With the rising widespread use of social media, almost everyone around the globe can have access to see what anyone is doing. With the world at our fingertips, we are more connected than ever, and we’re able to communicate and send out messages much faster than we could before. Social media and its accessibility have provided the world with various new opportunities that we could not have imagined before. We can easily talk to anyone, no matter where they are located, there are now job opportunities that are based on social media and the internet, and it has facilitated the spread of the latest international news everywhere. But while social media came with such an abundance of benefits, it did also come with its dark side.
Comparisons on social media
Our easy access to other people’s lives can connect us more with those around us and help us to stay in touch, but it can also pave the way for self-destructive comparison. With pictures, videos, and any other sources of information being in flux, it can be overwhelming to be constantly exposed to the carefully curated posts that others publish on social media. Posts on social media tend to show people’s best moments while hiding their struggles as well as the ordinary aspects of their lives. It is a place where everyone can see what the people in their social circle eat or wear, their activities and outings, how many likes and comments they get on their posts, how many followers or friends they have etc. When we view these posts, we tend to not only compare ourselves to the people we follow in one specific area, such as their outfits for example, but we also start to compare every aspect of our lives to what we see online, which is extremely unhealthy. We also tend to place much importance on the “likes” we get and compare those to others. While the likes of social media may give us a short-lived good feeling, it does not make us happier in the long run. The constant comparison can be emotionally draining and exhausting, especially for teenagers and young adults. These comparisons can significantly affect our self-worth and self-esteem, and can even lead to serious mental health issues. Aside from the comparisons, today's social media environment has been flooded with negative aspects and characteristics:
- Lying – the posts we see online, the “latest news” we read, or some of the information claiming to be “scientific”, can easily be misleading and farthest from the truth. It is not uncommon for pictures to be intensely photoshopped or for people to be spreading fake news. The constant exposure to unrealistic expectations and beauty standards and the unattainable diets and daily workout routines can significantly damage people’s self-esteem.
- Cyberbullying – with countless opportunities for people to post or to write comments while remaining anonymous, cyberbullying has become more prominent than ever. It doesn’t help that, currently, cyberbullies do not officially face many consequences for their actions, and the victims of these incidents continue to suffer from several mental health problems, including low self-esteem and self-worth.
In order to better the social media environment for ourselves and for those around us, we need to be able to understand and acknowledge the fact that we do not need to be exactly like anyone else. Building our own self-confidence and building each other up will not only make us less pressured or obliged to imitate the people we see online, but it will also help us teach the people around us to do the same. It is important for us to tell our loved ones who are struggling with low self-esteem that they do not need to be a copy of anyone else and that they are accepted and loved simply for who they are. Another way to gain control over the situation is to limit our use of social media, and there are several actions to take that can help:
- Delete social media applications off of your phone – doing so will make the applications less accessible, and therefore you wouldn’t be checking it as frequently. You can still log in through a browser, but it wouldn’t be as reachable.
- Change the social media notification settings – being constantly alerted with inessential notifications gets us to go on social media applications and therefore scroll down our feeds more frequently. A way to deal with those is to limit these notifications to only direct messages or mentions.
- Set limits for social media – instead of spending most of our time glued to our phone screens, we can set a time limit for social media and instead spend time engaging in other enjoyable activities or hobbies.
The negative effect of social media on the mental health of people can be best avoided by following these simple dos and don'ts. We are not saying that you should stop using social media altogether. It is not realistic. Instead, we are asking you to be mindful of what it is that we see on the internet and its long-term impact on our self-esteem.