Social Comparison and its Effect on Student Well-Being and Success

The natural inclination of humans is to compare themselves with others, especially among students. The social comparison theory suggests that comparing oneself with peers is crucial in developing one’s identity. This process helps young people understand their beliefs, preferences, and viewpoints about others. Furthermore, social comparison can be a source of motivation and inspiration for students.

Students frequently use social media to compare themselves with others can adversely affect their self-esteem, self-image, and overall well-being. This can lead to a mindset that is critical and competitive. According to a study, people who frequently engage in social comparison are likelier to feel negative emotions like regret, envy, defensiveness and guilt. Moreover, social media amplifies the negative effect of social comparison on students as they compare themselves with the idealized pictures of their peers, celebrities, and successful individuals. As a result, students may feel that their accomplishments could be improved and require improvement.

What Is Social Comparison Theory?

In 1954, the social comparison theory was introduced by psychologist Leon Festinger. According to this theory, people tend to evaluate themselves by comparing themselves to others, and this comparison plays a significant role in shaping their social and personal values.

Consequently, they compare abundance, knowledge, and success, for instance. Adolescents often ignore characteristics, such as seeing appeal and prominence when participating in social comparison. Moreover, they might analyze their capacities and abilities, like athletic skills or imaginative abilities.

This comparison can propel students to rehearse more diligently and work in a specific region. What’s more, here and there, it may be deterring and cause serious uneasiness. It relies upon the kind of social comparison.

Different Types Of Social Comparison

The social comparison theory outlines three types of social comparison: upward, downward, and lateral. The upward comparison involves comparing ourselves to others we see as superior, often leading to feelings of inferiority. The downward comparison involves comparing ourselves to others we see as worse off than us to feel better about our circumstances, resources, or abilities. Lateral comparison is comparing ourselves to someone we perceive as similar in various aspects, such as a friend, as we tend to compare ourselves most frequently with others of similar age and background.

Subsequently, as per the social comparison theory, a few comparisons cause us to feel insufficient and less inclined to seek an objective. Be that as it may, different comparisons give us certainty and lift our confidence.

Research on Upward and Downward Social Comparison

A study conducted in 2018 reviewed 60 years of research on social comparison theory and concluded that, in general, comparing ourselves to those we perceive as superior leads to negative emotions. The study examined who people compare themselves to and the consequences of those comparisons. The findings showed that people often engage in upward comparisons and feel worse after them but feel better after downward comparisons, which is called the “contrast effect.” However, recent studies suggest that upward comparisons can also motivate us and improve our self-concept by inspiring us to strive for similar achievements, known as the “assimilation effect.”

Social Comparison and Happiness

The social comparison theory suggests that unhappiness may be linked to comparisons. However, recent research on young people proposes that unhappiness may come before social comparisons. Students with low self-esteem or mild depression are more likely to engage in frequent social comparisons, which can worsen their negative emotions and lead to a negative cycle.

Psychologist Sonya Lyubomirsky at Stanford University conducted a study that investigated participants’ happiness levels using a questionnaire. In the study, happy and unhappy students were asked to solve puzzles while a supposed friend (one of the researchers) solved the same puzzle faster or slower. The study found that happier participants were less affected by social comparison data. They tried to ignore how the other person performed on the puzzles, and their mood and self-esteem ratings were less impacted than those of unhappier participants. Feeling happy can reduce the influence of social comparisons on us.

Social Media and Social Comparison Theory 

The use of social media among teenagers can worsen the negative effects of social comparison, which can impact their overall well-being. Females, in particular, are affected by technology-based social comparison. While students spend some time updating their social media profiles, they spend most of their time looking at their friends’ profiles and photos, leading to frequent comparisons.

Similar to other forms of social comparison, comparing oneself to more successful friends on social media platforms like Facebook leads to lower self-esteem and self-evaluation, resulting in upward comparison. This can happen when comparing oneself to friends who post about their healthy habits, exciting social events, or achievements. However, making downward comparisons by looking at friends’ profiles with fewer friends or accomplishments can make students feel better about themselves.

Social Media, Personality Arrangement, and Social Comparison Theory

This article reports on a study of 219 first-year students at a state university investigating the relationship between social media and the social comparison theory. The study discovered that various forms of online social comparison impacted students’ personality development differently. The researchers identified two categories of social comparison: “social comparison of ability” and “social comparison of opinion.”They found that the former type, which involves comparing oneself to others regarding abilities, skills or talents, often leads to negative thoughts and emotional distress. In contrast, the latter type, which involves comparing oneself to others regarding opinions or beliefs, is associated with increased well-being. The study suggested that expressing opinions on social media platforms made students feel empowered, and this had a positive impact on their character development.

All the more uplifting news: Research suggests that parents can help reduce the negative impact of social media comparison on adolescents. Parents who offer support and genuine affection can help alleviate the distress caused by social comparison among teens.

Body Image and Social Comparison

Social comparisons related to body image affect students of all ages. A study on teenagers discovered that both boys and girls understand the importance of having an “ideal” body and appearance. Girls acknowledge that avoiding comparisons related to body image can be challenging, and even though they believe weight and shape should not matter, they still appreciate stories and photographs of celebrities and fashion models. However, this enjoyment often leads to anxiety and expectations around their appearance and weight.

The negative impact of body image comparisons is amplified by social media usage. According to a 2016 study that surveyed 881 female college students in the US, the more time these students spent on social media, the more they compared their bodies to their peers, resulting in a more negative body image perception.

How to get away from Social Comparison?

The following are ways to move away from pointless comparisons and push toward flourishing. Guardians might need to impart these plans to their students.

  • Notice what triggers comparisons

Do you generally look at social media or “not exactly” while feeling down? Or, on the other hand, does investing energy with a specific individual exacerbate your about yourself? Focus on what catalyzes comparisons. Then stay away from those triggers. Or on the other hand, settle on various decisions when those sentiments arise.

  • Practice gratitude

Making sure to be thankful for what you have assists keep with negativing comparisons under control. Make day-to-day gratitude records, compose diary passages or centre around something beneficial that happened every day.

  • Take the best, and leave the rest

Use comparison as inspiration and motivation. Allow others’ accomplishments to act as instances of where you need to go. Furthermore, do whatever it may take to get it going.

  • Center around your assets

We are generally great at something, whether focusing on creatures, being a decent audience, having an ability for impressions, or 1,000,000 different things. To look further into your top person assets, take the Using Organization’s free study.

  • Acknowledge your imperfections

Nobody’s ideal. Moreover, regardless of how rich or popular, everybody has weaknesses and defects. So why not take a stab at embracing your identity similar to what you are?

  • Value others

It might appear strange, but valuing others assists us with feeling improved. Next time you discover yourself regretting another person’s success, consciously attempt to transform the self-judgment into a credible enthusiasm for their accomplishment. This thoughtful gesture moves our temperament toward a more certain and big-hearted state.

  • Take a break from social media

Try to reduce your usage of social media. Instead of scrolling, engage in activities like walking, reading a book, or meeting a friend.

  • Compare yourself to your past self

To engage in comparison, focus on comparing yourself to your past self rather than others. Reflect on your personal growth and the knowledge you have gained. Comment on your achievements and acknowledge that there is always room for improvement and new experiences.

Author Bio:

Mark Edmonds is an accomplished writer and researcher specializing in psychology and medicine. He is a seasoned academic writer and currently works as a writer for Academic Assignments, a leading provider of assignment help services, including psychology assignment help and medical assignment help.
Mark is highly knowledgeable and experienced in various academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, medicine, and education. He deeply understands the complexities of these fields and is passionate about providing students with top-quality guidance and support.