You will notice I removed the “People & Places” link on the right side of my page. It’s not because I have sworn off blogs. Instead I just wanted to mix things up and maximize space (and eventually I will bring it back).
But on the subject of other blogs, I will admit that I do read other blogs from time to time. I am also guilty of spending an entire Saturday night laying on my living room clicking from one link to the next to find new blogs. Call me crazy, lame, boring, or any other name. But I know – I KNOW - you’ve done the same.
Of all the books, magazines, websites, information out there – why blogs? Admit it, you have found yourself blog reading rather than reading the daily news. Who cares what’s going on in the world, I need to know what _________(insert favorite blog name) is thinking and I need to know NOW. You have found yourself keeping up with the pro’s and amateur’s of the world by way of blog. They are in your kitchen every morning perhaps even at your desk. You feel like they are one of your best friends but you’ve never even met them. So what gives?
I’m not sure I have the answer. But I did spend some time the other day thinking about why we do this, why we read blogs. So I reached far back into the annals of my days as a psychology major (occasionally it comes in handy) and I found this…
Downward Social Comparison
Downward social comparison is a defensive tendency to compare oneself with someone whose troubles are more serious than one's own.
In other words, I might be bad, crazy, nuts, obsessed, addicted, overspending, hurting, bonkers, gone hog wild but at least at least I’m not as bad as…..
(where “that” would be the person who writes the said blog)
Case in point – the other night. I was surfing from one blog to the next when I found….a new blog. Ooohhh, new blog, new opportunity to see what someone else is doing, new opportunity to say to myself I may be crazy but at least I did not do an 80 mile ride on nothing but a saltine.
(not exactly what I read but darn close)
And so, I felt better about myself. Like the definition says, this is a defense. Not that any of us are defensive, but admit that the decisions you have made in the past year have raised an eye from someone else requiring a bit of defense on your part. Signed up for Ironman? Woke up at 4:55 am to make it to masters swim? Left the bar early because you had to ride 100 miles the next day?
Guilty, guilty, guilty.
And it’s not that we feel bad about our decisions or that we are unsure of ourselves – it’s just that other people get in the way. They make us feel like we have made a bad decision for our self. Naturally, we look for a defense. A reason why we are right for making that decision. And that defense is often downward social comparison.
I may have signed up for an Ironman (again) against my warning last year that I would never do another one (but here I go again) but at least I didn’t sign up for the 10 ironmans in 10 days event. (speaking of which, did you read about that?)
I may be leaving this bar early but at least by the time you wake up from your hangover I will be through with my 100 miles.
When you start to think about it – the fact that we’ve been reading blogs all year long, the more you realize that blogs are the best medicine around. Because there is always someone out there worse off than we are. There is always somebody out there doing something 10 times dumber or harder on 10 times less or in 10 times more pain.
So I started to think to myself that holy crap what if I am someone else’s downward social comparison. What if you are all reading this to compare yourself to a level of crazy that you could never touch. I search back through the past year for the certifiably crazy decisions I have made. For example (listed in order of potential craziness):
1 – Kona
2 – Quit my job
3 – Bought a dog
Oh no. That’s it. That explains the loyalty and readership of this site. You have downwardly compared your decisions to my dog, my career, and my Ironman. You find yourself purchasing a new $2000 set of wheels and think to yourself yes that’s bad but I bet Fedofsky is up to something much worse. And then you visit my site, see that I have purchased a small fortune of a dog and think to yourself – there it is, I’m off the hook.
After feeling bad about myself for a short while, I realized the panacea was to just read someone else’s blog. So I found a new one and read it. Sure enough I immediately found proof that I wasn’t so crazy anymore because I was reading about someone that competed in a very important race with a very bad injury. I sat back and said to myself I may have just purchased a dog but I did not do anything as dumb as that.
So why do we do this? Because it makes us feel good. It alleviates our doubt. Justifies our actions and keeps us sane. There is considerable evidence to support that we use downward social comparison as a mechanism to cope with stress, feel better about ourselves, and protect our self-esteem. And, simply put, it works.
So, I know what you’re up to. Not only by reading your blog but also by using my super social psychological powers to understand why you come here and read. And I promise to keep providing much craziness for you to compare your decisions against. Chances are I will do something crazy in the next few weeks. So stay tuned. Because if you’re feeling unsure of yourself, you have come to the right place.