We live in a world of comparison, with social media platforms being the main culprit.
We scroll through our newsfeeds throughout the day, comparing ourselves and our lives to what we see from others.
While social media can be an excellent tool for so many reasons, it can also be our worst enemy if we aren’t careful by making a substantial negative impact on our self-esteem.
It’s wonderful for promoting businesses, staying in touch with family, and keeping up with recent news. But it can turn dark very quickly if we aren’t careful and let it consume our thoughts and lives.
A recent study that looked at the correlation between social media use and low self-esteem concluded that “Overall, we found a small, significant, negative relationship between social network site use and self-esteem, suggesting that higher levels of social network site use are associated with lower levels of self-esteem.”
To come to that conclusion, they looked at 121 other studies published on social media use and self-esteem and found evidence of a correlation between the two (specifically negative self-esteem) in all 121 of them.
Here are a few ways in which social media may negatively affect your self-esteem:
1) Social Media is a highlight reel, not a reality.
One of the most significant ways social media can negatively impact our self-esteem is by showing us only the positives from someone else’s life. It acts as a highlight reel for all of our lives.
Seeing the job promotions, fancy trips, expensive new clothes, and perfectly posed pictures can make us feel unworthy and full of self-doubt.
We begin to envy our peers’ “perfect” life but can fail to remember that the perfect life doesn’t exist.
In reality, these images are just the high points in their lives.
We all know that life is full of mountains and valleys, and few people are willing to share their “valley moments” with the world. Social media breeds the perfect environment to allow us to compare our lowest moments to someone else’s highest.
2) Social Media is full of deception.
Facetune. Perfect365. Photoshop. Lightroom. All are ways that we can make ourselves appear more “perfect.” We grow to envy the girl with perfect skin or the guy with the six-pack abs on social media, but the chances are that isn’t the reality.
Social media is full of lies and deception.
As seemingly innocent as it may be, even something as simple as filters can make things seem better than they really are. It gives you a look at other people’s worlds through rose-colored glasses.
Even without filters, it’s easy to portray a life that isn’t yours on social media. There are people who pose in front of cars or houses that aren’t theirs, fake entire vacations, or even try on expensive clothes in-store to take pictures and never buy them.
So next time you see a person with perfect skin, the ideal figure, with a sparkling clean house, just remember that so much of what we see is just not real.
3) Social Media pressures us to try and be perfect.
In addition to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, envy, loneliness, and stress, too much time on social media can affect our real-life social skills and leave us with the feeling of needing to be perfect 100% of the time.
The obsession with gaining more likes, followers, comments, and engagement leads us to toxic feelings of comparison. If we aren’t portraying ourselves as just perfect enough, no one will like us. We will be rejected. Or, at least that is the lie social media feeds us.
It also leaves us unable to read other people’s body language in real life correctly, making us self-conscious of how we are perceived by others when having an in-person encounter. We feel so pressured to appear perfect that we forget it is okay to stumble and fail sometimes.
Every time we post a picture, the thought quickly runs through our head of “What if everyone hates it?”
The added stress of wanting our photos and posts to be attractive, funny, and liked by everyone is just one more thing we worry about each day (but shouldn’t have to).
4) It encourages us to seek validation from others.
So often, we seek quick and easy gratification. When we’re feeling down, we can slap a filter on a selfie, post it to Instagram, and be told how beautiful we are within seconds. How do you feel afterward? Great, right? But that high only lasts so long.
In fact, the feeling goes as quickly as it comes, and doesn’t fill any hole or need in our life.
It’s empty compliments. And when the reactions aren’t as positive or as many as we’d hoped, it’s easy to begin to feel negative about yourself.
Placing other’s opinions above your own feelings of self-worth is dangerous. Remember that you are the only one whose opinions matter.
5) It makes us forget to live the present moment.
We’re more focused on the pictures than real life.
Your food comes when you’re out at a restaurant and the first thing everyone does is take a picture.
You’re at a concert with friends and you spend most of the time watching through your screen while recording it than you do actually enjoying it.
You visit a museum and focus more on taking a picture of every exhibit for memories than you do actually making a memory out of it.
It’s great to have memories and pictures to look back on, but it can soon become a problem when we’re more focused on getting the perfect picture or making sure we’re recording than being in the moment.
You would be surprised how much you miss when you’re too busy with your phone.
The conversations with friends you could have had, the real-life connections with people, the things going on outside of what’s on your screen.
You may find yourself feeling like even though you were there, at dinner or a concert or at a museum, you weren’t really “there.” Feeling like you’ve missed out on enjoying real life can certainly lower your mood and your self-esteem.
6) It is especially bad if you’re already struggling.
Social media does enough damage to a mentally healthy person, but can be even more detrimental to someone who is already struggling.
Let’s say they just lost their job or got injured and can’t do the activities they love anymore, seeing someone else’s achievements can be gut-wrenching. You don’t want to read about someone’s hefty bonus that paid for their international vacation if you just lost your job and are worried about how to make ends meet.
But in reality, as we said before, it isn’t fair for you to compare your lowest points with someone else’s highest.
If you are struggling, it’s best to take some personal time away from social media and focus on what you can do to brighten your mood and boost your esteem.
7) People can Hide behind a keyboard.
While many people put only their best face forward, others use social media to tear others down.
It’s easy to say mean things to others when you don’t have to look them in the eyes and feel their pain after your words are spoken.
So many people hide behind a keyboard and sling insults at others with no regard for the other person’s feelings or humanity.
You never know what someone is going through or how your words can affect them.
Don’t let it overtake you.
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, especially during a pandemic. But don’t let it become an unhealthy obsession. Keep in mind that what we see online is only a small part of other’s lives.
And even that small part is often portrayed inaccurately through editing and filters.
Spend some time each day away from your screen, find a good balance, make a mental effort to stop comparing yourself to others, and remind yourself that everyone is struggling with their own battles, even if you can’t see them.
Be kind to yourself and those around you, and you’ll find that your days get a little bit better. And remember, the only opinion of yourself you should be concerned with is your own.