Scott Mautz

The Downside of Social Media: The Comparison Dragon

By: Scott Mautz | January 21, 2016 | 

The Downside of Social Media: The Comparison Dragon

By Scott Mautz

I was conducting research with social media savvy moms to better understand their digital habits, and unexpectedly hit on the downside of social media. I had awakened a beast…the comparison dragon.

A host of moms told me about the extent to which they depended on social media tools, such as Facebook and Instagram, to assist them in their motherly duties.

They raved about how they couldn’t live without such informative tools and how accessing them often served as their only relaxing respite from their harried days.

Social media has become a trusted partner in helping them do the incredible jobs they do.

Then the downside of social media really came out. The phenomenon of what I call “digital mom guilt” slowly revealed itself.

On the other side of their expressed love for such tools came guilt: Guilt because, in some cases, they were spending as many as 10 hours a day on their mobile smartphones, tablets, or laptops.

And guilt from the fact they felt increasingly unworthy relative to the virtual world to which they were increasingly overexposed.

Self-congratulatory post after post, perfect picture after perfect picture of people living a life they couldn’t—it was all starting to take a toll. Their self-esteem was suffering and they had a growing fear they were failing to live a good enough life.

The Comparison Dragon Reared its Ugly Head

As it does with all of us, the comparison dragon interrupted everything from digital daydreaming to our daily lives.

The ironic thing is this Dragon draws its very power from those it preys upon.

The more we compare ourselves to others, the bigger the Dragon gets, striking fear into our hearts with increasing ferocity.

We soon feel hopelessly inadequate and are thus moved to inertia. We find ourselves subject to someone else’s expectations.

We lose sight of our definition of success. We find it more and more difficult to exonerate ourselves from what we think others might be thinking.

It is bad enough we are constantly comparing to others, but we’re not even making fair comparisons, at that.

The Downside of Social Media

Kelly Azevedo, founder of She’s Got Systems, a productivity jump-starter for entrepreneurs, says:

We tend to compare our own blooper reel to everyone else’s highlights reel.

And in social media, rest assured people are primarily putting their best face forward.

This, of course, is a major downside of social media.

A recent study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed people are much less likely to share the bad stuff versus the good stuff.

And the study showed we overestimate how well others’ lives are going while we miss cues of negative things going on. So we’re getting a distorted and incomplete picture.

This Dragon shows itself more than ever due to our unprecedented access and exposure to “other people’s business” that we now have via social media.

Accordingly, we also now do an unprecedented amount of comparing to these “social strangers.”

And it’s wearing, and weighing, us all down. There’s a lesson for us here to apply at work (and in life).

You know what you have to do.

Like the stoic, lone warrior perched high above the town in the church tower, waiting for the approach of the great winged beast, you must be the one who slays the Comparison Dragon.

Put an arrow through its heart, and then compare yourself only to what matters—in your heart.

About Scott Mautz

Scott Mautz is a 20+ year marketing executive at Procter & Gamble, having run several thriving, multi-billion dollar divisions along the way. He is also an award winning keynote speaker and author of the bestselling book Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning, a book named to the “Best of 2015” list by Soundview Business Books. Connect with Scott at

  • Scott, this piece stirred up so many thoughts for me. First, when my husband and one of my children said, within days of each other, “you’re always on the computer.” I didn’t feel I was always on the computer but …. perception matters and their words hit home. // As for comparison, yes — that’s a dynamic which we all must struggle with these days it seems. And it impacts not just WHAT we think of our experiences, but of HOW we have them. Postponing starting dinner so we can arrange our food for an Instagram photo (guilty here…), engineering how a group of people is arranged so the pictures on social media look “just so,” being so busy tagging and posting pictures of an experience WHILE WE ARE HAVING IT that we fail to live in the moment and enjoy the experience. GREAT thoughts here. I enjoyed your debut Spin Sucks post!

    • Thx Paula – we ALL have laid at the feet of this beast. Awareness and intention to beat it back may be the mightiest sword of all!

  • I totally relate to the comparison dragon. It’s easy to feel inadequate when there are so many talented people out there. As for being a mom, my kids are grown up, but I can imagine losing them or having something happen if my nose was constantly in my phone.

    • Our mobile devices are valuable tools. We just can’t lose sight of the world all around us that’s not pixelized! Thx for sharing your thoughts.

  • Interesting perspective. I know a bunch of young moms who seem to post about their highlights but also about the most mundane aspects of their lives. I expect they could get as much value by putting in a fraction of the time.

    • Sherrilynne – GREAT point. We should leverage social media for the great tool that it is, but apply the same efficiency to it that we try to apply to the rest of our activities in life. Thx for reading and responding!

  • The comparison dragon is distracting, discouraging, and just flat out bad for business. Thanks for bringing attention to this very real issue.

    • Thx for taking the time to read and respond to this article!

  • I agree that people nowadays rely ponderously to social media, so it comes to no surprise that many of us consider it as an important part of our lives. However, digital life is slowly taking over our real lives and I agree that people tend to put their best face forward and show what the society wants them to be instead of who they actually are. Also, some people tend to overshare and their information can be exploited without them knowing it. But given that, we can’t deny the fact that social media really had a tremendous impact in our lives and will be something that will live on. We just have to learn how to manage it.

    • Well said Team M2Comms – like many things in life, it’s all about balance!