Is Social Media Hurting your Self-Esteem?

Social media Pic

Have you ever logged into a social media website like Facebook, stared at the feed on your screen, and felt like your life wasn’t as interesting as some of your “friends'” lives? Or seen an image of some perfectly molded body in an advertisement and felt like you would never be “good” enough (whatever that’s supposed to mean)? It’s difficult not to. Social media is everywhere, so we should be conscious of how it affects us. The introduction of apps on smart phones makes social media use easy and habitual, and something we come to depend on. And let’s not forget about all the advertising pop-ups that expose us to the ever increasing standard of beauty.

One side effect of the growing world of entertainment and media platforms is an increase in the negative perceptions people hold of themselves, especially in comparison to the models and actors we begin to standardize in terms of beauty. But we are no longer only comparing ourselves to famous strangers. We are learning about people like us, people we choose to connect with. Social media constantly exposes you to new information – information about your friends’ whereabouts, your acquaintances’ interests, even strangers’ and celebrities’ lives. All of this new information is probably encouraging you to reflect upon your own habits, interests and whereabouts. Sure, social media encourages human connection and provides joy through entertainment. But social media that encourages you to maintain weak ties with many people, people who aren’t really involved in your life, creates a space where you are essentially advertising your life to acquaintances. No wonder social media creates so much pressure!

Trying to manage so many people’s perceptions through social media is a burden and it can take a huge toll on your mental health, an aspect of wellbeing that many of us forget about. A lot of people underestimate the importance of managing emotions and mental health. It’s quite surprising how negative thoughts and emotions are not always thought of as problematic in comparison to physical aspects of health. But taking care of your mental health should be just as high, if not higher, on your list of priorities as taking care of your physical health. You really can’t be physically healthy if you aren’t mentally healthy.

It’s not always easy to recognize when social media is facilitating a comparison of yourself to others and encouraging feelings of inadequacy. But there are ways to manage your use so that negative feelings don’t occur as a result. Here is some advice on how to manage your emotions relative to social media and how to become more present and active in your own life.

Stop making comparisons.

Obviously, the whole point of social media is to inspire interconnectedness; to share parts of our lives with others. This is a beautiful thing, unless we start comparing ourselves. There is no reason to compare yourself to other people, especially via social media. No one posts about the negative aspects of their lives anyways. So in that sense, social media is very one-sided to begin with. But we are all living very different lives, and this is a great thing.

If you were content with yourself before you checked out your Facebook or Twitter, and not so happy afterwards, you should probably reevaluate who you are ‘friends’ with. You should also probably reevaluate why you use social media in the first place.

Turn off your cell phone.

This is a huge opportunity to limit social media use, reduce conversation with people who are not actually present in your life, and focus on the world in front of you. It can be difficult to disconnect with the world when everyone seems to be constantly available to each other, but it’s not impossible. Turning of your cell phone for even an hour a day will give you the opportunity to do things uninterrupted.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) also supports turning off your cell phone. You can check out the link here: http://tap.unicefusa.org/. For every ten minutes of not using your cell phone, they will provide enough water for one child for a whole day. But if Unicef doesn’t convince you that ditching the phone for a little while can be a good thing, maybe learning that both Brooklyn Nets owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, and billionaire, Warren Buffet, don’t use cell phones, will. If they can spend their lives without cell phones, then we can probably turn off our phones for an hour a day.

Remember that actors and models are airbrushed.

Seriously, these people don’t even look like the images we see in photos and films. Airbrushing images is actually becoming a huge social and political issue. Globally, there have been multiple legal issues because of it.

The Truth in Advertising Act, co-sponsored by our own congresswoman Lois Capps, is a proposed piece of legislation built by a former chief marketing officer, Seth Matlins, and the Eating Disorders Coalition and The Brave Girls alliance. Matlins believes the FTC should step in and regulate the advertising industry because it is actually causing a public health crisis, seriously affecting teens, young adults, and even children.

As such, we shouldn’t be aspiring to look like something that isn’t natural or real. We especially shouldn’t be letting false images affect our self-worth.

Learn your triggers.

If you learn what typically makes you feel inadequate, jealous, or anxious about looking better, you can learn what to avoid. If you scan any kind of media, interactive or not, you can analyze how it makes you feel and move on from there. Unless you can train yourself to feel differently when you see an image that potentially triggers negative emotions, I would suggest avoiding them all together. However, it’s understandable that avoiding social media entirely is unrealistic. Instead, limit your use of potentially triggering social media to 3 times per day.

Social media has a subtle way of permeating the psyche. Every day we are bombarded by images of beauty, perfection and constant human interaction. It seems obvious that our self-esteem might be vulnerable to the constant feed of images spurring from every kind of social media platform, whether it’s your television or your Instagram. To be the happiest and healthiest you can be, it would be wise to learn what forms of media are lowering your self-esteem, and to avoid them, at least temporarily. This isn’t always easy, but being mindful of your emotions the next time you log into your Twitter or Facebook is a step in the right direction.

Lauren Cassis

Lauren Cassis is a 4th year Communication Major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her love for health and fitness began when she earned her black belt in Taekwondo and went on to become a competitive cheerleader and cross country runner in high school. In her free time she likes running, painting and playing with dogs. Sheis currently an assistant manager for UCSB Arts & Lectures and a member of Gamma Phi Beta.
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