Did you know that the average person spends about 2.5 hours on social media every single day?
That’s a massive jump from just a few years ago and it will probably keep going up.
And that’s to be expected.
After all, social media is one of the best things to happen to our society in the last few decades.
We’re so much more connected now. Opportunities are everywhere. Life is good.
But, as good as social media is, it isn’t without its own faults.
There’s so much misinformation, filtering and lying going on, that sometimes we don’t know what’s true and what’s not.
Over time, some bad practices on social media can also lead to a negative effect on our self-esteem.
But, before the pitchforks come out, I’m not telling anyone that social media is evil or that you should delete your Instagram or Facebook account.
In this post, I just want to share how it can affect your self-esteem and what you can do about it.
So, without further delay, here are four ways in which social media can negatively affect your self-esteem.
And, don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ll be sharing my top tips on how to exercise healthy self-esteem on social media too.
1# Personality Split
Now, I’m not talking about a literal, M. Night Shyamalan “Split” situation.
Social media is not nearly as bad as all that.
Rather, social media often encourages us to have two very distinct personalities:
- The “Highlight Reel” personality, where everything ranges from “great” to “5-star awesomeness” and;
- The real “you”
On social media, we always tend to try and put our best foot forward.
This often means only sharing the good, positive updates in our lives. It can mean making sure that everything is flawlessly trimmed, edited and “cookie-cut” into the perfect shape for presentation.
The lives that we tend to show on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat aren’t our real lives though.
They’re a highlight reel of only the best stuff – most of the time.
Where it can start affecting your self-esteem is when there starts to be more of a split.
Because if your “Highlight Reel” life doesn’t match your “Real” life, then you can really start to feel down.
Looking back at the pictures and posts from my early university days, anyone would think that I was having the time of my life.
The truth was, I was in one of the worst places ever and hiding that was killing my self-esteem.
That frustration about not living that “other” life can really wear you down, just like it did for me.
Eventually, you might not be able to live with the difference.
2# Keeping Up With… Everyone?
Chances are high that if you log into Instagram or Facebook, you’ll see a lot of people living incredible lives.
They're going on amazing 5-Star holidays.
School friends (and enemies) are having kids and raising perfect families.
Everyone seems to be eating the best food, having unflappable relationships and sharing awesome experiences.
Sometimes it can feel like everyone is living the dream and you’re not.
Social comparison can lead to us feel quite negatively about ourselves. This can, in turn, damage our self-esteem.
Because the chances are pretty high that your life isn’t perfect right now.
So, when you log on to your social media account, it can be easy to look at the filtered highlight reels of everyone else’s “perfect” life and think, “Why them and not me?”
When I was in the lowest part of my life, looking at other people’s “perfect” lives always made me feel worse.
But, I just couldn’t stop myself from looking.
Frustration from not being able to get what others seem to easily achieve can soon lead to a lot of negative feelings about ourselves and our self-worth.
Facing that regularly can make us feel undervalued and even ashamed of our lives.
That shame compounds and can eventually become low self-esteem.
And that’s definitely not what we want.
3# Body Image or Body Illusion?
Match.com has reported that 51% of people say that social media has made them feel more self-conscious about their appearance.
This makes sense because social media has expanded our social network to include most of the world now.
We aren’t just comparing ourselves to people from work or our neighbours.
Three quick taps on your iPhone will send you to Instagram pages of fitness models, ripped personal trainers and Hollywood celebs.
It can be hard to live up to that kind of daily standard. It doesn’t matter that it’s often filters, touch-ups and editing that make the pretty picture.
I see a guy with 8-pack abs. I don’t have 8-pack abs, so I feel bad for not meeting those expectations.
But, sometimes we can fall into these same traps as well.
We can easily create a digital illusion of who we are (to complement our already split personality).
A few minutes on Photoshop and I don’t have to worry about blemishes, freckles or spots.
The problem is, every time we give in to tools meant to “beautify” us, we reinforce our negative beliefs about ourselves.
Distorting an image to seem thinner or more muscular means unconsciously telling ourselves that we are not good enough as we are.
And it’s those negative, limiting beliefs about ourselves that lead to low self-esteem over time.
4# Need For Validation
We all want validation.
After all, it’s a basic human need.
We want to know if we’re doing good and what people think about us because we’re social creatures.
Most people love seeing likes, comments, shares and other assorted reactions to their online posts.
When we see that notification, we get a quick boost of temporary self-esteem.
It feels good.
Sometimes, it even feels great!
The problem is that it’s temporary.
So, that good feeling quickly fades away and we’re left trying to chase the next bit of validation.
Eventually, you may stop valuing your own opinion altogether and only find your worth in the amount of engagement you get online.
Research shows that this can seriously damage self-esteem and it’s why a lot of popular social media sites are now experimenting with getting rid of metrics such as Likes or Subscribers.
It’s OK to want people to like what we have to say.
Even I still want to see likes, comments and shares on my Facebook page.
But, chasing the validation can often mean undermining our own value and that can eventually lead to low self-esteem in our lives.
Top Tips For Overcoming Low Self-Esteem on Social Media
Don’t Hide Who You Are:
You don’t have to share everything in your life. In fact, you don’t have to share anything at all.
But, the one thing that we can all agree on is that always projecting a perfect image to the world can seriously damage your self-esteem over time.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or appear vulnerable - online or in the real world.
All that matters is that you are living in alignment with your values and not hiding who you are or how you feel.
Context Is Key:
Everyone might seem to be living the best life on social media, but context is everything.
Remember, you’re only seeing a snapshot of a person’s life.
So, before you start comparing yourself and your situation to theirs, remember that anything could be happening.
Smiles can hide a lot in an Instagram photo.
Remember, there is a context to every person’s life.
Context is key!
Be Proud of Yourself:
You don’t have to have achieved crazy, massive successes to be proud of yourself.
So what if other people have done some stuff in their life that you might have wanted to?
Learn to take pride in your own accomplishments and don’t let other people diminish that.
Plus, there’s always time to go after your goals and become everything you’ve always wanted to be.
Your Body, Your Life, Your Rules:
Never change yourself because of what other people think.
It can be a long, painful process with little to no reward at the end of it. So, what’s the point in trying to make other’s happy when you’re ending up miserable?
As long as you are happy and healthy, then keep on doing what you’re doing.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
The most important form of respect in your life is self-respect.
When you can learn to appreciate yourself and find your own worth, then it doesn’t matter what others think of you.
Get out there and discover your values.
Find what you love about yourself.
Be the best version of you.
So, Is Social Media Bad For Self-Esteem?
Social media is awesome.
You won’t find me deleting my accounts any time soon.
But, always remember that your most valuable feelings about yourself should come from you, not from strangers on the Internet.
The most important thing you can do is love yourself – and, maybe take a break from social media every now and then.
What are you going to do today to start improving your self-esteem?
Let me know in the comment section below (I’ll always do my best to reply to every single comment and question.
If you want a complete guide to overcoming low self-esteem, you can check out the Ultimate Guide to Healthy Self-Esteem.
If you’re interested in getting coaching to overcome self-esteem issues and start living with confidence, make sure to check out the Confidence Coaching page on Life Transformation UK and get in contact.