Sunday December 31, 2017

If you're worried your social life is less exciting than others', it's not

Listen 9:04

So here's an inherent contradiction about the way we view ourselves:

According to numerous studies, we tend to see ourselves in the best possible light: we mostly believe that we're smarter than the average bear.

Until, that is, we compare our social lives to those of other people.

Then, we judge ourselves more harshly.

That's according to new research published by Cornell psychology PhD student Sebastian Deri.

378 Sebastian Deri

Sebastian Deri (Cornell)

In a paper called "Home Alone: Why People Believe Others' Social Lives Are Richer Than Their Own," Sebastian found that most people think their friends have better and richer social lives than they do.

However, the problem lies in that when we think of people to compare ourselves to, we tend to think of people who have very active social lives.

"When they start thinking about other people, they don't start thinking about random other people," Sebastian says. 

"The people who come easiest to mind are the people who are most social, and those people are not representative in terms of how peoples' social lives are.

However, nearly everyone thinks like that, and "obviously that can't be true."

Social media likely tends to exacerbate this way of thinking, he adds, because people tend to post images of themselves in fun social situations.

Sebastian says that there is a certain logic to this thinking: when we compare ourselves to other peoples' cooking ability, we also tend to think of people who are good cooks and not people who sit around eating Ramen noodles.

He says the idea of comparing your social lives with other people isn't really a good measure of happiness.

"I think you should take a more absolute perspective. 'Am I getting what I want, am I happy?' It's not useful in this case to see how many follower you have compared to Kim Kardashian."