We live in a world of information overload. By nature we are herd animals, we look to each other for guidance, reassurance that we are headed in the right direction, towards safety and prosperity and away from insecurity, from danger. From our past generations, our innate urge to ‘follow’ each others actions has kept us safe, helped us to evolve and ultimately brought us to where we are today.
Yet now instead of identifying the different calls in a chorus in a bird song we can distinguish between the alert sounds upon our mobile devices, the ping of a new email amongst the background music we play over the speakers. The number counters on social media tempt us at every pause, but instead of satisfaction we urge for more. More likes, more comments, more appreciation.
Where once looking to others kept us safe, we now live in an ever smaller world we can seek to compare our lives with an abundance of people from every continent.
I find myself comparing my work and future projects to not only those that surround me but those miles away. People I have never met or perhaps ever will. I check for reassurance and guidance is a counter to my “success”, allowing other feeds to make me feel unworthy or that every great idea has already been taken. After investing so much of my time to social media platforms I started to question if there is another way?
What happens if you stop riding the wave of comparison? You delete the app, you unsubscribe to emails. Instead of searching for inspiration in what others have done or have already created, you turn elsewhere.
Through the month of January I deleted the app and found space. Instead I started taking photos of posters from the countries I am visiting, scraps of paper, memorabilia. A clipping from a photography exhibit, a list created from pursuit of a project I have never tried before. I am travelling non-stop and yet instead of looking for inspiration in the twisting tongues of a new language, or the ever changing billboards, this month I started to open my eyes, note down what I saw and dream big.
I notice from my time away is how much I have been reliant on that ‘spark of an idea’ from another person. When looking to others work for inspiration it becomes harder to innovate. I notice that no matter where you are in the world, we are all looking to each other for the next idea, the filter to add to our photos or the way to compose our digital identity. The world is a smaller place when you are free to roam, to live and work in locations unthinkable only a generation ago. But culturally we are no longer looking to the world around us when we create. Instead, the same images I have saved, I find on screens in India. I go out dancing and the same songs I hear on the radio in England blast out against a menagerie of accents and tones I do not recognise. We travel to see with new eye, gander a fresh perspective but I have found that through looking too closely at other people on the internet, I lose sight of the very full world of possibilities that surround me.
Now as I share my journey away from the ‘comparison trap’ or social media, I find others opening up to their own struggles. You are not alone in feeling stunted by others achievements. You are more than your feed and your ideas can be grander than a watered down replication of ‘inspiration’ found online. What is you gave yourself a break? You are so much more than a replica of ideas.
The unhappiest countries are those that are economically poorer than lands they share borders. We all find solace in comparison when we find affinity but as the phrase goes ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. If we are always looking over the fence to check where we fit, what we have compared with someone else we will always find someone who (at least on the surface) has it better off.
There is the flip side of this that by sharing our journey, our creations, our thoughts, we can engage, connect and collaborate and create to a larger extent than ourselves. I frequently come across artists, ideas and inspiration I wouldn’t of otherwise have witnessed without social media and image sharing platforms. I am both amazed by the interconnectivity social media has provided and grateful to the connections I have found along the way. We should not, however forget now and again to open our eyes, look around and find the beauty surrounding us.