Banish social media jealousy with these 5 deep questions

Struggling with social media jealousy? I did for years before I started this blog. In this no-nonsense article, I’ll give you 5 questions (backed by science) to make the green pain go away.

“Our envy of others devours us most of all.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

social media jealousy Pinterest pin

Social media, salacious videos, or a company selling their product with the help of bikini models:

You make yourself jealous.
No one controls your emotions but you.

The blame lies not on what you consume (though it can facilitate envy). The problem is your comparison between them and you.

I mentioned this on my “what does FOMO really mean?” article.

But good therapists don’t judge, blame, or label. So don’t do that to yourself. You might get stuck in a guilt or shame cycle forever.

Instead, dig at the root of the poisonous weed with these questions.

1. What do I want?

What you want is not what you want.

I know it’s hard, seemingly impossible, to separate your true desires from ones implanted in you by media, peers, and society. But remember this:

You don’t want things. You want the emotional state they’ll put you in. And you’ve convinced yourself that thing and only that thing will make you happy and content forever.

Oasis picture with quote: "What you crave is not the habit itself, but the change in state it delivers." - James Clear, Atomic Habits

But humans adapt to pleasure. You’ll need more and more of the same high (tolerance) because although “vanilla ice cream” used to be great, it’s nothing compared to “birthday cake.”

You won’t be content forever. And that’s good. Since what is motivation (dopamine) but desire to move away and forward? (hunger, boredom, stress, etc.)

As I outlined in the how and why of addiction recovery, new habits don’t matter if they distract you from pain. They need to center around the core need that your vice fills for you. You need to substitute.

For social media jealousy, your wound is self-worth.

See also:
Hiding likes on your Instagram profile won’t help

You want to have what they have because you think you’ll be good enough to be accepted and loved if you have those things.

Social media jealousy is an indicator you’re not working toward becoming someone you can accept.

  • What would make you accept yourself? (It’s not other people’s opinions, and it’s not any material item.)

If you struggle with illuminating the stepping stones on the foggy path to get there, start by asking if social media jealousy generates painful comparison in you.

Young man as Nicholas II on dark green background. Retro style, comparison of eras concept.

2. Am I comparing myself unfairly?

“If any external thing causes you distress, it is not the thing that troubles you, but your own judgment about it. And this you have the power to eliminate now.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

If you want to be attractive, put in the work.

If you want money, a fit body, or a meaningful talent, start now.

I used to want to be an artist. That dream died because my drawings weren’t perfect the first time and as good as the people’s who made the tutorial.

how to draw an owl


It’s because I compared my drawings and beat myself up for being worthless. In reality, myself and my skill are not the same. Yet we do this all the time to ourselves, equating imperfect skill with hopeless failure as a person.

Do you do that with your social media jealousy?

The only healthy comparison is between who you are today and who you were yesterday.

Are you better than yesterday?
Or if you failed today, did you learn a lesson you can use to get better?
That’s all that matters.

3. Can I do anything about it?

“There is only one road to happiness—let this rule be at hand morning, noon, and night: stay detached from things that are not up to you.”

– Epictetus, Discourses

If you can, step toward that goal.

If not, substitute for the blow to your self-worth.

Action always beats running away, because you can’t run away forever. I sliced open my wrist and tried to kill myself as the ultimate attempt of that. That’s where social media jealousy can lead. Take action now.

a fit man and woman to stoke social media jealousy
Photo by andrey_braynsk on Pixabay

^ If you want to become this, put in the work or stop complaining.

4. Do I like myself?

Social media jealousy tempts you toward a quick reaction to this question.

If you don’t, I believe the answer is work. And decades of research point to this. Psychologist Carl Jung extrapolated this from his many patients, that work on something that mattered to them eased anxiety, clinical depression, even psychosis.

“My experience has been that if a man pulls out of a… neurosis, then it is through work… in Symbols of Transformation Jung spoke of one cure – work – and having said that he hesitated for a minute and thought, ‘Is it really as simple as that? Is that just the one cure?'”

– Marie-Louise von Franz, The Problem of the Puer Aeturnus

You learn to like yourself by doing things that matter to you and which fill the void social media jealousy carves in you. Along with gratitude, forgiveness, and substitution.

You're not filling a void; you're creating one.

Signature strengths, the SMARTY method of Quest design, the elastic matrix, and science-based worksheets in my ebook, Quests: Habit Change for Addicted Warriors can help you with this.

It’s the exact method I still use every day to protect myself against my tripartite former addictions of YouTube, porn, and video games. (All of which, by the way, were caused by low self-worth, the sinister fiend behind social media jealousy.)

I cite over ten scientific papers just on the “positive affect” page to prove how building a life that rules out addiction can help with social media jealousy, by the way. Intrinsic motivation, soaring self-efficacy, psychological resilience (to stress, etc.), and more can help if you’re stuck.

And the last question for social media jealousy:

5. How can I redirect this feeling?

Remember Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics? Energy can be neither created nor destroyed.

So tame lightning. Redirect a feeling into healthy action (anger into pushups, stress into self-care, social media jealousy into work ethic, etc.) rather than take it into your body and feel the pain.

For instance, I gained a lot of energy when I quit porn. I now use that to become an attractive man.

sage takes lightning into his body and shoots it out through his fingertips
© Viacom 2005-2008 (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

I say this because


Desiring something impresses how you suffer without it now. However, pain is only pain when you perceive that you can do nothing about it, you dwell on how much it hurts, how you wish it to stop, and so on.

You can eliminate, or at least substaintially reduce, pain by:

  1. Finding meaning in it, becoming stronger and helping others who currently or will suffer
  2. Remembering you always have a choice to suffer
  3. Working toward a goal that results in freedom from it (although contentment lasts only until another desire appears, which is often very short).

Some teach (or preach) eliminating desire, because they don’t know to tame lightning. They see desire rightly as lightning, but wrongly of themselves as a lightning rod instead of a conduit. They erect dams which inevitably break instead of digging tributaries.

This is one reason abstinence does not work. You must redirect the lightning.

See also:
The EasyPeasy Way to Quit Porn: Review and My Experience

But if your desire is fillable

I won’t tell you to eliminate desire, but rather to channel it into work toward your goal.

That goal should be to meet your hurting inner need, not through a buyable possessionalthough experiences can be finebut through something you can do now.

If you desperately crave love, you can exercise, get in shape, pursue an interest that puts you in front of others, do metta meditation, adopt a pet, and so on.

Excitement, self-worth, artistic talent, encouragement, significance, security, growth, calm, beauty, community, identity… fill your need void with nourishing, lasting food. (Social media jealousy is junk food.)

woman using smartphone in  thunderstorm, cloud labeled "resentment"

“When needs have been thwarted, for example, people tend to adopt extrinsic goals that will lead to external indicators of worth, rather than the internal feelings of worth that result from need satisfaction. As such, extrinsic aspirations are one type of need substitute—they provide little or no direct need satisfaction but people pursue these goals because they provide some substitute or compensation… Unfortunately, as extrinsic goals are being pursued they tend to crowd out pursuit of basic need satisfaction, and they fail to foster integration or wellness, even when attained.”

– Deci & Ryan, “Self-Determination Theory: A Macrotheory of Human Motivation, Development, and Health

“Until you are happy with who you are, you will never be happy with what you have.”

– Zig Ziglar

Tips for acute jealousy

We’re none of us immune to random sparks of jealousy. Feel the negative sensation, then redirect the lightning into getting closer to your goal. The important thing is to get out of your head.

Because envy is thermally all in your head, based on this heat map I don’t have the source for.

Body heat maps for emotions. Happiness radiates through the whole body, anger in the upper body and fists, depression makes the limbs cold, envy and contempt mainly target the head, etc.

One way to do this is to walk away from your device, pay attention to your breath (in for 3, out for 6), and watch the clouds, wind, or nature. This gets you out of your head and into the real world. It also should reset your heat map away from Anger, Sadness, Depression, Contempt, or Envy into Neutral.

Plus, it helps to reduce your exposure to things that trigger social media jealousy. I wrote a free guide on how to curate your social media here.

Gratitude is the opposite of envy. That’s a gigantic article for me, and there are far more qualified people to teach you on that, but do pursue it, and the cravings will go away.

Takeaways: social media jealousy

Comparison is anthropologically normal and fine. Use it not for pain, but for motivation and energy.

  • You crave love and acceptance, but you can give that to yourself now.
  • The only helpful comparison is between who you are today and who you were yesterday.
  • If you still want something, and it’s possible, work for it.
  • Reduce your exposure. If triggered, focus on nose-breathing in for 3, out for 6, walk away, and watch nature.

All forms of self-hatred arise from comparison.

( ╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Banish social media jealousy with these 5 deep questions

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