How social media reveals an ugly truth
The results are in. Nearly 300 people have been polled by the University of Salford’s Business School and over half of them purport that social media has negatively impacted their lives. The poll suggests that Facebook and Twitter are to blame for feelings of low self-esteem and compromised self-worth. Seventy-five people even admit that after being confrontational online, social media is the reason why they face difficulties in their relationships.
According to these results, those who suffered negatively at the hand of social media said that their confidence had fallen after comparing their own achievements to those of friends online. Does social media really possess the power to destroy people’s confidences? Isn’t it just an interactive website, merely a collection of HTML codes strung together?
Technology amplifying predisposition
The Telegraph reports that the chief executive of Anxiety UK says, “If you are predisposed to anxiety, it seems that the pressures from technology act as a tipping point, making people feel more insecure and more overwhelmed.”
Surely that’s the key—people who are predisposed to anxiety can become anxious over innumerable trivial things. That’s the point of anxiety. As medicinenet.com asserts, anxiety can be triggered by many factors including family disagreements, health problems and life stresses. Medicinenet.com even states that a number of genetic traits can be anxiety-inducing including one’s gender or skin colour.
It is worth noting that a study released by Rebtel in 2011 stated that women were more likely to use social media sites then men. If you pair that with the fact that, according to medicinenet.com, women are more likely to suffer from anxiety-related issues due to low self-esteem, it seems natural that social media users would report knocks in confidence after spending time online.
It’s Always in Your Face
People interpret the concept of social media in hundreds of ways, some only use it as a means of connecting with family who may be spread around the earth; others use it to stay in touch with work colleagues and to schedule appointments and conferences. For some, it is a link with an outside world that perhaps due to illness or other incapacitation they cannot join. Some use it as a method of being discovered and furthering their careers, while others may use it to find validation and meaning. Of course, you have your attention seekers, who employ social media as a vehicle for flaunting their positive attributes and feed on the approval of others.
Perhaps the problem isn’t the people who use social media to fuel their own narcissism and wage war with “look at me” posts of “poolside cocktail shots and attention seeking ‘wow what an amazing day[sic]’ updates”, 4 but rather the people who feel threatened by such posts.
If the point of social media is to connect with new or existing friends and to share and experience their lives, then why shouldn’t we post pictures of us having a good time and status updates that detail we’ve had an enjoyable day?
Maybe the real problem is that social media sheds light on an ugly hidden truth: people are sometimes jealous, ill-mannered individuals who do feel threatened and less confident than others. Before social media, it was easy to mask this reality—we simply didn’t see hundreds of photos of our friends at one time.
Such are the demands of life that physical encounters with friends are often constrained to manageable chunks of time. With social media, everyone we know from our close friends to acquaintances are potentially in our faces 24/7. Is that not part of the problem—the inability to switch off and ignore all the posts and pictures?
Jealousy has been a human condition since the beginning of time. It is an unsavory yet natural reaction to another’s fortunes or luck and has been immortalized in stories and films from Snow White to Mean Girls. The problem isn’t with the nature of the posts on social media sites, nor is it with the person doing the posting. The main problem is with the reader of the posts.
The Effects of Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem can colour your whole life, it can cause you to interpret every action as a slate against yourself, can influence you to harbor the assumption that everyone uses social media as a platform for maliciously broadcasting their own gains. Low self-esteem creates a “the world is out to get me” complex, add that to social media and you have about a hundred or so people claiming Facebook stripped them of their confidence.
The real solution to this “problem” will be found in addressing the people with self-esteem issues, acknowledging that there will always be someone with more, someone who looks better, someone who is more fortunate. Maturity and confidence equip individuals with the ability to acknowledge this without falling to pieces.
Instead of having a global media that portrays unilateral images of beauty, success and happiness, we should be campaigning for people to look within and notice the positive traits that they already possess. We should be instructing them to capitalize on these characteristics and to find comfort and peace in them.
When we are all confident, we will no longer seek to blame communication platforms for our sadness. The answer isn’t to ignore users who post photos of themselves having a good time, nor is it to become skeptics who believe every photo or post has been edited or altered. The answer is to look within, to acknowledge what we find—the good and the bad—and to be okay with it, and to use the contentment discovered to share in the happiness of others. This is what must be taught and embraced.
Anyonita Green is a freelance writer, specialising in food, health and travel writing, product descriptions and general interest features. She has a BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and has been writing for 10 years. She currently writes for walk in doctors.
- Social Media Fuels Low Self-Esteem, Anxiety [STUDY] (mashable.com)
- Is Social Media Turning You Into a Low Self Esteem Anxiety-Rich Freak? (downtheavenue.com)