Social Comparison Theory is a concept that is widely studied in social psychology. It was first introduced by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954. The theory proposes that individuals evaluate their own abilities and qualities by comparing themselves to others.

What is Social Comparison Theory?

Social Comparison Theory suggests that people compare themselves with others in order to assess their own abilities and opinions. This comparison can be either upward or downward. Upward comparison entails comparing oneself with someone superior, while downward comparison involves comparing oneself with someone inferior.

Why do People Engage in Social Comparison?

Social comparison can serve several functions, including:

The Effects of Social Comparison

The effects of social comparison depend on the nature of the comparison made.

Upward Social Comparison:

Upward social comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy, envy, and low self-esteem. However, it can also motivate individuals to improve themselves and their skills.

Downward Social Comparison:

Downward social comparison can enhance self-esteem, increase feelings of competence, and reduce stress levels. However, it may also lead to complacency and a lack of motivation to improve oneself.

Social Media and Social Comparison Theory

In recent years, the rise of social media has led to an increase in social comparison behavior among individuals. With the constant stream of curated content on these platforms, it is easy for people to compare their lives with those portrayed by others online.

Studies have shown that excessive use of social media can lead to negative effects on mental health, including low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. This is largely due to the social comparison behavior that is often exhibited on these platforms.


Social Comparison Theory is a widely studied concept that has significant implications for understanding human behavior. While social comparison can serve several functions, it is important to be aware of its potential negative effects. By being mindful of our own social comparison behavior, we can work towards developing a healthier sense of self-esteem and personal growth.