Social Media’s Impact On Self-Esteem

Written by Karl Perera MA, DipLC.

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The rise of social media has happened quickly. Also, today’s social media has become more influential than anyone could have possibly imagined. As a popular writer of topics related to self esteem, and as a published author in this field, I am qualified to comment on the effect social media has for the good and the bad. It drives popular trends and because so many young people and adults use it, we need to be aware of social media’s impact on self-esteem. 

social media smartphone

What is the effect of social media on self esteem?

  • Many otherwise productive hours are wasted on social media each day.
  • Unrealistic social personas that many feel they have to present, and many feel they need to match, cause low self esteem. Instagram can have effects on your self-esteem – find out how to protect yourself.
  • People may compare how many likes or comments they get with others and this can damage self-worth.
  • People can feel worthless when comparing their own lifestyle to what they see on Instagram or Facebook.
  • Online groups can boost positive emotions such as a feeling of belonging or contributing to a community.

Social media “influencers” earn big sums of money to simply display their lives on social media. What is an influencer on social media? According to Influencer Marketing Hub an influencer is someone who can influence buying decisions. They have a large following in a particular niche. They have social influence over thousands, or even millions, of followers with whom they engage with by posting regularly.

From this rooted connection with social media, a new form of bullying has arisen. If influencers use the power they have they can directly change attitudes, fashion and thinking of those who follow them. They promote themselves, their lifestyle and ideas and can influence the self esteem of their online followers.

Therefore, the power of social media is clear. It affects how businesses and individuals relate to their audience and also shapes the thinking of others. Social media’s impact on self-esteem can be huge, one post can shape the feelings and reactions of millions.

Some people get a lot of positive energy and support from their social media connections. However, some people find the social connection damaging.  Take a moment to read through this article I wrote about self esteem. Now consider how social media may be affecting your self esteem today.  

Infinite Social Media Advertisements

You have probably already noticed that social media is a hub for advertising.  You cannot escape the psychological influences of a flood of advertisements when you’re on social media every day, several times per day.  

Even if you try to avoid the persuasion of digital advertisements, you may not be able to guard your subconscious. Find out more about how psychology and emotions are used in advertising online from (source: University of California)

If an ad suggests something is high quality and suitable for the rich or professional class, weare more likely to believe what it has to say.  It all comes down to personal flattery.  We buy from advertising that makes us feel good about ourselves (source: Journal of advertising). In this way, our self esteem is being controlled.

It’s good to be aware of what you’re being exposed to when you scroll through the pages of your favorite social media channels.  

For example, reading up on ways to keep your skin healthy at home is enriching, but don’t let it lead you down a rabbit hole of self criticism and doubt.  If you cannot escape the pressure of digital marketing while scouring social media, it’s best to make yourself aware. Don’t fall for these strategies. 

Unrealistic Social Expectations: Are They Dangerous? 

One of the most significant dangers of the rise of social media is the unrealistic expectation of life that is created by people sharing nothing but life’s good moments.  An unreal picture of what life should be has been driven into the minds of young people around the world.  

When you get a new car, the birth of a new baby, graduations, and other happy moments are what most people choose to share.  Of course, there are those who post the good and the bad, but the majority of social media is made up of feel-good images and fluffy life quotes.  

The miscalculation can cause relationship troubles and self-esteem issues.  If you’re looking at the picture of happiness all day, and your own life is filled with everyday challenges, you may suffer unnecessarily thinking your world doesn’t measure up.  

Research from the Royal Society for Public Health proved that all four of today’s most popular social media channels can negatively affect the mental health of users.  Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter don’t make up the sum of who you are.  Again, the key is keeping a tight leash on your connection to social media.  

The Psychology of Social Media Likes 

Social Media's Impact On Self-Esteem

The power of a simple “like” has become too much for some to resist.  Social media has caused the creation of a whole new psychological issue called FOMO (or fear of missing out), and the psychological effects of a “like” are equal to the joyous feeling of eating chocolate or winning a large sum of cash.  

This study from the Association of Psychological Science further investigated the effect of social media “likes” on the mind.  The craving of the “like” is strong enough to drive a person’s self worth up or down.  Consistent lack of “likes” are powerful enough to shake some people’s personal confidence.  

On a positive note, if you don’t live by the “like,” you can find a quick emotional boost by posting something witty on social media.  It’s important to keep your perspective clear on social media. Remember that a “like” does not prove your worth as a person.  

Sense of Belonging Among Groups 

As with most elements of social media, the sense of belonging to a group is a double-edged sword.  You could become part of a group that really helps you through life’s troubles. However, the connection with these people may be plastic in nature.  

Digital relationships can be rewarding, but they can also be quite deflating to your self esteem.  People are capable of treating others as if they are disposable, and one click of a button can erase you from a person’s life.  It sets a shaky standard for true connection.  

It’s critical for users to keep social media in its place.  Social connections and conversations, sharing and laughing together is great.  However, make sure your joy is not at the expense of another.  

Lack of Real-life Social Engagement

Social Media's Impact On Self-Esteem

Social media’s impact on self-esteem can result in a withdrawal from real-life, face-to-face social engagement.  Kids and adults alike spend their time missing life’s moments.  Instead, we peek at the world through a small smartphone screen.  

It’s not all bad to document life’s beautiful moments.  Just remember to take a break from the screen long enough to really experience what’s right in front of your face.  

When you’re taking a video of a beautiful sunset, lower the camera.  Capture moments while simultaneously experiencing them by shifting the way in which you utilize social media.  

Today’s younger generation is also lacking in real-life social skills.  No one can seem to get their head out of their phone long enough to have a real conversation.  It’s important that your whole social life isn’t tied up in social media.  

The Good News About Social Media 

There are plenty of advantages to social media if it has a healthy place in your life.  Social media is a great place to network professionally.  

The power of LinkedIn will connect you with people who can supplement your path to professional success.  This particular social media platform can give freelancers and other entrepreneurs the outlet they need to launch a successful career. Networking with other professionals and sharing your work and ideas can boost your self esteem! 

Facebook and Instagram are excellent platforms for social connection with families and friends.  Living far away from mom, dad, brother, or sister isn’t as bad when you can see their faces and talk to them every day.  Social media has made communication exponentially easier.  

The Overall Diagnosis of Social Media

Overall, social media’s impact on self-esteem is both positive and negative. The most important consideration regarding social media comes with just how much you actually allow it to take root in your psyche because social media’s impact on self esteem is real.

You shouldn’t depend on social media to make you feel like you belong or like you’re worth something.  True self worth comes from inside of you, and it’s vital that you seek out the true meaning to that statement.  Facebook and Twitter can’t help you with that part of life.  

Make sure to take time away from the digital world, so you don’t miss out on all the beautiful things right in front of you.  Really breathe the air around you, and appreciate the true tactile nature of reality.  Check yourself from time to time, and consider social media a perk to life, instead of an end all, be all.  

The Effect of Instagram on Self-esteem and How to Protect Yourself

Taking the leap to post on Instagram can be a bit daunting if you’re suffering from low self-esteem. In a world where you don’t believe in yourself, everyone else seems to be doing things “better” than you; they’re prettier, smarter, funnier, or whatever else your mind can come up with. This is the effect of Instagram on self-esteem, but don’t worry you can learn how to post confidently without any risk to your self esteem, I’ll show you how.

So how can you protect your self esteem while posting on Instagram?

  • Identify your strengths and what you are good at.
  • Develop and maintain a positive focus. Negative thinking is no good at all for your self esteem, especially on Instagram.
  • Avoid comparing yourself with others. Influencers on Instagram can make you feel inferior if you let them because it is easy to compare your lifestyle to the one they present to the world.
  • You an your content is different. You are unique, remember this.
  • Ignore rude comments

The truth is, low self-esteem can create a sort of veil over how you perceive yourself. In some cases we can build up a false self (read more about the false self at Medium.com) which is how we perceive ourselves and this affects our self esteem. Once you realize the veil is there, you can start to work through the effect of Instagram on self-esteem and gather the courage to start your own Instagram page. Have you always wanted to do beauty tutorials? Workout routines? Whatever you’d like to do, the first step is pushing yourself towards and beyond your comfort zone. 

How to Protect Your Self Esteem While Creating Instagram Videos

This short Instagram video guide will help you understand and provide you with tips on conquering the effect of Instagram on self-esteem and posting the best content you can on your Instagram page. 

Identify What You’re Good At 

The first step to protecting your self-esteem is identifying what you’re good at. We tend to focus highly on our negatives; mistakes, shortcomings, things we don’t like about ourselves. In fact, according to Maria Millet, Michigan State University has found that we have 80,000 thoughts a day and 80% of these are negative. In other words 64,000 negative thoughts each day (Source – Michigan State University Website)!.

When we endlessly focus on the negative, it becomes cyclic, and then that’s all we see when we look at ourselves. 

Everyone is good at something. You’re a unique person with your own special set of skills, whatever they may be. Maybe you make a mean cocktail. Guess what? There are tutorials online for making the perfect cocktail. Maybe you’re great at sketching. There’s definitely an audience for that! Knowing where your skills lie can boost your confidence and make you feel good about what you’re posting.

We tend to look at ourselves through a lens that downplays our talents, but the effect of Instagram on self-esteem means you should pay attention to the people around you. When you draw, do people compliment your work often? When you mix that perfect cocktail or apply the perfect mascara, do your friends or loved ones notice and pay their respects to your work?

Alright, so you know what you’re good at. What’s next? We need to work on undoing that perpetual feeling of it’s not that great and the effect of Instagram on self-esteem by focusing on positive thoughts. 

Focus on Positive Thoughts 

We’ve all heard the gurus talk about how positivity can change your life but is it true? Does focusing on positive thoughts and experiences truly help change the world around us? No, it doesn’t . You can’t actually change what’s around you (within reason), but you can change the way you look at your environment and your experiences and make yourself happier and more likely to succeed (source: Specialty Journal of Psychology and Management).

Everything we see, touch, taste, smell, hear, or experience in any way is perceived by our brains a certain way. Your brain acts as a sort of bio-processor, absorbing information and processing it into images, smells, etc. That means that everything you experience, even low self-esteem, is a product of that perception. The best way to protect your self-esteem is to change the way you view criticism and focus more on positive thoughts about yourself.

This block contains unexpected or invalid content.Attempt Block RecoverySo, what does positive thinking have to do with it? If you view something constantly in a negative way (such as who you are as a person), your brain learns to perceive that person, object, or experience with negative thoughts or emotions. So, if you’re always putting yourself down, you’re essentially training yourself to dislike who you are.

Focus on your strengths. And don’t say you don’t have any strengths, because that’s simply not true. Strength comes in many forms, and doesn’t just mean the ability to lift heavy objects or navigate trauma. Your strength might be that you’re a great problem solver, or that you work well with people, or you have the ability to make others laugh. Those are strengths to be proud of! 

Some gurus and mental health experts suggest a daily mantra of positivity to help reset the brain’s perception of yourself. Take a few moments each day to really focus on what you like about yourself. If you catch yourself being too critical during the day, take a step back and remind yourself that you’re only human. That means you’re going to make some mistakes! 

And let’s be honest, you can’t escape internet trolls and people that are only out to hurt you. These comments need to be identified for what they are: someone else’s insecurity being weaponized against you. Don’t let your light dim because someone doesn’t like how it shines. 

Don’t Compare Yourself To Others 

This tip is especially important. Comparing yourself to others, especially those on social media, can lead to feelings of insecurity and further damage your self-esteem. Let’s be honest for a second; most of what you see on social media is heavily filtered or altered in some way anyway, so are you really getting the true version of those people you compare yourself with?

It’s one thing to look up to a mentor or someone you respect, but constant comparisons rarely have any positive side-effects. You’ll never, ever be the best imitator of another person, but you can be the best version of yourself. Remember that next time you feel like you should look, talk, or walk like someone you saw on Instagram.

Remembering that protecting your self-esteem means being true to yourself and being proud of who you are. 

Remember That Your Content Is Unique 

People love a genuine figure, especially on platforms where filters and doctored images reign supreme. The more genuinely you your content is, the more your followers will appreciate the effort that goes into it. When you start trying to be like other people, it’s noticeable, and you lose that authenticity that your followers love so much. You are good enough, pretty enough, and talented enough. 

There is an audience waiting for your unique content. You just have to find them! 

Pick A Niche and Focus On It 

Success on Instagram requires that you pick a niche and stick with it. It’s tempting to create content on everything you enjoy, but if you want to grow a large audience, you’ll need to stick with one thing. Make this one thing what your entire page is about. This also makes it easier for potential followers to find your content since your page is associated with specific keywords/hashtags. 

Ignore Rude Comments and Feedback

When you get negative feedback on a video or post, the first thing you’ll want to do is be defensive. It hurts. Someone didn’t like what you posted. Someone said something nasty about you. This is the effect of Instagram on self-esteem. What do you do about it? Nothing. Move on. Ignore it. Unfortunately, there are just some people who feel like they need to bring other people down and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

That being said, you’ll want to learn to differentiate negative feedback for the purpose of constructive criticism and negative feedback for the sake of hurting feelings. For example, of these two sentences, which do you think is aimed at being constructive and which is aimed at being hurtful?

I think your video was entertaining, but the lighting was off and I couldn’t really see much of what was happening. Maybe get some better lighting next time?

OR

That video sucked because the lighting was awful. I couldn’t see anything. 

The first sentence helps identify an issue, whereas the second sentence is simply aimed at making you feel bad. 

Upload Consistently 

Consistency is key when you’re uploading to any social media site. Your followers will learn when you post content, and are much more likely to view everything you post if they know when to expect it. If you’re posting at random times, it’s very difficult to keep track of it all, and your content will most likely fall by the wayside. Keep your content consistent; that goes for the level of quality as well! 

Use The Right Hashtags

You’ll want to spend some time learning how to create the best hashtags for your content in order to gain new followers and increase your views. Hashtags are essentially keywords that link your content to specific search terms. For example, if you’re using the hashtag beauty, anytime someone searches for that term on Instagram, your posts will show up in the search results. 

Keep hashtags short, sweet, and content-specific. Try to use only 7-10 hashtags per post, as too many hashtags can be distracting, and too few can leave your content out of search results. 

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide helps you in starting an awesome Instagram page with compelling content that you can be proud of. Remember that you are unique, and constantly comparing yourself to others does nothing but make you feel bad. Go out there and create awesome content for your new audience! 

References

  • Jeffrey F. Durgee (1986) Self-Esteem Advertising, Journal of Advertising, 15:4, 21-42, DOI: 10.1080/00913367.1986.10673034
  • Michael Burkhardt. You Are Not What You Think You Are — The False Self, The Ego, and The True Self. https://medium.com/the-ascent/you-are-not-what-you-think-you-are-the-false-self-the-ego-and-the-true-self-13064f51918e
  • Millett, M. Challenge your Negative Thoughts. Michigan State University Website. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/challenge_your_negative_thoughts
  • Moaser, Z. A. (2016). Effectiveness of positive thinking skills Training on Hamedan Students Anxiety and Happiness. Specialty Journal of Psychology and Management2(3).
  • Sherman, L. E., Payton, A. A., Hernandez, L. M., Greenfield, P. M., & Dapretto, M. (2016). The Power of the Like in Adolescence: Effects of Peer Influence on Neural and Behavioral Responses to Social Media. Psychological Science, 27(7), 1027–1035. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797616645673
karlperera4

Website Author and Your Guide

Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA) and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.

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