Comparisons

I’ve been spending a lot of time on social media. Mostly it’s a very conscious effort to keep audiences and fans engaged, to expand the reach of my professional network, to create online content (videos, interviews) that might lead to future non-performance work, and finally to keep myself focused and functioning and sane.

It’s been an interesting process shifting my energies towards a virtual audience, as well as a steep learning curve in terms of the skill sets required (video editing and production, graphic design). Being active online has kept me occupied, and for that it feels useful.

The flip side, of course, is that I have to spend so much time on social media. To be fair, at their best, these platforms provide useful information, insights into interesting events, humorous/enjoyable content, handy how-to videos, connection with friends and colleagues, a space to look at pretty pictures. But at worst, social media becomes an endless display of life highlights to which we can’t help but to compare ourselves, or a tangle of conversations that lead to divisive name-calling as much as to civil discourse.

As I post on Instagram or Facebook I can’t help but peruse what’s going on in the lives of friends and colleagues. We all realize that social media, particularly Instagram and Facebook, are highlight reels of people’s lives. Yes, there are serious posts – in support of social movements, or to announce a death or illness in a family – but the majority center around fun activities and beautiful settings and happy faces and cute animals and amazing performances and delicious food.

Instagram in particular is a space in which we see very carefully curated versions of people’s lives. For instance there’s a whole genre of female Instagrammers that supports body-postive, “honest” looks at actual (read “non-model”) women’s bodies. You would think that this would be a more authentic way to present the human body, a raw look at reality. But the truth is, even photos of “real bodies” are most often staged and highly-produced images, artful displays of one’s enlightened view of beauty that are ironically still fetishizations of the female form (I could go on about this particular topic for pages, but will stop myself here!).

So much of the messaging on social media is “look at the wonderful things I’m doing”. And I realize that I’m just as guilty as any in presenting the best parts of my life, and myself. But for me (and for many), this creates an environment in which we take in everyone’s highlight reels and compare them to ourselves and our own lives. And we often find that we are lacking.

I struggle with the idea that I’m enough. I’m constantly worried that I’m not smart enough, or talented enough, or compassionate enough, or strong enough, or supportive enough, or loving enough, or lovable enough. It’s something I work through on a daily basis, reminding myself that my mere existence as a being on earth, that simply being ME is in itself, enough.

But the bombardment of beautiful images and exquisitely phrased pronouncements and gorgeously produced videos that I encounter as I put up my own posts on Facebook, or Instagram, or YouTube, or LinkedIn, or Twitter – it chips away at my tenuous acceptance of inhabiting my own mind, my own body, my own life. It messes with my self-perception, makes me doubt myself and my goals.

I’m not sure that there’s a true resolution here. I suppose that, at its core, it points out my need to keep working on my own sense and security of self, to ground myself in my own reality, to focus on and move forward with the things I believe in, independent of anyone else’s actions. Or to put it another way, to “stay in my lane”.

But I’m human, and part of the complexities of humanness is to compare and contrast, to feel anxious, to feel envy, to feel lacking.

As the pandemic eases (although, frankly, we’re in as bad a place as we were months ago, at the purported “peak”), I’m looking forward to shifting my energies back to actual interactions, to live performance, to physical engagement with the world around me. But until then, I’ll be plugging away online with my various projects, all the while attempting to keep the demons of constant comparison at bay.

10 thoughts on “Comparisons

  1. I can promise you that when I post a pic of myself on FB — rare, but it happens — you will not be glimpsing the five pounds I’ve added in quarantine! I stay away from Insta, but it seems even worse. Sorry you have to hang out on there for now. It’s all pretty pictures with only partial connection to reality.

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  2. Wayne Zelenak says:

    Sarah, as a person with an open mind and a deep-seated interest in the behavior of people on social media, I am amazed at the male comments who are only focused on the pretty pictures of women. These comments feed the ego of some women who post their need to be validated on FB by inflated photos, stories, selfies, and incendiary political memes. I agree with your assessment of so much hyperbole on social media focusing on the message “Look at me and all the wonderful things I’m doing” Their theme never changes, only their stories and their depiction of drama.

    By contrast, your posts contain interesting interviews with celebrities who have gained prominence through their creative work in music, celebrated awards recognizing their talent, and a history of their trials and tribulations and tenacity to excel. Their validation as a performer is thunderous applause from an audience that is enthralled with their talent, as they take their final bow.

    In the music industry, I am fascinated at the collaboration of so many talented musicians, composers, conductors, stage managers, and lighting technicians, working tirelessly to stage an event. As a conductor and musician, you need to ground yourself to the challenge of performing. It is the existential force within that drives and defines who you are and who you are destined to be.

    History has shown us that life is full of peaks, valleys, hills, and dales on our journey. Setbacks are temporary and we must stay focused on learning from the experiences and challenges we are presented each day. The wrinkles define our character and awareness provides a path to cope. In my view, being content of who you are with makeup or without, and never compare yourself with others, is the key to contentment. You are multi-talented and a gift to all who know you. You bring to the stage the music that resonates in so many ways. Learn to hear its beauty…

    W

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    1. chefdorch says:

      I would say that the need for validation and attention is a prominent theme for both genders, and it all seems to reflect the need for acknowledgment to have a sense of self. Also, we’re forced apart physically so we end up interacting more online, and I think needs tend to be magnified.

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  3. while you may question yourself at times, there are thousands of people that want you in their live’s. You might wonder if you are good enough; For us, you are just right. Keep swinging.

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  4. Maestra,
    it is in the human nature to compare ourselves with each others. A couple years ago we had a clinical about narcissism from a psychiatrist. I was perplex about that mandatory formation. The psychiatrist was telling us that we had to be narcissist at a minimum level otherwise we would eaten up by the surrounding world. On the other hand people who were too much narcissist were a pain in the b!tt. She was telling us all that stuff in regard of dealing with difficult patients.
    Social medias became a ‘mise en scène (a way to put ourselves into the light at our best as a director would do)’ that are not always based on reality. More a person is narcissist more that person will tend to ‘inflate (photoshop,…)’ her/his look throughout the social medias.
    It might sound cliché to say but the greatest people (famous or not) are sometimes the simplest. I remember having had a world known French actor (he was in Montréal to shoot a movie. He hurt himself on the set.) as a patient. I thought that I would have had to deal with a ‘Prima Dona’. It was the opposite. He was behaving like a normal person. We even didn’t talk about cinéma. He told me he didn’t have a tv, anymore, wasn’t on Fb, Instagram,… and didn’t like the ‘artificial Hollywood stuff’. He loved reading (novels, scénarios,…) and writing. I recall that story and it does help me to keep in mind we’re all humans after all. We all try to follow the road that we thing is the best for ourselves even if some people try to drive us into other directions.
    I understand that you spend a lot of time of social medias and people don’t always realize how much time consuming it could be. There is part of it who is necessary to keep in touch with your audience. There is also a part of it which you have to make sure you keep some time from yourself.
    Merci for sharing your thoughts on these complex issues. Remain as you are Sarah. We love you this way.

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    1. chefdorch says:

      I wonder if it’s narcissism that leads people to things like PhotoShop. I feel like it’s more a deep-seated insecurity and a need for approval…

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  5. This is was the psychiatrist told us about the link between narcissism and PhotoShop. She was giving this as an example. It was in 2016. Your sentence makes sense. I would say it is all interlinked closely but this is only a hypothesis.

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  6. Maestra, I have a complement of information to share. There was an interview tonight with a psychologist (Dr Hubert Van Gijseghem -> he is from Austria. He lives in Québec since many years. He is a teacher as well). I was in my car doing my notes while listening to the radio. He spoke about narcissism. It was a rerun from a show who was previously aired last June 5, 2020. I didn’t listen to it when it was first aired. I didn’t know how to share the podcast here. I’ve sent you the podcast (+- 9 min.) as a pm in your new Fb page. It is in French. I thought it might have interested you. It is quite interesting and I think it worth a listening. He is way more competent than me to talk about narcissism. I let you judge.

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