Social media is now an undeniable part of our lives. We access all kinds of information from our social circle to the world agenda via social media. With its accessibility, mobility, and so-called "open-minded and free" environment, it is now more preferred on many issues than mainstream media. But is social media really liberating, as we think? Do we freely reflect our ideas and ourselves as they are? Hereby, the question for the correlation between social media and self esteem rises.
Could it be that the platforms used so often by so many people have taken away from us as much as they provide us? Many empirical studies conducted in recent years have shown a cause-effect relation between the use of social media and depression, loneliness, anxiety and stress. Do our self-esteem and self-worth are in danger?
The name literally explains itself: social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Clubhouse etc. These applications that bring us together with people, independent of time and location constraints, aim to establish bonds and strengthen our ties with our network of people. How can platforms with this purpose cause us to limit our freedom and become even more isolated?
Social Media and Self Esteem:
Is there really a free expression and freedom of thought on social media?
Could it be that social media, which is claimed to provide an open-minded platform for every individual voice, is also suppressing us, causing a decrease in our self-esteem? Social media brings many standardizations and dream lives into our realities with mostly liked and followed accounts. These inaccessible realities cause us to look at our lives with certain filters and perspectives.
I am sure that you have also realized that there is now a certain pattern for many Instagram accounts. We see cool coffee posts, rich dinner tables, barbecue parties with friends, adorable cats, expensive clothes, cosmetic close-ups, beach parties and many more.
There are many lists of items that can help you to gain more followers and likes. These applications may lead their users to the illusion that collecting more likes and followers makes them more social, attractive and popular. What actually happens is that they usually put themselves aside and stand out as "whatever is liked" at that moment.
Then everyone becomes the same. There is no need to talk about concepts such as self-awareness, self-worth, self-esteem and self-confidence in this world where there is no "self" phenomenon anyway.
Pressure of Perfectionism
Edited photos, flawless skin, standardized body sizes, lives full of endless fun and action. With all these popular accounts, we are actually getting one step further away from our reality. We forget about our values, likes and ideas. Through the lens of these misconceptions, we constantly look for flaws in ourselves and maybe with these misjudgments, we isolate our true selves more from society.
While we are taking pictures outside with our friends, we take dozens of photos in a row and then look for flaws in each and delete them. We choose the best version that comes with societal pressure to post on social media, not the one that reflects us the most. Instead of finding new ways to love and embrace who we really are, we lose our self-esteem by constantly comparing ourselves to others.
Copy-Paste Identities & Ideas
Social media has become one of the most preferred sources of information with its accessibility, mobility and recommendation engine algorithms. It is as easy as to search a hashtag on Twitter to reach out instant and up-to-date information regarding a current topic. In today's world, where time flows even faster with developing technologies and changing world expectations, accessing brief information in a short period of time has become very valuable.
Social media encompasses a wide range of social networks. As it can reach out to a broad range of people in real-time and is relatively uncensored compared to mainstream media platforms, it has become an effective platform for giving a voice to the voiceless. Social media movements such as #blacklivesmatter and #metoo were on the agenda of the whole world. This is of course something good, but there is also the other side of the coin.
Because of social media's effects on self-esteem and self-confidence, some people tend to follow popular ideas instead of forming their own opinions and thoughts. Sometimes they join a trending social media movement, without even knowing the cause, just to be a part of the popular community. It is not just about how others see them anymore.
This is also about how well they know themselves. They are losing their own identity and become strangers to themselves. In this scenario, it is inevitable to have low self-esteem and self-confidence.
Is there a solution to dilemma of social media and self esteem?
According to a research done in 2020, a person spends 2 hours 25 minutes on average on social media platforms. While many of us complain that we don't have time to watch movies, it is surprising and a little bit scary that we spend so much time on social media without realizing it.
Although we have talked about the negative sides of social media here, there is an indisputable fact that social media is a really good source of information and a socialization platform. It is very easy to connect with friends and family worldwide, get inspired by creative posts and accounts and even build up a company and increase sales. But, don't forget that excessive use of anything will become harmful for you.
Use social media moderately and wisely
To protect your self-esteem, self-confidence and mental health, you should use social media wisely in moderation. Here are some suggestions for you to reduce your social media use and how to be aware and take control of your time on social media.
Change notification settings
You can turn off notifications that do not really interest you. When a notification pops up on our screen, even if the content doesn't interest us, we are reminded of that social media app, too.
Turning off those notifications that do not directly concern you, like direct messages or mentions, will help you to reduce your logins to the apps.
Create a folder to keep apps out of sight
Even when you turn off the notifications, every time when you open your home screen, just to check the weather, open the calculator or call a friend, you will be reminded of your social media accounts when you see their shining colorful icons on the screen. To overcome this temptation, just create a folder and move your social media apps away from your sight.
Take a break from social media
Limit your social media use during your "me time". Put away your phone while you are reading a book, watching a movie or listening to podcasts. You can just put away your phone for an hour or two just to really focus on what you are actually doing.
Organize phone-free events
We are not suggesting you to take away your friends' phones, but if you are going to play a board game or have a nice dinner together, just put your phones in your bag instead of on the table. When you are with your family and friends, don't let social media apps take your attention and interest away from them.
Don't keep your phone within your reach in bed
It is not a rare occasion that right before sleeping, a person or an issue pop-up to your mind, and you reach out to your phone and start scrolling through apps. After a while, it becomes a habit. Just put away your phone out of your reach before going to sleep.
Use screen time or similar timer apps
You can limit your daily usage of social media apps for a period of time. If you are an iOS user, you can use Screen Time; if you are an Android user, you can use Google's Digital Wellbeing by defining a daily limit for your social media apps. Or, there are many timer apps out there that can help you to make a deal with yourself to be more productive every day.
To sum up
It can be really difficult to accept and let go of some habits. Social media is one of these habits, and it can damage our self-esteem without us realizing it. Perhaps the first step in this way is to evaluate how effectively we use social media. So that we can face ourselves and our habits and protect ourselves. Don't forget that time is very precious.