 on Twitter, continues to resonate in 2021 over a decade later, or perhaps especially in 2021 (which in of itself perfectly demonstrates the dual nature of social media).
One reason we struggle w/ insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.
— stevenfurtick (@stevenfurtick) May 10, 2011
It’s easy to look at parties in Mykonos, music festivals in Chicago or weekends by the beach on the Gold Coast and feel bad about how you’re stagnant in Sydney or miserable in Melbourne, but the reality is that what we see on social media is only a fraction; an abstraction of reality.
As Australian big wave surfer, author, keynote speaker and Lexus Australia ambassador Mark Visser shared with DMARGE earlier this year: “it is easy to look over the fence and wonder if the grass is greener on the other side, and envy someone else’s perceived happiness…. [but] this thinking takes you away from what is truly important to you and distracts you from your path and your journey.”
It’s a message that’s relevant even beyond lockdown. After two years of what’s felt like stasis – professionally, romantically, financially – for many of us, it’s easy to feel insecure or demotivated about our prospects in life, especially if we’re comparing our current situation to the glitz and glamour we see on social media. But we shouldn’t get caught up in that trap.
In short? We need to be gentler on ourselves (and others).