Social Media’s Impact On Self-Esteem

Written by Karl Perera BA, MA, DipLC
Updated: June 5th, 2020

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.
  • 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.  

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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.  


  • Jeffrey F. Durgee (1986) Self-Esteem Advertising, Journal of Advertising, 15:4, 21-42, DOI: 10.1080/00913367.1986.10673034
  • 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.
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Website Author and Editor Bio

Photo of Karl Perera, MA, DipLC Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA) and author of Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run since 1997 and is an expert in Self Esteem and Self Confidence.