The term “keeping up with the Joneses” originated in an early-twentieth-century comic of the same name in which a family struggled to keep pace with the lifestyle of their neighbors (who are never seen in the strip, which should tell us something). The commentary on our culture’s ingrained habit of comparing ourselves to those around us is even more relevant today, as social media has broadened the range of who our “neighbors” are.

We see friends living their lives not only around town, but also online. We see inside their homes, even when we’re not there—and we see inside the homes of people we’ve never met in person. We can feel like we know so many people, but we’re probably not as well acquainted with them as past generations were with their physical neighbors.

And yet, a host of factors continues to contribute to the mentality that we ought to compare what we have to what they have, instead of accepting that the differences between us are good and natural.

We know this mindset is unhealthy. But it can be hard to change when little around us encourages us otherwise.

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