Social Media’s Impact on Self Esteem

I’m so glad social media wasn’t around when I was growing up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I know I personally spend way too much time on Instagram, Facebook and Vine. Sometimes i’m on social media like a robot- scrolling, laughing at memes and silly photos and before I know it, an hour has passed.

It’s fascinating that even though social media has only existed for just over a decade, it’s been a very powerful force in our world. Not only has it broken down communication barriers and connected us, it’s seamlessly been incorporated into our everyday lives. It’s now natural for everyone to be on social media showcasing their lives to the world. If you’re like me, it’s the first and last thing you see each day.

Social media has completely revolutionised how we communicate with people. I can now engage with people from all over the world and my social circle is not limited to the city I live in, it’s global. Let’s not forget about the impact it’s had on business and the possibility of being able to earn top dollars as a social media influencer.

But, as we all know, not everything about social media is great. There are days when I have to take a break from it, not because I’m tired of seeing my feed filled with baby or holiday spam (hello, I regularly blog and post about my life), but because the digital world never stops, it’s producing content 24/7, which i’m always trying to keep up with. I find the endless amount of information being fed to me overwhelming at times. I get sick of reading the same thing (think ‘breaking news’) and digesting junk and useless meaningless crap.

Which brings me back to my first point – I’m so glad that social media isn’t something I grew up with.

I grew up in an era where I didn’t feel pressured to grow up fast and constantly feel the need to worry about my image and how many friends I had, I enjoyed just being a kid. I also didn’t grow up in a time where my social life was broadcast to the entire world, while at the same time it was being judged by a global audience. Nor did I have to deal with online trolls picking on me for no reason other than to enjoy the power of making me feel worthless. Most of all, I didn’t feel the constant need for perfection, but times have changed.

The need for perfection

We’ve all seen photos on social media of glamorous vacations, fabulous foods and luxurious items that most of us couldn’t afford without racking up an impressive credit card debt. Despite this, it’s all too easy to get caught up in this ‘perfect’ world and think this is how people are living their lives 100% of the time. Sometimes we tend to forget that what’s shared on social media is only part of the story.

Behind the fabulous fashion blog, a lot of time and effort has been invested into creating the ‘perfect’ image. What’s often not shown are all the preparations involved, such as the amount of time the blogger has spent working on their appearance (hair and makeup alone) or finding the right clothing and accessories (don’t forget the $$$ needed), searching for the right location and taking photo after photo to get the perfect one.These are the in-between moments that we rarely have visibility of, yet what’s being portrayed is a deceptively ‘effortless’ production created by a single click of a button.

While some of us can easily see through the facade, young girls are particularly vulnerable.

The impact on young females

In a recent study, researchers at New Flinders University found a correlation between time spent on social media and low self-esteem. More than 1,000 high school girls were interviewed about their self-esteem and social media habits. Overall, the researchers found conversations about appearance were “intensified” on social media and were more influential compared to appearance in real life. Even though 80% of the girls interviewed were classified as being in a healthy weight range, 46% said they were dissatisfied with how much they weighed. The study confirmed that while young girls feel pressured to look perfect everyday, the need for perfection intensified on social media because the girls were aware they were being judged by others from around the world.

“Time spent on social network sites was related to lower self-esteem, body-esteem, sense of identity and higher depression,” – Amy Slater, Flinders University’s School of Psychology.

The need to maintain individuality

These days, everything from a good hair day is sent out into the universe via social media and is the cause for praise. I feel it has made a lot of people become way too self conscious. That’s probably  why we now have services where you can “buy” likes and “followers” for certain social media accounts. But why do this? Why pay someone to ‘like’ your photos? My opinion is because these people need self validation. They rely on a number to determine their worth.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Noone should ever feel that they need to ‘look’ a certain way or have thousands of followers to feel worthy. In a growing digital world where more and more people create illusions as to who they are and how they live their life, it is important not to take people’s posts too seriously and don’t let it cloud reality.

We don’t want to end up in a world where people, especially young women, are losing their sense of individuality and self confidence. We want to raise strong, confident women.Those who paved the way for women’s rights would be turning in their graves if they knew that more than half of young women have very little confidence in themselves. We owe it to the future generation of women to harness the social media game and turn it into something good.

Be proud of who you are.

Keep in mind that appearances are deceiving, not everything you see is real. No one’s life is filled with joy and contentment every minute of every day and nobody is perfect.

I think we all can take a step back to be more authentic and not hide behind our online life.

In the end, as a parent you want your child to be happy and successful. But making sure she knows you love her and you’re proud of her as she is—unfiltered, unedited, imperfect—will help her build confidence she needs to accept herself and stay safe and healthy when she’s out on her own.” – Rae Jacobson





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