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Social Media and Self-Image

No matter the Challenge

The Sun will rise.
  • July 2023
  • /
  • Abigail Kalainikas

Social Media and Self-Image

In our modern day and age, digital platforms have changed the way we interact with not only others, but the world around us. With the ability to share virtually anything at our fingertips, including pictures, memories, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, one can only wonder how it can also shape our perception of self and the world we live in. There is no doubt that social media has many positive aspects, which we will explore in the post below. In contrast, there are many things to remain aware of as constant social media exposure can no doubt impact self-image and mental health.

"Have you ever found yourself scrolling through instagram and feeling as though everyone around you is leading a more exciting life than you?"

Social Media and Its Benefits: The Power of Self-Expression

Social media has empowered individuals to engage in self expression in ways never before possible. It creates a space for people to share their personality, convey stories, demonstrate talents, and connect with individuals across the world. For many people it has served as a tool for not only self expression, but also for raising awareness for important causes.

1. Positive Role Models:

People now have access to individuals who are empowering in sharing their stories about strength, resiliency, healthy coping tools, and positive life attitudes. Individuals are granted access to learn from other people and shift their perspectives and expectations in new ways.

2.Creativity and inspiration:

How often do you find yourself on pinterest looking for new living room aesthetic ideas, easy homemade crock pot recipes, or the latest haircut trends? Platforms like instagram, and pinterest allow individuals to explore ideas, post their own and gain inspiration from what others have to offer.

3.Building Communities:

Friendships are on longer for those who are able to see and spend time with friends in person. Life is busy, and people are busy. Social media allows individuals to keep up with their friends, the going ons in loved ones' lives, and stay in close contact despite physical or emotional distance.

4. Networking:

You’ll find that in the modern world almost every small business has their own instagram, facebook, or twitter pages. Social media has allowed for small businesses to succeed on a greater scale due to the ease of disseminating information and marketing through online social media platforms.

The Dark Side of Social Media

Social media can undoubtedly have a positive impact on ourselves and the world around us, though it can come with a risk. It has a tendency to distort reality, our thoughts, expectations, and values, and can potentially lead to feelings of inadequacy, isolation and rejection. Below you’ll find some of the challenges social media presents.

The Reality Filter:

Have you ever found yourself scrolling through instagram and feeling as though everyone around you is leading a more exciting life than you? You get home from a long day at school or work, and you login to see your friends lounging by the beach in the Caribbean, on an exciting hike through Colorado, or even just trying the cool new coffee shop down the street. People don’t often post the moments of boredom, exhaustion, stress, and overwhelm that hits all of us throughout the average week. Because of this, our perception of reality and what is expected of us can become easily distorted. When we have the expectation that every day should be fun and full of adventure, because hey– everyone else's is, we can’t help but to feel disappointed and behind in our lives. Social media is a fantastic way to share fun updates, but it can easily turn into a slippery slope of comparison and unrealistic expectations.

Unattainable Beauty in an Unrealistic World:

Sure, social media distorts reality itself, but what about the way it distorts the way we’re supposed to physically look? With filters easily available in literally every social media app, it’s hard to know what is real and what isn’t. Suddenly our unrealistic expectations don’t just extend to the way we “ought” to be living our lives, but also the way we “ought” to appear physically. Constant exposure to filtered and photoshopped photos can perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards and distort our own perception of beauty. These distortions can easily lead to feelings of negative self worth and personal dissatisfaction.

FOMO- The Fear of Missing Out:

Have you ever noticed that two of your close friends are spending time together and didn’t invite you along? Maybe they posted a fun snapchat or instagram story highlighting their day of coffee runs and pool time. Though it was likely an innocent way of spending quality time together, it’s easy to see how you may be feeling a sense of rejection and isolation by not being invited along. Constant social media exposure can reinforce a need for belonging and inclusion, and lead to more challenging experiences when attempting to spend quality time with specific friends.

Tips for Finding The Balance

It isn’t necessarily a question of should you or should not use social media– perhaps the better question is how can you use social media while maintaining a positive self image and outlook? Check out some of the tips below to help navigate utilizing social media in a healthy way.

Curate Your Feed:

Perhaps one of the most helpful ways you can protect your self image is by controlling what you view. You have control over what you choose to expose yourself to and how you choose to consume social media content. Following influencers who almost exclusively use filters and curate their own content to appear near perfect is a sure way to negatively influence your self esteem. Try to avoid comparison traps by changing up for feed. Perhaps you follow accounts that promote positive self-talk and present a more realistic expectation of life, or maybe you choose to take a break from the flood of new articles by following a few funny meme pages. Seek out the pages that work to promote authenticity, positivity, and self acceptance.

Integrate on Real-Life Connections:

Though social media allows you to stay in touch with friends when life gets busy, it doesn’t entirely replace in person connection and interaction. Intentionally make time to connect with friends in the physical world. Engaging in meaningful in person interactions helps to offer a more balanced perspective on life.

Engage in Self-Compassion:

Chances are that you offer your close friends and family a wealth of compassion and understanding. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, try not to say it to yourself. You deserve to treat yourself with the same amount of compassion and understanding as you effortlessly grant to others.

Limit Screen Time:

Taking intentional social media breaks can be one of the healthiest things you can do to promote balanced perspectives. When you find yourself falling into comparison traps, take a step away from social media altogether. Give yourself time to recalibrate and reset your expectations and beliefs before returning. It is also important to set boundaries on social media when engaging. Setting screen time limits for yourself so you don’t get sucked into the endless stream of content can be a healthy way to ensure that you are engaging in real world interactions and offline activities.

Celebrate Yourself:

Embrace what makes you, you. You are not the people or content you follow– nor should you be. Remind yourself that happiness starts with acceptance. Intentionally work to accept yourself for all that you are.