How Does Social Media Affect Self-Esteem?

There has been widespread discussion about the potential of social media to trigger increased feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. That being said, what about the direct link to self-esteem? Could platforms like Instagram and Facebook be affecting how we view ourselves in ways we don’t even realize?

In this article, we will take a look at the basics of self-esteem, how it connects to social media use and strategies for building a healthy relationship to social media to enhance mental health.

What Shapes Our Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem can be defined as how we feel about ourselves. It encompasses the deep-seated beliefs we hold about ourselves and our value in the world. Self-esteem is central to whether an individual perceives themselves as ‘good enough’ and believes that they are worthy of happiness.

Individuals with healthy self-esteem are more likely to feel comfortable asserting their needs, making decisions, and navigating difficult situations. On the other hand, low self-esteem can lead to mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. For more information and advice about self-esteem, visit BetterHelp.

Many factors influence our self-esteem, such as our life experiences and how others respond to us. Experiencing abuse, being bullied, facing unemployment, financial issues, physical or mental health problems, and body image concerns can negatively impact one’s self-esteem. Comparing ourselves to others also plays a role in how we feel about ourselves and our own values.

These days, social media platforms perpetuate social comparison as we are exposed to a constant stream of others’ extravagant adventures, achievements, and celebratory milestones– which may spur negative feelings about our own lives.

The Impact of Social Media on Self-Esteem

A 2020 study aimed to assess the link between social media and mental health. The data illuminated that individuals who used Instagram frequently engaged in more social comparison, which in turn decreased self-esteem.

On Instagram, it is easy for individuals to scroll through their feed and compare themselves to the appearance, popularity, and accomplishments of others, even those they do not know personally (such as celebrities and influencers). Even though many of the images we see on social media are highly edited and selected to portray an ideal image, being immersed in the ‘highlight reel’ of others can make us feel worse about where we may be at.

Another study revealed that frequent Facebook users perceive their online ‘friends’ to be happier and leading better lives. Spending time online can make an individual feel inferior and insecure, as they are bombarded with the seemingly perfect lives of others, and reminded of their own struggles and insecurities.

Let’s take a look at some strategies for cultivating a healthier relationship with social media, so it is less likely to negatively influence your self-esteem and mental health.

4 Tips for Healthier Social Media Use

1. Limit daily usage of social media. As seen in the studies above, the more time spent on social media, the more likely to have significant effects on self-esteem. Make an effort to reduce your daily use, whether it’s putting your phone away in certain situations (such as at work or when with family/friends), removing screen-time as part of your daily morning/bedtime routine, or using apps designed to help you track and limit your social media use.

2. Unfollow accounts that trigger negative feelings. If you find that following a certain person or account on social media is constantly causing you to feel bad about yourself- unfollow, or unfriend. Instead, focus on filling your feeds with accounts that are more authentic, that inspire you, and leave you feeling encouraged.

3. Join a supportive online community. Facebook and Instagram have a way of making us feel like we are interacting, but ‘liking’ others’ posts often does not provide the meaningful connection we crave. Through social media platforms, seek out the opportunity to connect with others who share common interests. By making positive connections, you may spend more time actually connecting and less time scrolling, comparing, and feeling isolated.

4. Take a social media detox. Sometimes we just need to log off and take a break. Whether it’s a couple of days, weeks, or months, don’t be afraid to take a hiatus from social media for a bit to focus on engaging in your hobbies, nurturing relationships, and being present in real life. Take note of how you feel during this time. Even if you decide to go back to using social media, it may provide perspective as to what effects it may be having on your mental health.

Seeking Support

If you are continuing to experience challenges with low self-esteem, consider seeking out support from a mental health professional. A therapist can work with you to determine what has contributed to low self-esteem throughout your life and help you to develop a more positive view of yourself.