Monday, August 3, 2015

The Grass Isn't Greener: Social Media and Perception of Others

           Perception of others is a nasty little trick that we play on ourselves. I was asked to write a column for a local newspaper about social media and the impact that it has on teens, but have realized that it is a common theme for us all. And here is why: It is easy to make judgment on someone else’s life based on your own interpretation of their experience when they share something on the internet for you to see.
           As humans, our brains are ever processing, ever moving, and ever interpreting at a quick speed. If you don’t believe me, think about the words that you are reading right now. Your brain is quickly scanning, processing the words, interpreting the semantics of them, and making sense of the message. You are also in the midst of your office, or your home, and if you were to look up, you would start to see objects such as a lamp, table, pens, your cell phone, etc. But until these things have been pointed out, your brain has just allowed them to sit in the external flow of your thoughts.
           So you are focused on what you see in these words, and not so much on the external pieces of things that are going on around you. That is similar to what perception of others is like. When someone places a picture on social media, they are placing information that they want others to take in and interpret about their experience. And so you do. You see a perfectly put together person with a smile on his or her face, doing something that looks like a lot of fun.
           Whatever you perceive to be happening in this picture, is what you choose to hold onto. And so you may see someone who has it all figured out, perfectly put together, something to strive for or make your own life similar to.
           DON’T. Your brain is tricking you. Because you are filling in the gap of knowledge with your own ideas rather than what is true about this person, and what they are really experiencing. Just like your brain is filling in the gaps around you with this post, your thoughts, in social comparison, start filling in the pieces of what you believe to be true in that perfectly posed picture. 
           And so you begin comparison. And your perspective of their happiness, their fun, their personality, their social connection, it all becomes a desire that you strive for, THAT YOU HAVE MADE UP IN YOUR HEAD. Because unfortunately, your perception about others is not really a good friend. And actually, your perception is normally pretty inaccurate. And your perception of things going on around you is normally pretty wrong unless you focus on the truth, which generally you know nothing about.
           Have you ever heard that expression, “The grass is always greener on the other side?” It’s not. It’s your perception of the grass. And I bet both pieces of grass are equally as green. 
           So instead of focusing in your perception of what everyone else is doing, get out there, water your own grass, and make it the greenest you can possibly get it to be.

Shine on,

Dr. Kate

Dr. Kate Cummins is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based out of Los Angeles, California. I am now accepting new patients in my private practice and through Skype (telehealth). Please look at my website, and contact me with any questions you may have (424)488-9973 or This information is meant for education and knowledge expansion. This blog post is not a form of mental health treatment or individual clinical work.

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