You Are What You Look at: We Spend Too Much Time Looking at Other People

by The Cowl Editor on October 1, 2020


You Are What You Look at: We Spend Too Much Time Looking at Other People

by Joseph Kulesza ’22

Opinion Staff

We spend a lot of time looking at other people. The average person will spend a total of 3,462,390 minutes on social media during their lifetime. Assuming that this time is not spent exclusively looking at one’s own page, social media has allowed people to follow others’ lives at a closer, virtual proximity. With over five years of our life dedicated to this one endeavor, it is in one’s best interest to understand how and why this time is being spent.

We often look at other people because they have something we do not. Cristiano Ronaldo has 237 million followers on Instagram because he has innate athletic talent and a lifestyle that 237 million people find desirable in contrast to their own lives. Ariana Grande has 202 million followers because she has something, namely fame and notoriety, that 202 million people also find appealing. Similar attributes can be said for Dwayne Johnson, Kylie Jenner, and Selena Gomez, who respectively have the third, fourth, and fifth most followed accounts on Instagram. 

At face value, admiring, or even idolizing these people appears to be an innocent or benign habit. But this tendency has concrete repercussions that may never be recognized by social media users.

The first problem arises from the very reason public figures are public to begin with: they have something other people do not. Some of us may recall from our Development of Western Civilization classes that envy is one of the seven deadly sins.

In being fixated on another’s goods, comparisons are made between oneself and others. In this way, everything can become a competition between what others have and what one wants. This competition is not only one that is impossible to win, but is also an unfair one, as on social media, people make their lives look much better than they actually are. Viewers are always at a disadvantage.

When people excel in one area, we tend to expect that they excel in all other areas as well, something known as the halo effect. Athletes that excel in utilizing their physical talents or artists who excel in writing music may lack skills in other areas of their lives. It does not take long to think of examples supporting this claim.

Ultimately we should spend less time looking at other people and more time looking at ourselves. Introspection is not a selfish trait, but rather a tool that allows people to better themselves so that they may better others. 3,462,390 minutes is a lot of time that, spent fruitfully, could positively impact the other millions of minutes that constitute our lives.