How Social Media Can Affect Your Self Esteem
By Jessica Cho, HealthCorps Summer Intern 2019
Social media – it’s everywhere! From Facebook to Instagram to Twitter and beyond, we’ve reached an age where communication through the digital world is commonplace, rather than a rarity. Though we may not want to admit it, perhaps too many minutes or even hours of our day are spent scrolling through feeds as a time filler or even to avoid uncomfortable face-to-face situations. Access to these networks through apps on our phones makes it rather easy to get hooked – and not just for kids and teens, but even adults. Here are some important things to keep in mind when engaging in social media.
The Good News
There are many upsides to social media if used in the right ways. For one, it can be a great tool to network with people. LinkedIn, for example, is a site used to connect people in the professional world, which can be great for finding job opportunities. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram can also be a wonderful way to keep connected with friends and family who live far away or who you might not otherwise stay in close contact with. It’s nice to be able to maintain the connections you make in life. In many ways, social media can also serve as a creative outlet to market businesses, spread important messages, stay up-to-date with news, or simply express yourself on a public platform. Though there are definite positives, it is hugely important to understand the potentially detrimental risks social media use can present.
Have you ever felt instant gratification after posting a photo on Instagram or Facebook due to a stream of incoming likes or comments? Or have you ever felt anxious or unsure about yourself right after posting something if the likes or comments weren’t as high as you expected? I know I’ve experienced both feelings as a relatively frequent user of Instagram. It’s certainly normal to feel happy when you receive likes and comments on your posts. In fact, it’s likely to temporarily boost your self-esteem. It is crucial to see, however, how this may begin to affect how we value ourselves. Likes and comments are signs of validation. The more likes we get, the better we tend to feel. But when this happens, we place the value of others’ opinions above our own. Letting other people determine your self-worth is a surefire way to destruct self-confidence and feel less-than-adequate. Remember that your own opinion is way more valuable than anyone else’s.
Deception Online: Who am I? Who are You?
Vacation pics, cute outfits, happy couples, and cool events…people usually choose to post moments capturing happiness and success, building feeds that document people’s ideal lives. When everyone looks like they’re having the best time all the time, it perpetuates unrealistic standards to maintain in the everyday reality of life. Not to mention, photos are often edited for enhancement purposes and even touched up to cover human imperfections. Editing apps make it easy for anyone to zap away that relentless pimple or to brighten the colors on that sunset photo. Issues, however, arise when you begin to feel a certain pressure to look good and impress your peers. It can become increasingly difficult to maintain a perfect version of yourself, which can cause frustrations and feelings of low self-esteem, particularly when your social media image doesn’t match your real life one. Be kind to yourself and remember that not everyone truly lives the life they portray online all the time.
Even those that portray perfect lives online deal with their own internal struggles, but carefully edited posts can mask life’s less-than-perfect, yet inevitable moments. I get it. We’d so much rather show off a smiley photo surrounded by a group of friends instead of that time we cried alone while holding a pint of ice cream. Without a doubt! But when we are constantly fed pictures of people at their best, we are at risk for an unhealthy amount of upward social comparison, or the act of comparing oneself to others who seem superior. This ultimately has a negative impact on wellbeing and self-esteem. Moreover, people who generally struggle with low self-esteem may feel that seeing others living their best lives is confirmation that they’re not doing well in comparison. Although it’s human nature, limit the comparing and focus on your own accomplishments. There is so much of yourself to be proud of and so much more success to attain!
Frequent posting and updating to social media sites may make you feel like you’ve adequately connected with others, though virtually. Online communication is totally different than real, in-person conversations. The elements of tone, body language, and the physical presence of a person cannot be recreated online. True connections and bonds are made when you look someone in the eyes. Losing out on opportunities to connect with people face-to-face decreases opportunities to practice social skills necessary for success in life. Instead of hiding behind a screen, get out there and start making more memories!
Despite all the risks that frequent activity on social media sites can pose, social media itself is not necessarily the root of all issues. Editing pictures or making your life seem slightly more perfect than it is, is not a sin. We all wish to put the best version of ourselves out there, understandably so. It can also be fun having the freedom to post what you want while seeing what other people post (in healthy doses!). Problems arise when we get carried away and lose grasp of reality. It is okay to fail. It is normal to be dealing with things – other people are too! Pictures are edited and what we see are mostly highlights. These are the things we must remember in order to maintain a positive sense of self. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break from social media and focus more on in-person interactions. Being able to sit down and chat with a friend, face-to-face, is ultimately what will create a happier, more confident you!
Please visit The Brand of Me lesson from HealthCorps for a lesson focusing on self-esteem.