We’re all connected to social media in some way – navigating our newsfeeds, scrolling through stories and posting on behalf of ourselves. But is the hype that surrounds these social platforms affecting how we feel about ourselves?
How does social media affect self esteem? Studies have found a direct correlation between increased social media use, declining self-esteem levels, and an overall negative impact on mental health.
What are the facts behind this phenomenon? In this blog post, we will explore how social media usage affects our sense of self-esteem and what can be done to prevent it from harming our wellbeing.
So keep reading if you want to get the real story – it’s time to uncover the ways our digital world impacts us mentally.
Table of Contents
First, What Is The Definition Of Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is an incredibly powerful concept. It’s not simply a measure of confidence; it may be thought of as a form of self-respect that one has for themselves.
In effect, self-esteem is how we mentally evaluate our own value and how we view our capabilities, talents, successes, and failures. It encompasses both realistic assessments of our abilities, as well as our feelings about ourselves.
With a positive self-image, we can view our strengths and shortcomings objectively without letting either define us.
If a person has low self-esteem, however, it can cause feelings of worthlessness and insecurity that can lead to many psychological issues, including depression and anxiety.
How Does Social Media Affect Self-Esteem And Body Image?
In a world where post-worthy Instagram photos and snapshot ‘stories’ on Snapchat rule, it can be alluring to compare our lives to others. Unfortunately, this often results in feelings of discontentment and low self-esteem.
Indeed, the positive emotions we feel while logging onto social media platforms can quickly become negative in response to what we perceive as idealized versions of life through others’ posts.
Social media can also have a dramatic impact on how people perceive their bodies – especially if they already have body image issues.
In fact, a recent string of studies suggests that the images of idealized body types presented on social media feeds, such as Instagram and Facebook, can lead to low self esteem, anxiety, depression, and greater overall dissatisfaction with physical appearance – in both adults and children.
This effect is heightened by the presence of social comparison, as users often compare their own appearance to the unrealistic bodies featured in posts or advertisements.
Here’s what researchers had to say about young women Facebook users:
…Fardouly, Diedrichs, Vartanian, and Halliwell (2015) conducted a small experimental study to assess the immediate effects of using Facebook on self-perceptions. Fardouly et al. randomly assigned 112 female participants aged between 17 to 25 years to one of three conditions: spending 10 min browsing their Facebook account, a magazine website, or an appearance-neutral control website (on home craft). Participants then completed state measures of mood, body dissatisfaction, appearance discrepancies (weight-related, and face, hair, and skin-related), and a trait measure of appearance comparison tendency. Females who spent their browsing time on Facebook gave more negative mood scores, compared to those who browsed the control website. Further, females high in appearance comparison tendency reported more facial, hair, and skin-related discrepancies after exposure to Facebook than to the control website.“Jacqui Taylor-Jackson and Ahmed A. Moustafa, The Nature Of Depression
Consequently, it’s important to be mindful of how social media content may influence body image and to remember that such images are rarely reflective of reality.
What Are 5 Negative Effects Of Social Media?
Social media has completely revolutionized the way in which we connect with others, yet it is far from perfect.
While the positives of using social media are numerous (we’ll talk about them in another section), it also presents a variety of potential problems.
Besides the unhealthy comparisons of body image and unrealistic expectations about lifestyles, the other negative effects of social media include:
- peer pressure to conform to certain standards of beauty, fitness, etc
- the risk of cyberbullying
- jeopardized personal security
- addiction and reliance on our devices when we feel anxious or lonely
- vulnerability to online predators
Cyberbullying can be especially harmful to teenagers and has been linked with depression, anxiety, academic struggles, and other negative consequences.
Personal security is also at risk through the easy access to personal information found on social media accounts.
Additionally, many people find themselves sucked into an endless cycle of scrolling and posting without being conscious of it. This could lead to a social media addiction that could interfere with daily life tasks, as well as lead to dangerous behavior in extreme cases.
Finally, viewing excessively curated images of friends and celebrities can increase our overall feelings of inadequacy or ramp up our envy, while also making users more vulnerable to online predators, like sexual predators or fraudsters.
Why Is There Pressure To Appear Perfect Online?
The prevalence of social media networks has created a culture where people feel pressured to present a perfect version of themselves online.
With an endless array of comparison-inducing images and videos, it is sometimes difficult for users (especially younger people) to remember that the impressions that have been created online may not be wholly reflective of real life.
Many forget that the influencers whose social media profiles they follow don’t have perfect lives (usually far from it). Instead, each perfect image they see obligates them to curate their own life events in order to optimize their digital presence.
Not only do people compare themselves to others, but they often aim to achieve unattainable perfection through the use of filters, editing, and more extreme measures, such as surgery.
Then, they post their beautiful outcomes on social media networks. Such comparisons generate more dissatisfaction of their own lives in other viewers.
There is also a subconscious need for approval from our peers that seems to increase every time somebody gets a number of likes on a post or shares an accomplishment.
This creates pressure to make it seem like we have the perfect life online.
Let’s face it, even subtle things, such as the number of friends someone has or the amount of positive responses they get (likes on a post, for example) can tie into our feelings of self-worth.
If you “only” have 300 friends and someone else has 1,300 friends, it can seem like they are “better” or more worthy than you – even if they have never met 90 percent of their so-called friends.
These pressures add up.
Previous studies had implicated social media interactions in the rising suicide rates among young people, but recent research from Brigham Young University “found that while social media use had little effect on boys’ suicidality risk, for girls there was a tipping point. Girls who used social media for at least two to three hours per day at the beginning of the study–when they were about 13 years old–and then greatly increased their use over time were at a higher clinical risk for suicide as emerging adults.“
One of the most important things a parent can do is to limit their child’s use of social media and keep an open dialogue with them about the type of content the young person is viewing, along with any negative emotions it is bringing up.
And young adults who use the internet must learn how to fix the expectations social networks have for them. This way, they can be more authentic and accepting of themselves online.
Signs Of Low Self-Esteem On Social Media
On social media, people who have low self-esteem can exhibit a wide range of signs.
For example, one telltale sign is when someone does not post about themselves or what they are doing.
This behavior could be the result of a fear of being judged in the comments section, leading to a lack of confidence in their own ideas and experiences.
Or, they may say harsh things about themselves online when compared to others or be dismissive of their own successes when other people congratulate them.
Sometimes those with lower self-esteem will post negative comments or jokes to draw attention away from themselves. They may also post content that reinforces feelings of insecurity and sadness in their followers.
Low self-esteem can also be seen by how someone interacts with others on social media; they could become argumentative and defensive in attempts to cover up feelings of insecurity or take down anyone they perceive as a threat to their own image.
A person who struggles with low self-esteem may also obsessively compare themselves to others who appear more popular or successful.
They might overlook or ignore their own accomplishments and successes (maybe due to imposter syndrome) or go silent for long periods of time in fear of saying something wrong.
Conversely, people with low self-esteem on social media sometimes turn to oversharing personal information, actively seeking validation and affirmation from others on how they look, what they post, or controversial topics.
Or, they may frequently post content meant to earn approval from their followers—from beauty / fashion tips and an artificial sense of perfectionism, to oversharing personal information online.
How To Combat The Negative Effects Of Social Media
In his book, Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Account Right Now, author Jaron Lanier asks, “How could the benefits of social media possibly outweigh the catastrophic losses to our personal dignity, happiness, and freedom?“
That’s a great question, in view of the negativity we willingly submit to on a daily basis via social media.
To combat the negative effects of social media, it’s essential to set a time limit for yourself on when and how long you use social media each day.
If you feel overwhelmed by the content on the sites, take a break away from them so you can reset your emotions.
Also, take breaks from screen time and your devices regularly. This break should not only consist of ceasing scrolling time, but truly unplugging so you aren’t tempted to login or receive notifications.
It can also be beneficial to adjust your privacy settings and block people who spread negativity, which will give you an overall more positive online experience.
Additionally, look for meaningful activities that you can do offline, such as participating in sports, joining clubs, and getting involved in hobbies. All these can refocus energy away from social media sites.
Being active offline by engaging in activities like reading a book or going out into nature also helps promote a healthy mental balance when interacting with friends and family on social media.
Think critically about what you are posting and try asking yourself whether it complies with your own mental health goals.
Reframe any negative thoughts you might be having into something productive or meaningful that may inspire others.
Taking action, such as learning a new skill or adopting a healthy habit, can also help settle feelings of inadequacy.
Spending time engaged in positive activities outside the realms of social media will give you some distance from its adverse effects and allow you to focus on other pursuits that lift your spirits.
You should also consider seeking professional help if needed. It can be instrumental in managing emotions and giving perspective in dealing with social media’s impact on your mental health.
Positive Impacts Of Social Media On Self-Esteem
After reading all the negative aspects of social engagement on people’s confidence and self-respect, you’ve probably begun to wonder if there are any positive effects that can come from it.
Actually, there are several positive impacts of social media, including:
- Connecting with likeminded people who share similar interests and values
- Platforms for self expression and creativity
- Strengthening relationships with friends and family members
- Creating a sense of belonging
- An accessible platform for anyone to be creative, and the chance to build an audience that values and appreciates your work
- Reducing isolation and loneliness
Social media can be an incredibly powerful tool for the positive, as well as the negative.
Through the connections made on various platforms, many people find support, understanding, acceptance, and motivation which can have a huge positive impact on their lives.
One post or comment of positive feedback can cause a feeling of appreciation and pride in users.
This could be as simple as somebody commenting on someone else’s post, encouraging them to keep up the good work, or a compliment on an outfit they found great.
On the flipside, people may also find outlets for personal growth, such as embracing a healthier lifestyle, or starting (or improving) a new craft or hobby.
Social media also offers countless opportunities for creativity and expression through text, images, video and other forms of mediums.
This freedom enables users to create pieces of art, work, or other things that may get recognition from their peers.
This recognition often serves as validation for hard work, as well as pride in their creative abilities.
Another great thing about it is that social media brings about a sense of community to those who are isolated due to geographic or other life circumstances.
A feeling of belonging is an invaluable resource that encourages self-confidence.
The anonymous aspects of social media also allow users to be more honest about topics such as mental illness, physical disabilities, gender issues, and personal growth without fear of judgment.
This can provide a platform to express themselves openly, learn from different lifestyles around the world, recognize differences between cultures, promote understanding, become better informed about their own identity, and celebrate unique traits about themselves.
Social media can be detrimental to our self-esteem and wellbeing if we’re not careful. It’s important to remember that what we see on social media is often a highlight reel and doesn’t reflect reality.
If you find yourself feeling down after scrolling through your social feeds, take a break and try not to spend as much time on social media going forward.
There are also steps you can take proactively to prevent social media from harming your self-esteem, such as unfollowing negative accounts, filling your feed with positive content, and disconnecting from the comparison game.
By being mindful of how social media affects us, we can prevent it from damaging our self-esteem and mental health.