Obsessive Comparison Disorder: Why Our Culture Is Sick

Nothing compares to comparing.

Look out manic depression, Obsessive Comparison Disorder aka “social comparison” is the newest psychological disorder on the block. Coined in 2012 by Paul Angone on his website All Groan Up, Angone calls Obsessive Comparison Disorder “the smallpox of our generation.” 

Angone defines it as “our compulsion to constantly compare ourselves with others, producing unwanted thoughts and feelings that drive us to depression, consumption, anxiety, and all-around joyous discontent.” I like to think of it as going on Instagram and being jelly of other people’s peanut butter and jellies. Social media lets us share everything that’s going on in our lives, the unintended result of which is that many of us experience symptoms of depression when we compare ourselves to the overly-positive online depiction of others and their fabulous lives. #Blessed

Spoiler alert: most people tend to over-report on the positive aspects of their lives online, so it’s not a fair comparison. Remember that the next time you’re sipping on haterade alone in your apartment wondering why yours was the only Sunday Funday that sucked. 

Whether you buy it as a legit form of Obsessive Compulsion Disorder or not, social comparison is a documented phenomenon with a measured increase among millennials. Rather than establishing our self-worth based on how we feel about ourselves and our accomplishments, we rank ourselves against everyone else around us. You just got engaged? Guess what? Amanda did that a year ago. Looks like you’re late to the party. Again.  

Generally speaking, most forms of social comparison are bullsh*t, and what’s more, they’re counterproductive. Sitting at home on Facebook wondering why all your friends are having fun without you will not lead to your having more fun with your friends. You can’t turn hating someone else’s Grammy into winning a Grammy for yourself. 

Getting likes, pings, pokes and whatever those heart things are on Periscope releases tiny adrenaline spikes in our system and can actually become addictive, while at the same time getting in the way of our ability to form genuine human connections. 

Social media may be here to stay--and it’s not a net evil--as long as we use it in a way that brings us all closer together rather than driving us towards a life like the fat people in Wall-E

Responsible social media use is becoming a bigger and bigger deal the more we get used to receiving all of our information online. So, what do we do? Well, first of all, we recognize that if social media makes you feel like sh*t, you have the ability to turn it off, and if you can’t pull the plug yourself, apps like Self Control can do it for you. (I use it all the time. I even turn the internet off entirely for up to an hour at a time when I’m on a major deadline and don’t trust myself not to be distracted by re-runs of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.) 

Perhaps this is just another post reminding you to get off your phone every once in a while and say hi to a stranger, or call a friend and grab coffee while not checking Twitter until you reach the botom of your cup. Perhaps this is just my way of sharing with you a label that I came across on the Internet that resonated with something I experience myself, and I wanted to share it with my peers. Perhaps this is just another example of my constant overuse of “perhaps.” At the end of the day, there will always be 15-year-old superstars who get more likes than you on Instagram for doing nothing in particular at all; and Facebook is slowly becoming a way for moms to Big Brother their children in a way that seems non-threatening and hip. 

Try not to compare yourself to others, and if you find that you are doing so obsessively, it may be time for you to back off of social media for a while. I promise, your Twitter feed will still be there when you get back. Or will it… mua ha ha! 

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